Cross-border marriages between people from China and Vietnam have been popular in recent years, but issues linked to legal status are still major barriers.

Foreign women living in villages near Yunnan province seem to find Chinese men as prime suitors, given that economic development in the province has improved the quality of life for people in border villages, Global Times reported.

However, the report said a considerable number of cross-border marriages are not registered. Foreign women — most hailing from Vietnam — are often not given a legal identity in China due to the fact the registration procedure is complicated and expensive.

Some 28 Vietnamese women live in Yunling village in Yunnan’s Malipo County, but none have legal status in the country.

Deng Fengkuan, a local villager who married a Vietnamese woman almost a decade ago, says the lack of legal status is inconvenient, as it means his wife has limited access to public services such as social insurance and pensions.

In addition, people without any local identity documents find it hard to buy train tickets, especially when they want to travel to other cities.

The cost of a legal cross-border marriage is estimated to range from 10,000 to 40,000 Yuan (about US$1,600 to $6,000), including administrative expenses, transport and accommodation in both Vietnam and China.

Local authorities estimate that about 50 in 2,000 cross-marriages are registered in Malipo county. Deputy Party chief of Yunling, Deng Youlin, said local legislators have been promoting more welfare and benefits for the women from Vietnam, as well as making the procedure more efficient and effective.

And yet, more obstacles seem to put in front of such efforts. Many women from Vietnam who get into a cross-border marriage often do so when they are as young as 18 years old. But a marriage is not recognized as legal in China until they reach the legal age of 20.