Lao Marriage Paperwork
Marriages between foreigners and Lao citizens in Laos require official permission from the Lao government.
The procedures and documents required for obtaining permission from the Lao government for a marriage between a foreigner and a Lao citizen vary considerably on a case by case basis.
The process is complicated and can be very time consuming. On average, the process for approval of a marriage usually takes from one year to two years. You can expect to be asked to provide service fees, otherwise known as "tea money" or "petrol money", throughout the process.
You can't just obtain the marriage paperwork from anywhere except only from Lao authorities. Some provinces in Laos require the foreigner and his Lao girlfriend to be interviewed by Lao authorities before they are given the marriage paperwork to be completed. The documents aren't free either, it will cost you a small fee. One set of documents should be prepared in the Lao language for the Lao partner and one set of documents should be prepared in both English and Lao for the foreigner.
The marriage documents is only available in Lao language and not written in English so you will need to translate the documents from Lao into English. It can be done in Laos for around $10 US per document. It's strange that Lao authorities require documents in English but they don't have any of this prepared for the foreigner, instead he must go and translate the documents himself.
The required paperwork include biological details, residence details, photocopy of identity card or passport, evidence of single status, letter or certificate of health, character or police record check, financial status details and a statement guaranteeing return of Lao citizen back to her homeland according to her wish in case of divorce. Now that is abit ridiculous, why should the foreigner be responsible to pay for expenses to return his ex-wife back to Laos if she had done something horrible and unfaithful to cause the divorce?
In Laos, you are officially married as required by Lao law when you receive the Lao marriage certificate. A wedding in Laos can't take place without this official paperwork, so what this basically means is that you are already officially married before there is a wedding ceremony. A wedding ceremony is the final chapter where family, friends and relatives gather together to witness the marriage of two people.
If you plan to take your Lao wife to live with you back in your country, that is another matter that you need to sort out but you need to have alot of money to be a sponsor. Please bare in mind that it is difficult for Lao citizens to leave Laos even for a holiday. If you live in the western world, you are free to go anywhere in the world if you have a passport, you don't need to know anyone and you don't need to have alot of money, you can hop on a plane and go anywhere and anytime. Lao citizens are not as lucky and they can't travel abroad unless they have a sponsor. The time to sponsor your Lao wife can also slow down the marriage process.