Despite repeated promises to reform the slow processing time of passports in the country, residents say there has been no improvement on this front.
Locals in Laos have taken to social media once again to express their exasperation with the arduous passport issuance process in the country.
One of the main issues is that passports take up to three months to get issued, which raises concern and worry among locals who would like to travel out of the country for work or leisure. Online forms from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also tend to take a while to process.
Another persisting hurdle is that of third parties who are not involved in the passport-making process, but charge a fee to their customers to get an appointment at the Consular Department, by paying bribes to officials behind the counter.
Locals are also getting fed up with not getting their desired documents like passports or border pass on the day allocated to them by the Consular Department, often having to wait up to weeks longer.
People on social media have pointed out that officials have promised to bring in reform within their departments, but the same problems still continue to persist. One user pointed out that the problems that occur will only be reformed if there is a change in the officers serving them, while others say that corruption is the most pervasive issue that needs to be dealt with by the Consular department.
Following the Covid-19 pandemic, locals flocked to the Consular Department to renew or make a new passport, to the point where the department had to issue a notice that they will no longer process applications from residents of Oudomxay, Xayyaboury, Xieng Khouang, Khammouane, Savannakhet, or Champasack, except in cases of medical emergencies.
To tackle these problems, the Passport Department introduced an online booking system in March, but users reported issues such as limited availability of slots and glitches. The department also increased the number of passport processors from seven to 12.
Additionally, Head of the Consular Department, Mr. Amphaivanh Chanthavong made a statement during the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ press conference addressing online rumors that officials were taking bribes to speed up the process.
He said, “Accepting bribes for issuing passports is against the law and an inspection will be conducted to check if any consular workers have a connection to external brokers and have been receiving money from them. If anyone is found to be guilty of accepting bribes in exchange for processing passports, they would be penalized for the same.”
Regardless of such claims, locals continue to get more frustrated with the delays in receiving their passport as many of them are actively seeking work with higher pay in foreign countries, as Laos continues to face worsening economic woes, with a minimum monthly wage that barely helps people make ends meet.