by Alistair Brown
Many people were very interested to find out more when the Lao government recently announced the new spouse visa. Finally, a visa category specifically designed for those foreigners who had made the serious and time-consuming commitment to marry a Lao National, with all the paperwork, visits and time that the marriage process to a Lao spouse involves.
The SP-B3 was announced as available from 1 August 2018, and would be issued by the Lao government via a three stage, relatively simple process, which has been well documented elsewhere.
Additionally, it was clear that it would be available to those foreign spouses who either hold a valid Lao certificate of marriage, or a marriage certificate endorsed and registered with the foreigner’s Lao embassy in their home country.
While all this is true, and the process is pretty simple, fast and relatively inexpensive, a number of posts on social media made it clear that a few hurdles and complications can arise if not forewarned.
Sharing my recent experience in full might just smooth the path for any that wish to follow. In terms of timings, my previous visa was going to run out 9th March, so I started the process mid-February, which was plenty of time.
You simply need to complete stage 1 before your current visa runs out, after which you have 30 days to complete stages 2 and 3. The main timing issue is to have the two proposal letters drafted and signed by the spouse and Nai Ban in advance, along with your spouse certificates of residence.
Stage 1 – The initial 30 day one time stay visa
- Where – Consular office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, near Patuxay. Enter main entrance to courtyard, go straight ahead to office block opposite entrance, and upstairs to kiosk 8 on second floor. Normal Lao office hours, closed between 11.30am and 1.30pm Mon-Thu. Closed Friday afternoons
- Documents required – Foreigner passport, proposal letter signed by spouse and Nai Ban typed in Lao from spouse requesting a spouse visa, and specifying which border you wish to cross (e.g. Friendship Bridge, Wattay airport) in order to receive the 30 day SP-B3 entry visa (example letter attached). Copy of marriage certificate, spouse family book, ID card, passport, and certificate of Lao spouse’s residence (which must match spouse’s family book village address).
- What happens – Hand in the documents at kiosk 8, pay 5,000 kip at the cashier across the way. You then receive a receipt which you take back to kiosk 8. You are given a date and time to return to the same kiosk to collect your visa authorization document. This is taken to your border of choice, you leave Laos, and when you return to the Lao border all previous visas/stay permits, work permits etc. are cancelled or removed from your passport, and replaced by the full page SP-B3 one time entry 30 day visa. You now have 30 days in which to complete stages 2 and 3.
Stage 2 –
The Stay Permit
- Where – Office of Foreigner Administration, near Talat Sao (it’s the office behind JDB Bank, where tourist visa extensions are issued).
- Documents required – Foreigner passport, proposal letter signed by spouse and Nai Ban typed in Lao from spouse requesting a Stay Permit, specifying marriage certificate details, with Lao spouse taking full responsibility for future conduct of foreign spouse (example letter attached). Copy of marriage certificate, spouse family book, ID card, passport, and Lao spouse’s certificate of residence (which must match spouse’s family book village address). The original notes published on the process state that either Lao spouse’s ID card or family book was sufficient, but we were asked to provide both. Three passport photos of foreign spouse (3 x 4 cm).
- What happens – Hand in the documents at kiosk on right hand side. You then pay 100,000 kip for an application form, which you don’t need to complete in full (half of the front page was sufficient in my case – check with staff). You then pay 1,200,000 for the stay permit, and are informed of a collection date and time. This is normally about 3-4 working days.
- Tip – the stage 2 letter is longer and slightly more complicated. However, with the example provided here, which has clear placeholders for the information you need to provide, plus help from either your spouse or a friend who can read and write Lao, the letter should be straightforward. Just make sure that all the addresses and village/district names match the family book of your spouse, and that your details are correct. If your marriage was certified by a Lao embassy abroad, then you will need to provide details and copies of this certification in your stage 2 letter. I believe that the stay permit is only 100,000 kip for foreigners over 65 years old.
Stage 3 –
The Multi Entry one year visa
- Where – Consular office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, near Patuxay.
- Documents required – Proposal letter signed by spouse and Nai Ban typed in Lao from spouse requesting a spouse visa (same letter as for stage 1). Copy of marriage certificate, spouse family book, ID card, passport, signed copy of recently issued stay permit, and certificate of Lao spouse’s residence (which must match spouse’s family book village address).
- What happens – Hand in the documents at kiosk 8 same as in stage 1. You then pay 1,200,000 kip for the annual visa, and are informed of a collection date and time. This is normally about 3-4 working days.
- Tip – This stage is very straightforward. To save time on the whole 3 stages, I’d suggest that you prepare the two letters of proposal, then visit your spouse’s Nai Ban and obtain 2 original copies of letter one, one of letter two, plus three certificates of residence, all signed by the Nai Ban during one visit to the village office before you start on stage one. Note that the date of the one-time entry visa you receive as part of stage 1 in the process is the date from which your new one year multi entry visa commences.
|Typed in Lao, signed by Nai Ban and Lao spouse||1,3|
|Typed in Lao, signed by Nai Ban and Lao spouse||2|
|Copy||1, 2, 3|
|Copy||1, 2, 3|
Spouse ID card
|Copy||1, 2, 3|
|Copy||1, 2, 3|
|Passport photos (3 x 4 cm)||2|
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