Lao Diaspora, News & Updates
comments 13

FAQ: Breakdown of DHS Visa Sanctions on Laos

What does the recent Department of Homeland Security visa sanction on Laos mean? It doesn’t just impact Lao government officials and their families. As part of ICE’s aggressive tactics against refugees and immigrants, the lives of those who came as refugees with permanent status and have orders of removal (deportation orders) are increasingly threatened, which can signal a larger deportation crisis for nationals of Laos. It’s a popular misconception that an MOU with Laos is necessary for deportation. If we recall what happened to Cambodia, Vietnam and other countries with mass deportations, then we have to be proactive in understanding these policy implications on Lao, Hmong and other ethnic groups from Laos who came to the states.

These are the most frequently asked questions from community members below. The FAQ is information gathered from partnering sources and our immigration policy and legal experts. Don’t see your questions answered? Ask in comments or email and we’ll get them answered.

Link to full DHS announcement


  • What does this announcement mean?

On the July 10th, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sanctioned the first level of visas from Laos. This prohibits specific high ranking individuals from Laos from traveling to the U.S.


  • What are the specific visa sanctions?

Right now, the visa restriction is just on B-1 visas (for short term Business visitors), B-2 visas (for short term Tourists visitors), B-1/B-2 visas (combination visa for Business & Tourist visitors) for current Lao government officials at Director General level and above from the Lao Ministry of Public Security as well as their immediate families; and all A-3 (attendants, servants, & personal employees of Diplomats) and G-5 (personal employees, attendants, servants of & employees of international organizations). However, this may change.


  • Who does it impact?

While the visa sanction are against Lao government officials, it is meant to pressure Laos to take back nationals of Laos (including those born in refugee camps in other countries) who have orders of removal. The administration has discontinued the issuance of all B1, B2, and B1/B2 nonimmigrant visas for current officials at the Director General level and above from the Lao Ministry of Public Security (MPS) as well as their immediate families; and all A3 and G5 nonimmigrant visas to individuals employed by Lao government officials, with limited exceptions.


  • Who does it not impact?

This specific announcement does NOT affect Lao and Hmong US Citizens or valid green card holders who do not have or not at risk of a order of removal. Be mindful that green card holders with criminal histories who may not currently have an order of removal may still get flagged if they try to become citizens, as we have seen in previous cases.


  • Why are there visa sanctions on Laos?

These visa sanctions may pressure the Lao government to give in and accept Lao nationals with an outstanding order of removal.


  • What’s the current situation with Laos and the deportation issue?

As the only Southeast Asian American country with no repatriation agreement with the United States in place, Laos has been able to keep its deportation numbers relatively low, compared to Vietnam and Cambodia.  If a “repatriation agreement” is signed, it would allow the U.S. to deport Lao nationals (anyone who is not a U.S. citizen) back to Laos, because Lao government has agreed to accept the deportees from the U.S.


  • As a Lao and Hmong permanent resident/green card holder, am I able to travel?

This current visa sanction does not apply to Lao & Hmong US citizens. Lao & Hmong US citizens don’t need any visa to travel back into the US. US citizens will still use their US passports to reenter the US. Lao & Hmong green card holders usually can travel back to the US using their current and unexpired Lao passport and their green card. In the future, if the Lao government decides to cancel some or all visas for US citizens traveling to Laos as a retaliation, then traveling between countries may become difficult. If you are a permanent resident or green card holder and believe that your documents may be or is expired, it is not recommended that you travel outside the US, especially those who have criminal convictions.


  • As a Lao or Hmong US citizen, am I able to travel?

This sanction does not affect US citizens.


  • What should I be aware of when it comes to my rights as a US permanent resident (aka Green Card holder)?

First, always consult with a legal counsel. You always have the right to remain silent, right to an attorney, and right to not open the door for ICE or police officers unless they show you a warrant. If they do not have a warrant, you may refuse to let them in. Ask for an interpreter if you can’t understand them. Different rules apply when you are in public spaces, at work, or at the airport. For more information, know your right trainings, and resources, refer to the list down below.


  • What should we expect in the near future following this announcement?

The Department of State may change the covered visa applicants or visa categories at any time. An expansion to other visa categories is likely. Laos could reciprocate and ban visas for US citizens.


  • How many individuals have final orders of removal to Laos?

Since 1998, 4,568 individuals have been issued deportation orders to Laos. Of that number, there have been a total of 206 deportations, with 4,362 still waiting in limbo (SEARAC).


  • What can we learn from previous sanctions on Southeast Asian countries (Cambodia, Vietnam, etc)?

These visa sanctions are a foreign policy move to pressure the Lao government to sign a repatriation agreement with the U.S. If an agreement is signed, this could begin a slope of large-scale deportations of Lao nationals. Last year, the United States sanctioned Cambodia, which led to the biggest mass roundup of Cambodians for detention and deportation. Deportations to Cambodia are rumored to double this year.


  • What should Lao and Hmong communities be most concerned about?

If possible, all Lao/Hmong Americans should apply for U.S. citizenship. This will eliminate the possibility of any deportation, you will have the right to vote, and won’t have any travel restrictions. Anyone who is not a U.S. citizen without proper valid paperwork about their legal status and individuals who have been convicted of a crime may be at risk for deportation.


What can you do?   

UPDATED 7/13/18:


  1. The Laounge says

    Thanks for posting this information. I hope more people read this thoroughly and pass it around with ” I read” not ” I heard” as is usually the case with Lao people. Respect

    • Yes, Laos has granted acceptance of nationals with final orders of removal back to Laos; with majority who came to the US with refugee status, so nationals of Laos also includes those who were refugees. These cases will most likely not be made public from either countries unless the deportees and/or families chooses to do so.

    • Kat says

      Are we really going to take what the Lao government says seriously? HAHAHA. They are corrupt. They’re worried their gravy train will end if they don’t give the semblance of complying. They’re worried there will be no more foreign aid to skim off of and put into their pockets and their families pockets.

      • The Laounge says

        That’s a fair assessment, however should the same thing that happened to Cambodian Refugees happened to Lao Refugees, infrastructure needs to be started to help people integrate into Lao society. Not everyone will have family or resources. Lao movie companies should be ready to make this into a film as well.

    • Kat says

      If you’re that concerned for deportees returning to Laos then go to Laos and set something up for them.Otherwise you are just all talk and talk is cheap and serves no one.

      The same thing will happen to Lao CRIMINALS who are not a natural born citizen.
      You and the writer seem to be trying to imply that deportation of some will equal deportation of all for no good reason. It is fair for a country to deport criminals and to keep the people who reside in their countries safe. Minor charges that occurred decades ago and unfair deportations should be fought. But, like many in the Lao community, I am tired of being a victim of my fellow khon Lao. Tired of wondering if a new Lao person I meet is a good person or a person who will rob me, try to kill me, or try to rape me.

      • supposedly communism will take care of them when they get there, isn’t that what it does for people? HAHAHAHAHAHA. they are screwed. all the beauty of laos won’t keep you from starving and freezing to death in the streets. communism sure won’t.

      • The Laounge says

        Have you ever been back to Laos, if not get the stepping. You just cant go in there start this and start that even with money and bribery along with the usual who you know who you blow deal.The first step is always dialogue. There is a process on starting any charity or NGO with them, The Lao government usually keeps a watchful eye on that as well. This site is here to provide info and keep people engaged and aware and hopefully to share. I understand every countries right to do as they choose and to deport those who have committed crimes but you talk as if the system is fair and transparent across the board in which it isn’t. Being a victim of other khon Lao, based on your talking you appear to be a law abiding citizen why not purchase a legal firearm if you are that scared of your own kind. You can tell someones intentions if you speak with them for about 5-10 minutes. That COON ass mentality that keeps you wondering is why the Lao community is not on par with other refugee communities.

  2. Souky X says

    Now it caught up with you. You lived in the greatest nation on earth still chose to commit crime and not taken opportunity when you were young. I don’t feel sorry a bit for those of you who are just too dumb and too lazy to do anything right. Now pawn all your belongings to pay those lawyers to get you the US citizenship you dumb ass.

  3. america is more than reasonable. you can appeal most cases and situations. 99% of deportees have been living in america for 20 years after they were supposed to be deported. seems like a lot of time to fix things. many still havn’t don’t think you can chalk most of those up to ignorance, seems more like comfort. and i’m sure in many of those cases you can still appeal to stay. america is so racist and fascist, it allows illegals to stay an extra 20 years to appeal and make things right. i wish we had communism to solve this fascism. amiright?

    • The Laounge says

      A’lot of what you say is correct and incorrect. Comfort is the most consistent when describing our situation. Some of my friends have ” orders of deportation” that were signed when they got out of jail/prison. There are also people who have been arrested paid there court fines and may have did time without ” order of deportation”. Then there are people who just don’t give a fuck and now we are here. Whatever the reason we have to do better as far as getting the correct information spread around the community. More ” I read and understand” so this is what I’m telling you not ” i heard from my cousin step brother in-law while we were gambling” nonsense. Facts vs Fiction not a scare tactic.

      • depending on the crime, i wouldn’t be against pardons. minor non violent crimes where they did their time, and paid their debt to society and show they are a good citizen again, i would have no problem with keeping them, be it laos, mexican, or any other immigrant. but most of the people fighting here seem to be fighting for no deportation no matter the reason. fighting to keep the people that don’t deserve to be here because of violent crime/illegal activity just makes it harder to fight for the real unfair deportations.

        i know there are unfair deportations and we should fight to fix those, but immigration isn’t a right. no one has a right to go into another country. that country allows it, and hopefully with reasonable restrictions and requirements to protect it self from leeches. they are allowed to revoke it or deny entry. hopefully justifiably and with due process. america does do that more than most countries with relatively low requirements. they are very fair and reasonable. though you can find bad cases where they messed up. bad things happen. we can’t fix it by destroying it and starting over, which is what most liberals want. it’s much easier and better to just fix the specific bad cases and figure out how not to let that happen again than to just destroy the entire system that is better than any other system in the world so far.

Leave a Reply to The Laounge Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.