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6,000 Family Books, ID Cards Issued to Foreigners

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Security authorities have issued family books to 2,802 foreign families and 3,198 ID cards to foreigners over the past three years, which entitle them to live in Laos permanently.

Foreigners who meet the required criteria, including having lived in Laos for at least seven years while displaying a good attitude, observing the country’s laws, and contributing to the socio-economic development of Laos, can apply for the red family books. Family books for Lao nationals are dark blue.

“Applicants who meet the criteria for a family book can apply for one through the relevant sectors,” Lieutenant Colonel Mailar Soukkhaseum of the Family Book and ID Cards Issuance for Foreigners Division under the Ministry of Public Security told Vientiane Times yesterday.

Once the Minister of Public Security approved the application, the family book could be issued, he added.

The 2,802 family books have been issued to 6,444 family members, including 2,884 females, over the past three years and include newly issued or replacement documents.

Foreigners are not required to renew their family books but are required to apply for a new one to replace the existing one when there are changing circumstances, such as a family addition or change of address.

Children who reach the age of 15 and have a family book are eligible to apply for an ID card. Foreigners are required to renew their ID card every five years. Once ID card holders reach the age of 60, they do not have to renew the cards which continue to be valid, Lieutenant Colonel Mailar said.

In total, 3,198 ID cards have been issued to foreigners over the past three years, while 26 foreigners were granted Lao citizenship including 12 females.

Some 35 other foreigners who have applied for Lao citizenship are being considered, the Lieutenant Colonel said.

Both the family book and ID card provide foreign holders with permanent residence permits that enable them to remain in Laos.

However, foreign holders do not enjoy the same fundamental rights as Lao people; for instance they are not eligible to buy land, among other restrictions.

Foreigners who marry a Lao woman or man are required to follow the same rules to obtain a permanent residence permit, the Lieutenant Colonel said.

In the shorter term, the government offers two channels that enable foreigners to work or live in Laos – one is a business visa that foreigners are required to renew every year and the other is a tourist visa that requires renewal by foreign visitors every month. In addition, foreigners may apply for Lao citizenship.

Under Article 14 of the Law on Lao Nationality, people of foreign origin who apply for Lao nationality are required to meet certain criteria including renouncing their original nationality and must prove they have lived in Laos for at least 10 consecutive years.

People under the age of 18 are not eligible. Applicants must be able to speak, read and write the Lao language to a proficient level. Highly-educated foreign experts who apply for Lao nationality are given special consideration and required to demonstrate a shorter period of residence in Laos.

A foreigner who marries a Lao citizen will also be given a shorter time requirement concerning his or her residence in the country.

Source: Vientiane Times