New citizens are instructed to complete legal procedures on marriage registration certificate and residence certificate in the northern mountainous Mộc Châu Province’s Lóng Sập Commune. — VNA/VNS Photo Hữu Quyết
SƠN LA —In 2009, Mùa Thị Mụa decided to leave her hometown in Laos and move to Việt Nam’s Sơn La Province to live with the man she loved.
Mụa lived with her husband, a local resident, in Phiêng Cài Village, Lóng Sập Commune in Mộc Châu District. They were among many poor households in the village, but were not eligible for financial support or social welfare because Mụa had no legal papers.
Mụa was not a Vietnamese citizen. She had never applied for important documents, such as an identity card, residency certificate, or even marriage registration.
Even the birth certificates of her two children had only the name of the father.
Mụa said she did not dare stray far from the village for the past 10 years.
But things have changed since she was granted Vietnamese citizenship last month.
Mụa is now completing the legal procedures to get her personal documents.
Mụa is among the first 88 Lao nationals currently residing in the border area of northwestern Sơn La Province and granted Vietnamese citizenship. An additional 206 Lao migrants living in Lóng Sập, Chiềng Sơn and Chiềng Khừa communes will be granted Vietnamese citizenship from now until October 15.
The newly-recognised Vietnamese citizens will be guided to complete procedures for legal papers, including birth certificates, identity cards and marriage registration certificates.
The move comes thanks to an agreement on addressing undocumented migration and marriage in the shared border regions between the Vietnamese and Lao governments, signed in 2013.
Sơn La Province and Laos’ provinces share a same border of more than 274km, passing six districts of Mai Sơn, Yên Châu, Mộc Châu, Vân Hồ, Sông Mã and Sốp Cộp.
In Sơn La Province’s Lóng Sập Commune, which borders Laos’ Houaphanh Province, undocumented migration and marriage between residents on both sides of the border are common.
Up to 30 out of 80 married couples haven’t completed marriage registration certificates as the husband or wife lacks Vietnamese citizenship.
Tráng A Tủa, head of Phiêng Cài Village, said the tradition of local men travelling to Laos to seek wives had existed for a long time.
Many Lao girls had been living in the village for years but were not recognised as legal citizens. Therefore, being granted Vietnamese nationality was a long-awaited wish of the couples in the village.
Citizenship would allow them to access basic services such as health care and education, join economic activities and enjoy fundamental rights such as voting.
Phạm Đức Chính, chairman of Mộc Châu District’s People’s Committee, said the district had worked with the Department of Justice to set up a file of Lao people who have migrated and married without documents in Lóng Sập, Chiềng Sơn and Chiềng Khừa communes.
In the near future, the district would focus on disseminating the Party's guidelines and policies and the State's laws to the newly-recognised citizens.
Chính said after reviewing the approved list, there were 24 undocumented marriages without an application for Vietnamese citizenship.
These couples got married after the agreement was signed, meaning they must follow normal procedures prescribed in the Law on Vietnamese Nationality.
Quàng Hồng Phương, director of the provincial Department of Justice, said 294 out of 350 Lao people in the province were eligible for Vietnamese citizenship.
In the near future, the border districts will review cases of free migration and undocumented marriage before July 8, 2013.
Local authorities and border districts will strictly control the entry and exit of Lao and Vietnamese citizens in the border areas of the two countries to minimise the number of illegal migrants and undocumented marriage. VNS