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Visas

Vietnam - Visas


Vietnam is the destination for an ever-increasing number of tourists and expats who wish to experience the unique landscapes, hospitality and delicious food that this welcoming nation has to offer. However, an important part of your planning must involve obtaining the legal right to enter and stay in the country.

There are a number of nationalities who can enter Vietnam as short stay tourists without a visa. Citizens of Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Laos and Indonesia may visit Vietnam for up to 30 days. If people from these countries intend to stay longer, they must obtain a visa.

Citizens of the Philippines may visit Vietnam for a maximum of 21 days without obtaining a visa.

Citizens of Japan, South Korea, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Germany, France, Spain and Italy may arrive in Vietnam without a visa and stay for a maximum of 15 days, including the days of arrival and exit.

Since July 2015, short term visitors holding a British citizen passport (issued by the UK and Northern Ireland) have been able to stay up to 15 days without obtaining a visa. However, this arrangement is due to end on 30 June 2018.

All other visitors must obtain a visa to enter Vietnam, even for a short holiday, including people from Canada, the USA, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Anyone arriving in Vietnam for business purposes, for a longer visit, or to relocate there permanently must obtain the necessary visa documents, regardless of their nationality.

It is important to get your visa arranged before you arrive in Vietnam so that you have it ready to hand to immigration officials. If you don’t, you will be refused entry, even if this is due to a misunderstanding. You will be asked for the details of where you will be staying, so have this information ready.

If you have booked to visit Vietnam via a travel agent, the agent will send you your visa confirmation letter and Vietnam visa entry and exit form, which are to be handed to the immigration officials on your arrival.

If you are staying in Vietnam for up to 30 days, you can apply online for an e-visa. There are a number of sites offering visas, many of which are bogus or designed to make money out of you, so be careful to use the official website. If you arrive in Vietnam with a counterfeit visa obtained online by accident, it will not be accepted. You can find useful information about how to fill out the e-visa, with step by step instructions, on the US embassy website.

Everyone else must apply for a visa from their nearest Vietnamese Embassy.

Multiple entry visas are available for those who will be visiting Vietnam frequently, or who will be returning within 30 days of their first trip ending.

Certain nationalities, such as British citizens, can obtain a five-year visa exemption certificate if they are married to, or the children of, Vietnamese citizens. This allows multiple trips to the country without having to obtain a visa each time. To apply for an exemption certificate, you must make an application to your nearest Vietnamese embassy or to the immigration department in Vietnam.

You may hear of local border crossing points between Vietnam and its neighbours Cambodia and Laos. Western travellers are not permitted to use these routes, so do not be tempted or persuaded to try them.

When you arrive in Vietnam, your passport must be in good condition and valid for at least six months, regardless of your length of stay. If you are arriving for a longer holiday, your passport must also be valid for a full month beyond the validity of your visa. You must carry a photocopy of your passport and visa everywhere and produce it if the police or immigration officials ask to see it. The passport should be kept somewhere safe.

If you are staying at a hotel or in private accommodation, you will be asked for your passport. It will be used to complete mandatory guest information, which is shared with the local police. This should be done in front of you, and your passport returned to you immediately.

If you bring prescription medicines into the country – and if you have a medical condition, it is advisable to ensure you have the medication you need with you – keep them in your hand luggage, and also bring a copy of the prescription. Drug use and drug smuggling are not tolerated. Prison conditions are significantly harder than those in the west, and the death penalty is in use.

If something happens to your passport in Vietnam, you must obtain UK emergency travel documents. Before you can leave the country, the Vietnam immigration department must issue an exit visa, which can take five working days.

Only short-term tourist visas can be obtained online. Everyone else must approach their nearest embassy. Contact details for your local embassy as well as information about the applications process can be found online. For example, the site for the embassy in London details its opening hours, telephone hours and other key information.

Applications to the embassy can be made in person, by post or by email. Turnaround is fast, and some services allow a next day pickup. The photograph you use must have been taken within the past 12 months. You must also submit a valid passport and application form, plus you will have to pay the non-refundable fee. Depending on your method of application, you will pay this by cash, cheque or bank transfer. The embassy will request further documents if they need them.

The procedure for a business visa is essentially the same as for a tourist visa that comes via the embassy. However, you will also need to supply an invitation letter and a return flight booking. You cannot make visa applications online for a business visa.

If you are travelling to Vietnam in order to get married to a Vietnamese citizen, you can submit your documents to your nearest Vietnamese embassy either by attending in person or by using the postal service.

You need to complete an application form, and produce a medical certificate to confirm you have no mental illnesses or issues that the authorities deem may affect your decision to proceed with the marriage. Certified copies of your passport must accompany a certified affidavit that no records of a previous marriage exist; you will need to employ a notary to do this, before a further certification is added by the foreign and commonwealth office.

If you have been divorced and this is a subsequent marriage, you must submit your divorce decree. Again, this must be certified by the notary as well as the foreign and commonwealth office.

If you were previously married and your spouse died, the death certificate needs to be submitted, with the same certification.

Once you have been living legally in Vietnam for some time and have not had any issues, such as brushes with the law, you may apply for a temporary residency card.

Migrants who have professional work in Vietnam with international companies, who own businesses in the country that they actively manage, or who are students on authorised study programs can be considered for temporary residency, along with their parents, spouse and children.

A formal application must be accompanied by a valid visa, recent photographs, identity documents and supporting documentation to confirm eligibility for temporary residency.

The application is typically processed within five days. The temporary residency will be permitted between one and three years, depending on how long you requested and the fee you paid. At the end of the residency period, your right to stay can be renewed if you still meet the eligibility criteria, but you will need to formally apply again and pay a new set of application fees.

If your circumstances change during the period of your temporary residency, you must inform the authorities in writing.

Permanent residency is difficult to obtain as there are very narrow definitions of who is eligible. People who have married a Vietnamese citizen, have legally and law-abidingly lived in the country and have children may still have to wait several years before they are accepted. Even once permanent residency is issued, it must be renewed every three years, with a hefty fee to pay each time.

Because of this, most migrants living in Vietnam are happy to keep their temporary residency card.

It is important not to overstay your welcome in Vietnam, even by forgetting to renew your visa in time. The fines can be heavy, and can prevent you from returning to the country in the future.

While you are in Vietnam, you may wish to drive a car or motorcycle. Government guidance was updated in December 2017, advising migrants to obtain a Vietnamese driving license before driving vehicles there. Driving licenses issued in the UK or US, for example, are no longer permitted. To obtain a Vietnamese driving license, your visa must be valid for at least three months. The local offices of the department of public works and transportation processes the application. Once the driving license has been obtained you must, by law, obtain insurance before driving.


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