Marrying and Sponsoring a Laotian Citizen

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Marriage to a Laotian Citizen

Every country has its own laws that apply to its citizens marrying a person from a different country. Getting married to a Laotian citizen with the goal of eventually bringing them to Canada to live is a process with many steps.

If you want to bring your Laotian spouse or partner to live in Canada, you must then file a sponsorship application for them to become a permanent resident. If they would like to visit you in Canada while their application is in process, they must also apply for a visitor visa. For more information, please see our family sponsorship page and our visitor visa page.


Processing Time

If you file a Canadian sponsorship application for your Laotian spouse or partner, this application takes an average of 10-12 months.

A visitor visa application for your spouse or partner to visit you in Canada while the sponsorship applications are processing takes an average of 3 –14 days.

Please see our pages on family sponsorship and Canadian visitor visa for more information on the processing times of these applications.


Laotian Marriage Basic Requirements

Marriages between foreigners (including former Lao citizens with Canadian citizenship) and Lao citizens require official permission from the Lao government.

The process for approval of marriage usually takes from 6 to 12 months. It is normal for officials to ask for small fees for their services.

One set of documents should be prepared in the Lao language for the Lao partner and the other set in both English and Lao for the foreigner. The required items are:

  • Official request for marriage from the Municipal / Provincial office;
  • A form for personal details from the Municipal / Provincial office;
  • Certificate of official residence from the Municipal / Provincial office;
  • Photocopy of ID or passport;
  • Declaration form as evidence of single status;
  • Certificate of health from a Lao hospital that usually costs USD$50;
  • Criminal background check certificate;
  • 4 passport  photos of 4 x 6cm;
  • Certificate of financial status or letter from employer;
  • Letter of divorce if divorced;.
  • Certificate of no impediment stamped by ministry of foreign affairs of Lao and costs USD$15.00

The documents listed above, together with a processing fee of USD$15.00, are then required to be submitted to the Consular Department, Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Once the requirements are met and official permission given for the marriage, the couple can proceed to do the civil ceremony where the couple needs to sign a document, which is witnessed by the Chief of Cabinet of the Marriage Registration Office and another witness most times a parent.

The marriage certificate is issued after a few days which should be taken to the Consular Department in the Lao ministry of foreign affairs for endorsement at a cost of  USD$15.00.

Canadians are charged $35 for a visa upon arrival in Laos. The visa can also be obtained from Vietnamese travel agencies.

The visa can be extended for more than the 30 days for a fee of $2 for each extra day.


Family Members

If your Laotian spouse has dependent children, this does not affect the Laotian Marriage document application.

If you have dependent children, they have no effect on the application to marry a Laotian citizen.


List of Laotian Consulates in Canada

Lao Embassy to the USA


Calling Laos from Canada

Dial 011 – 856 – area code – local number

  • The exit code for Canada is 011
  • The country code for Laos is 856
  • See below for a list of area codes and mobile codes

Area Codes of Laos (landlines only)

Attapue 36 Louang Namtha 86 Savannakhet 41
Bokeo 84 Louang Prabang 71 Sekong 38
Bolikhamsai 54 Oudomxay 81 Vientiane 23
Champasack 31 Phongsali 88 Vientiane Prefecture 21
Houaphan 64 Sainyabuli 74 Xiangkhoang 61
Khammouan 51 Salavan 34


Cell Numbers in Laos

All cellular numbers in Laos begin with 020 (the first 0 is not dialled when calling from another country). The numbers are determined by provider:

  • ETL: 20-2xx-xxx
  • Lao Telecom: 20 – 5xx-xxx
  • Tigo: 20-7xx-xxx
  • Unitel: 20-9xx0-xxx


Calling Canada from Laos

Dial 00 – 1 – area code – local number

  • The international dialing code is 00
  • The country code for Canada is 1


Area Codes of Canada

Province Code Province  Code
Alberta 403 / 587 (southern Alberta)

587 / 780 (central and northern Alberta)

Nunavut 867
BC 236 / 250 / 778 (majority of BC)

236 / 604 / 778 (Metro Vancouver)

Ontario 226 / 519 (southwestern Ontario)

249 / 705 (northeastern Ontario)

289 / 365 / 905 (Greater Toronto Area)

343 / 613 (eastern Ontario)

416 / 647 (Toronto)

807 (northwestern Ontario)

Manitoba 204 / 431 PEI 782 / 902
New  Brunswick 506 Quebec 418 / 581 (eastern Quebec)

438 / 514 (Montreal)

450 / 579 (Greater Montreal)

819 / 873 (remainder of Quebec)

Newfoundland and Labrador 709 Saskatchewan 306 / 639
Northwest Territories 867 Yukon 867
Nova Scotia 782 / 902


Time Difference

Laos is on Indo-China Time, GMT+7. Laos does not participate in Daylight Saving Time.

Canadian Time Zone # of Hours Laos is Ahead # of Hours during DST
Pacific (BC, Yukon) 15 hours 14 hours
Mountain (Alberta, western Nunvaut, Lloydminster, Saskatchewan) 14 hours 13 hours
Saskatchewan 13 hours 13 hours
Central (Manitoba, Northwest Territories, central Nunavut, northwestern Ontario) 13 hours 12 hours
Eastern (most of Ontario, most of Quebec) 12 hours 11 hours
Atlantic (Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, PEI, eastern Quebec) 11 hours 10 hours
Newfoundland 10.5 hours 9.5 hours


Currency of Laos

The official currency of Laos is Kip. Although in Laos only the kip is legally recognized as the official legal tender, other currencies are also used, Thai baht (B) and US $.

The Lao kip cannot be converted to any currency outside of the country. Bank notes used are ₭500, ₭1000, ₭2000, ₭5000, ₭10000, ₭20000, ₭50000, ₭100000. All currency is distributed by the Central Bank of Lao.


The Thai baht and US dollar are used heavily in domestic economy. For larger transactions the dollar is preferred over the Thai Bhat or Kip.


ATM’s are available only in Vientiane and can only dispense 700,000 Kip or $70 at a time.

Credit Cards

Major credit cards accepted are MasterCard and Visa.

Travellers’ Cheques

Traveler’s cheques can be cashed at most banks in Laos, but most times only in exchange for kip. US dollar cheques are the most readily acceptable.


Emergency Information for Canadians in Laos

The Canadian government does not operate a diplomatic mission in Laos. For assistance, please contact the Australian Embassy, which will provide limited consular assistance to Canadians due to a bilateral agreement.

Embassy of Australia in Vientiane

KM4, Thadeua Road
Watnak Village, Sisattanak District

Telephone: 856 (21) 353-800
Fax: 856 (21) 353-801
Email: [email protected]

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Embassy of Canada in Bangkok

15th Floor, Abdulrahim Place
990 Rama IV, Bangrak
Bangkok, 10500

Postal Address:
P.O. Box 2090, Bangkok, Thailand, 10501

Telephone: 66 (0) 2646-4300
Fax: 66 (0) 2646-4345
E-mail: [email protected]

View Larger Map


The Government of Canada’s Travel Alerts for Laos

For travel alerts, click here

Laotian Wedding Traditions

The Engagement

Engagement is not very common in Laos, some people follow the tradition and others do not. There are no strict rules. The wedding preparations begin with the payment of the bride price.

Bride price can be in form of money or gold. The amount depends on the social status of both families. After the bride price is set, the wedding date can be agreed upon.

The Wedding

Traditionally, the wedding date is set on a good day following the advice of monks and elders who advice on setting the day.

According to Laos’s customs, the wedding is not supposed to take place during Buddhist Lent which takes place from late July to late October.

On the eve of the wedding, an informal ceremony is held at the bride-to-be’s home, sometimes the groom holds a similar ceremony at his place.

This ceremony is called oun dong (meaning marriage warming) only close friends and relatives are invited.

Pha khoun (pyramid made of banana leaves), food for the big day and the new couple’s bedroom are prepared. Customs dictate that the bed must be made by the the bride’s mother or an older woman with a good husband and children and who is not divorced, or a widowed.

On the wedding day, the bride is dressed in a traditional Lao silk sinh, silk blouse, and has her hair is tied up and decorated in a special way with gold.

The groom dresses in a white or cream coloured silk shirt and a traditional silk salong (baggy pants). Normal suits can also be worn.

Traditionally, on the wedding day a cleansing ceremony called baci is held concurrently in both the bride’s house and the groom’s prior to the formal wedding.

Once the small baci is finished, a convoy of the groom is sent ahead to take the bride price to the bride’s parents.

The convoy is usually made up of a few older men and women, who could be the groom’s parents relatives well versed in Lao customs and traditions.


Hae kuey procession

When the procession arrives at the bride’s house, the groom and his party are met by the bride’s relatives where a silver door and a gold door are set up and closed.

These doors are simply lines of silver and gold bells stretched across the door way meant to prevent the groom entering before he is granted permission.

The groom is only allowed to go inside only after he drinks with the bride’s relatives and pays them to open the doors.


String tying

The groom is met at the door and led by a female relative of the bride to the pha khoun, which is where the baci ceremony takes place.

The bride is seated on the left side of the groom and the parents and relatives of both sides also sit nearby.

The pha khuan ceremony begins when everyone is seated, it involves chanting by the master of ceremony (mor phon), the bride and the groom feed each other with an egg, their hands are tied with a white strings to symbolize unity.

At the end of the baci, the elder relatives lead the couple to somma, this is a customary tradition that involves asking for forgiveness and thanking of parents and elder relatives of both parties.

This process also involves giving small gifts in form of money wrapped inside banana leaves, together with flowers and a pair of candles.

Elders, parents and relatives of both parties wish the couple good luck during this ceremony.

The Laos wedding ceremony ends when the couple goes to their room. The elder female relative leads the groom to the room and the bride follows.

After the baci is over, the party begins when the guests begin feasting, drinking and dancing.


Laotian Wedding Food

Most of the cuisine and cooking methods in Laos are similar to those in neighbouring countries like Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.

Sticky Rice

Laotians cook sticky rice inside a small section of bamboo, roast it over an open fire, it is normally served along with barbecued meats.


BBQ Chicken and Papaya Salad

The papaya salad is similar to Thai chicken salad but the difference is that it is milder and not sour, sweet, and spicy flavour like that of the Thai.

This is considered a delicacy and can be served as a daily meal or on special occasions like weddings.



This is the staple food of Laos among most Asian countries. There are many ways of sprucing up noodles and many ingredients can be used from vegetables to meats and fish.


Som Moo

This is sliced pieces of sausages, together with fresh vegetables and herbs, cold white noodles, and peanut-flavoured sauce.

Other accompaniments are garlic, chillies, cucumbers, and thinly-sliced vegetables.


Nem Tadieu

A salad made from crumbled up and crispy fried coconut rice, and fermented pork skin. This dish is eaten with hands using lettuce to wrap up the rice and eat.


Mushroom and Herb Salad

This is a very healthy salad of oyster mushrooms, lightly dressed with fish sauce, garlic, chili, shallot, lime and sesame.

All these ingredients are generously mixed with fresh herbs like basil, coriander and mint.


Tam Mak Hung

This is green papaya salad more commonly found in Thailand in the area bordering Laos. The Lao version is made of small pounded eggplants. Accompaniments include shrimp. This dish can be found in restaurants as a common dish and special occasions.


Tam Mak Tua

This is a slight variation of the tam mak hung salad, pounded round beans are substituted as the main ingredient, they are mixed with eggplant, tomatoes and seasoned with fish sauce and lime juice.


Laap Pork

Lao style Laap has a slight citrus scent from lemongrass and lime leaves, and uses a higher proportion of herbs than it’s the laap made in Thailand.

The main ingredients are minced meat salad with shallots, herbs and sometimes small bits of banana flower.


Laap Tofu

Laap tofu is fried tofu that is crispy on the outside and spongy soft inside. Lots of herbs are then added to make it fresh and aromatic.


Laap Paa (Fish)

Fish laap is made with fish cut into thin slices or minced.  Spices and flavouring can be added.


Oua Si Khai

Lemongrass stalks are stuffed with minced meat and then either steamed, fried or grilled. Eaten with hands, a wonderful dish that is common in restaurants or special occasions like weddings.


Mok Paa

Mok is different ingredients wrapped in banana leaves and steamed. The ingredients vary but most commonly consist of sticky rice custard and chunks of fresh skin.


Mok Khai

Chicken is the main ingredient in Mok Khai, sticky rice with custard holds together the chicken.


Mok Het

Mok is made with mushrooms and some coconut milk to the sticky rice custard.


Jaew Mak Len

Minced meat is cooked in the spicy tomato based sauce called Jiao mak. This dish is eaten with steamed rice as a whole dish, or used as a dip for the sticky rice.


Tcheo Paa

This is stewed fish with eggplant, tomato, lemongrass, galangal spices and herbs. Similar to the jiao mak len but the lemongrass and galangal are paired with fish.



Aulum is unique stew or soup like dish cooked with mushrooms, lots of vegetables and strong herbs. The base is thickened with pounded eggplant and pounded grilled sticky rice.


Religion in Laos


Theravada Buddhism is the most prominent and most followed religion in Laos. The earliest teachings of the Buddha are preserved in Sri Lanka after Mahayana Buddhism branched off in 2,000 B.C. Theravada Buddhism is also the dominant schooling system in neighbouring countries of Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia.

Buddhism was introduced to Laos in 8th century. The Laos government continues to consolidate its authority through Buddhism.

The government taught that Marxism and Buddhism are basically compatible because both disciplines state that all men are equal, and both aim at ending human suffering.

Buddhist principles of detachment and shunning materialistic culture often clash with the Marxist doctrine of economic development.

That Luang, a Buddhist temple, is the most sacred Buddhist monument and temple in Laos.



Despite Buddhism being important to Lao Loum and some Lao Theung groups, animist beliefs are still widespread among the Lao population.

Belief in phi blends with Buddhism, mostly by people in the village level, some monks are respected and revered because they are believed to have the ability to perform exorcism of evil spirits from a sick person.

There is a belief that some spiritual people or monks are connected with the universal elements of earth, heaven, fire, and water.

Many also believe that they are being protected by khwan which means 32 spirits. It is believed that illness occurs when one or more of these spirits leaves the body, a condition that can be reversed by the soukhwan more commonly known as the baci which is a ceremony that calls upon the 32 khwan to bring back health, prosperity, and well-being on the affected person.



Christianity is a minority religion in Laos. There are three recognized Churches in Laos mainly the Lao Evangelical Church, the Seventh-day Adventist Church and Roman Catholic Church.

The Roman Catholic Church has approximately 45,000 members many of whom are ethnic Vietnamese, located in major urban centres and surrounding areas along the Mekong River in the central and southern regions of Laos.

Approximately 400 Protestants congregate to conduct services throughout Laos. Protestants are approximately 100,000.

Most Protestants are concentrated in Vientiane, mainly in Sayaboury, Luang Prabang, Xieng Khouang, Bolikhamsai, Savannakhet, Champassak, and Attapeu, smaller groups are located throughout the country.

Other denominations that have significant followers in the country, but are not recognized by the Government include the Methodists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Church of Christ, Assemblies of God, Lutherans, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), and Baptists.



Islam is a minority religion that constituents 0.01% of the population. Muslims are most visible in the capital Vientiane and other urban areas.


Freedom of Religion in Laos

The Constitution of Laos provides freedom of religion and worship, however this right is not granted in practice.

A person arrested or convicted for religious offences, has little protection under the law. Detained persons may be held by Lao authorities for lengthy periods without trial.

Court judges are the ones that decide the fate of the charged persons, not a jury. All religious groups, including Buddhists, practice their faith in an atmosphere in which application of the law is not done fairly.

Throughout Laos, however, religious practice is restrained by official rules and policies that only allow religious groups to practice their faith under controlled conditions.


Romantic, Scenic and Historic Places in Laos

Historic Places

Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Laos. Before 1975 it served as the royal capital of Laos until the communists took over the country.

Sites that make it attractive are a collection of golden-roofed temples, wooden houses and old colonial French buildings.

At dawn, monks from the various monasteries walk through the streets collecting alms rice as alms.


Pak Ou Caves – Luang Prabang

The Pak Ou Caves are located north of the town of Luang Prabang on the Mekong River accessible by road or river boat.

Buddha sculptures can be found inside the caves creating a spiritual feel inside. This is a wonderful place to visit and discover the Buddhism religion while learning about the culture of the Lao people.


Wat Phu Khuay – Luang Prabang

Wat Phu (or Vat Phou) is the remains of a ruined Khmer temple complex located at the base of mount Phu Kao, in the Champasak province in Laos.

These Hindu temple structures go back to the 11th to 13th centuries. The temple is still used as a Buddhist site today attracting tourists who tour and get to know a little about the history of the temples.


Wat Xieng Thong – Luang Prabang

This temple is Located near the northern tip of an area near the Mekong river. It was built in 1560 by King Setthathirath and contains a rare Buddha statue that is as old as the temple.

Tourists can tour the area and enjoy history as well as marvel at vintage architecture.


Vieng Xai Caves

The Vieng Xai caves are an extensive network of caves that were used as safe havens during the Vietnam War.

This was the home of the Communist army, which bombed by the US Air Force.

Up to 23,000 civilians lived here and they had a hospital, military barracks, bakeries, shops, and a theatre.

The Lao government is now making efforts to promote the caves as a tourism destination so that the history of the war can be told.


Pha That Luang – Vientiane

This landmark is one of the most significant monuments in Laos. The stupa has several terraces with each level representing a different stage of Buddhist enlightenment.

Pha That Luang was built in 16th but was later destroyed by a Siamese invasion in 1828, then later on reconstructed in 1931 by the French.


Scenic Places


Bokea is located within the “Golden Triangle” – where Laos, Thailand, Myanmar and China converge.

The name “Bokeo” means pits of sapphires because Bokea is rich in minerals like gold and sapphire. Scenic Mountain scenery, kayaking and multi-ethnic groups make Bokeo a favorite tourist destination to visit.


Si Phan Don – Champassack

Si Phan Don in Laos means 4,000 islands, these islands are found at a scenic section of the Mekong River in Southern Laos.

The three islands that are major tourist attractions are Don Det, Don Khon and Done Kong.


Luang Namtha

Luangnamtha is a northern province bordering on China and Myanmar. The area’s tourism is promoted by combining environmental, social, history and development elements to create a unique culture of eco-tourism.

Wildlife conservations makes up part of the tourists attractions, this is complimented by ethnic communities that reside here.



Oudomxay is home to some 23 ethnic minorities mainly Hmong, Ekor (Akha) and Khammu.  Eco-tourism tours are the main attraction for visitors and can be arranged from village to village either by oxcart or on foot.

The Phouxay Mountain is among some of the most outstanding natural sites worth visiting when in the area.


Vang Vieng

Vang Vieng is a riverside town located in central Laos. The main street is a beehive of activity, business is mainly generated by guest houses, bars, restaurants, internet cafes, tour agencies, and tourists.

The area’s main tourist attraction is the dramatic hilly landscape. Outdoor enthusiasts can take part in rock climbing.


Xiengk Houang

This lush area is Located 435 kilometres northeast of Vientiane. Xiengkhuoang is accessed by bus from Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Huaphanh or by direct flight from Vientiane.

Xiengkhuoang is a mountainous region full of caves and waterfalls that are ideal for explorers or tourists with an adventurous spirit.


Bringing Gifts Into Laos

Duty Free Items

  • 500 cigarettes;
  • 100 cigars;
  • 500 grams of tobacco;
  • 2 bottles of wine;
  • 1 bottle of other alcoholic drink;
  • 500 grams personal jewellery;
  • USD 500 can be legally entered into Laos or leave the country with the same amount, but it must be declared at the customs department. The Kip is completely prohibited from being brought into or taken out of the country.


Restricted Items

  • 10 USD Embarkation tax is levied on all passengers leaving Laos on international flights
  • Weapons and ammunition are restricted unless permission is obtained from the Ministry of Commerce
  • Receivers or transmitters through satellites, internet, equipment for radio broadcasting and television stations are restricted unless permission from the ministry of Information and Culture is granted
  • Games or material judged to negatively affect the morality and well-being of the children and teenagers inside Laos could be banned by the customs department
  • Images of Buddha and God made from copper, glass, wooden, bone, ivory, stone and other materials require permission from the Ministry of Information and Culture before import or export


Prohibited Items

  • Illegal drugs
  • Weapons, explosives and ammunition
  • Fertilizers and chemicals
  • Fuel oil
  • Plants and plant products
  • Knives and deadly sharp weapons
  • Live Animals
  • Right handed cars
  • Medicine
  • Written or recorded material that might be judged to be against public interest
  • Household items older than 50 years
  • Counterfeit money and goods
  • Pornographic material


Bringing Gifts Home from Laos

The rules are the same as importing, however a USD10 embarkation tax is levied on all passengers leaving Laos on international flights.


Wages in Laos

The minimum wage in Laos is 290,000 per month. 95% of Laos depend on agriculture as the main source of income according to surveys done. Different sources of income remain limited, for this reason the welfare of rural households remains very tightly reliant on agricultural activities.

The daily wage rate for unskilled labour is between 10,000 and 20,000 Kip. Laotians prefer agricultural activities since non-farm jobs are considered to be temporary and low paying.

In general, a lack of skills puts villagers at a disadvantage in securing and keeping employment opportunities in more commercial skilled jobs such as mining, logging and construction.


Sponsoring Your Lao Spouse to Come to Canada

The sponsorship process can be complicated and time-consuming. To learn more about it, click the button below:

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Sponsorship Review

Immigroup will review your completed spousal sponsorship application.. Immigroup will make sure you have not made any mistakes on your application or in gathering the documentation of your relationship. We will assess your sponsorship letter and give you peace of mind that you are submitting an application with a very good chance of success. Don’t lose sleep at night worrying about whether you’ve done enough. Call us at 1-866-760-2623 for a review.

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