Laos is not a difficult country to access but there are, nevertheless, certain formalities that have to be observed and these may vary from border to border. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.
Current Entry Formalities
Visa needed, requiring passport and two, two-inch photos, valid for one month, costing US$30 and taking approximately three days to process. Visa on arrival also available at Friendship Bridge, Vientiane and Luang Prabang airports as well as Chong Mek. (Entry formalities are likely to be relaxed further as tourism expands, so check with the nearest Laos embassy for latest information).
1. Documentary Requirements
• An application form filled and signed by the applicant.
• Two recent photographs.
• Passport must have at least six months remaining validity.
2. Types of Visas
• Maximum five days for stay (in Vientiane only).
• Proof of an entry visa and air ticket to the third country.
• Fifteen days (non-extendable).
• Visa processing should be made through an eligible tour company which has a contract with a tour company in the Lao PDR or directly through the Laos Embassy or Consulate in many countries such as France, Russia, Sweden, USA, Poland, Germany, Cuba, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, The Philippines, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, India, Australia and USA.
• One month for stay (can be extended for two additional months).
• Visa request can be processed either through a guarantor in Laos or the Laos Embassy
• Visa authorization is arranged by sponsor in Laos and the Embassy cannot process visas until it receives authorization or approval from the authorities concerned in Laos.
• One month for stay (can be extended until completion of your business term).
• Available only from the Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Laos PDR.
3. Validity of Visas
• All types of visas are issued for one entry and must be used within two months of issue date.
4. Notification on Immigration
Comprises checkpoints which do not offer visa-on-arrival facilities. These checkpoints allow entry for Laos citizens, foreign residents, and foreign visitors who hold passports with visas already issued by the MFA, an Embassy or a Consulate General of the Laos PDR abroad. The border checkpoints falling under this category are
(1) Lao-Thai Border:
- Houai Sai-Chiang Khong (in Bokeo Province)
- Vientiane-Nongkhai (Hatxaifong District)
- Thakhek-Nakhone Phanom (in Khammouane Province)
- Savannakhet-Mukdaharn (in Savannakhet Province)
- Vang Tao-Chongmek (in Champasak Province)
(2) Lao-Vietnamese Border:
- Denesavanh-Lao Bao
- Nam Phao or Keo Neua-Kao
(3) Lao-Chinese Border:
Category 2 includes the three immigration checkpoints where visas can be obtained on arrival as the following
1. Wattay International Airport (Vientiane);
2. Luang Prabang International Airport (Luang Prabang Province); and
3. Laos-Thai Friendship Bridge (located between Hatxaifong District, Vientiane Municipality, Lao PDR and Nongkhai, Thailand)
5. Additional Categories of Visas
(An Explanatory Note to Regulation No. 044/ FA.O of 5 January 1998 on Immigration and Stay of Foreign Citizens in Laos PDR)
A. Categories of Visas
- Diplomatic visas (A1) Diplomatic visas are issued to diplomats, consular officers, heads of the United Nations Agencies and other International Organizations, and their dependents (spouse and children) holding diplomatic passports.
- Official visas (A2) Official visas are issued to the Staff members of Diplomatic Missions, Consulates, United Nations Agencies and other International Agencies and their dependents (spouse and children) holding official passports.
- Courtesy visas (B1) Courtesy vias are issued to foreign experts and their dependents holding diplomatic, official and normal passports performing assignments under bilateral cooperation or grant assistance projects for the Government of Lao PDR.
- Business visas (B2) Business visas are issued to foreign experts and their performing assignments under projects provided by loan agreements and as provided by employment contracts or project wards, to experts and volunteers of Non-Governmental Agencies, experts in education and medical sciences generating income for an agency, staff members of Diplomatic Missions, General Consulates, the United Nations Agencies and other international organizations holding normal passports from the countries or from third countries, as well as foreign businesspersons.
- Visit visas (B3) Visit visas are issued to foreign citizens holding normal passports and intending to visit relatives working in the Laos PDR.
B. Visa Status
- Diplomatic visas (A1) and official visas (A2) are exempted from visa fees. Multiple entry visas may be obtained for a period of one year and may be renewed each year until the assignment’s completion.
- Courtesy visas (B1) are exempted from visas fees. Multiple entry visas may be obtained for a period of six months and may be renewed every six months until the assignment’s completion.
- Business visas (B2) are subject to the payment of mandatory visa and service fees. Multiple entry visas may be obtained for a period of six (6) months and may be renewed every six (6) months until completion of assignments.
- Visit visas (B3) are subject to the payment of visa and service upon each travel in destination to the Laos PDR. B3 category visas does not entitle its holder to work or apply for multiple entry visas.
C. Visa and Identity Card Application Procedures
- Diplomats, Consuls, Heads of International Agencies and their dependents (spouses and children) holding diplomatic or official passports and whose assignments in the Lao PDR, which performance would exceed thirty (30) days, have been approved, will be required to apply for visas from Embassies or General Consulates of the Lao PDR according to procedures provided under bilateral agreements. Upon their entry to the Lao PDR, the relevant foreign agency shall apply for identity cards and multiple entry visas from the Protocol Department and the Department of Consular Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs respectively.
- Foreign experts of different categories and volunteers, together with their dependents, holding official or normal passports whose assignments in the Laos PDR would exceed thirty (30) days, have been approved, are required to obtain visas from Embassies or General Consulates of the Laos PDR. Upon their entry, the international organization or Lao line agency concerned shall apply for identity cards and multiple entry visas from the relevant departments.
- Diplomats, staff members of Consulates and International Agencies, foreign experts and volunteers entering the Lao PDR under visit visas (B3) without going through the requisite procedures will not benefit from facilities in performing their assignments. In order to perform their assignments, they will be required to leave the territory of the Lao PDR for the purpose of obtaining the required visa categories from Embassies or General Consulates of the Lao PDR before re- entering the country.
- Diplomats, staff members of Consulates and International Agencies, foreign experts and volunteers based abroad and whose assignments, which performance would require a timeframe not exceeding thirty (30) days, have been approved, may obtain a fifteen (15) day visa upon arrival to Wattay International Airport of the Friendship Bridge in Vientiane Municipality, as well as at the Luang Prabang International Airport.
- Diplomats, consular officers, staff members of the International Agencies, foreign experts and volunteers performing assignments in the Lao PDR for a period not exceeding thirty (30) days. Such period of time may be extended twice under B3 visas.
- Diplomatic missions, General Consulates, International Agencies and non-governmental organizations to the Lao PDR will not be authorized to recruit foreign experts or volunteers who have completed their assignments under a project and seeking further employment under other projects at will without due process in line with the procedures or regulations outlined by the Laos authorities.
- All applicants wishing to travel to the Lao PDR on the above mentioned purposes can obtain a visa in advance of your arrival.
- For more information, please contact the Lao Embassy from 8:00-12:00/13:00-16:00, Monday to Friday.