Dan Bauman and Elizabeth Mohr
Saint Paul Pioneer Press
BY THE NUMBERS
1 in 5 visas issued by the U.S. to Laos nationals were K-1 visas, or fiancee visas, in 2014. That proportion is the largest of any country; Somalia was second.
According to UNICEF, 35 percent of girls in Laos are married before they turn 18 and 9 percent before they turn 15. In many African and South Asian countries, the percentage is at least 40 percent and, in some places, more than 75 percent.
Nearly 34 percent of families in Laos live below the international poverty line, defined as $1.25 per day (in U.S. currency), according to UNICEF.
The U.S. Embassy in Laos reviewed fiancee visas and determined 14 percent were fraudulent, according to a 2009 telegram published by Wikileaks. Lao citizens seeking to go to the U.S. from remote, rural provinces had a 45 percent fraud rate, “possibly due to a higher incidence of arranged marriages and higher polygamy levels,” the report said.