Camera observations of the full penetration keyhole laser welding process show that the keyhole shape is elongated under certain welding conditions. Under these unfavourable circumstances, the welding process is susceptible to holes in the weld bead. Existing models of the pressure balance at the keyhole wall cannot explain this keyhole elongation. In this paper a new model is presented, accounting for the doubly curved shape of the keyhole wall. In this model, the surface tension pressure has one term that tends to close the keyhole and another term that tries to open it. Model calculations show that when the keyhole diameter is of the same order as the sheet thickness, the latter part can become dominant, causing the keyhole to elongate. Experiments on thin aluminium (AA5182) and mild steel (DC04) sheets verify these model calculations. As the keyhole radius depends on the radius of the focused laser spot, it was found for both materials that the ratio of the spot radius and the sheet thickness must be above a critical value to prevent keyhole elongation. These critical radii are 0.25 for AA5182 and 0.4 for DC04, respectively. Furthermore, differences in appearance of the weld bead between the circular and the elongated keyhole welds could be explained by this model.