<updated July 20, 2016>How to Get Your Vietnam Visa

Is it possible that I hyphenated my title for alliteration? You’ll never know for sure!

This is the first in a series of posts I will be writing about my experiences with getting travel visas. In this post, I will go through both processes of getting a tourist visa in Vietnam. The great news is that getting your visa for Vietnam is super easy!

First thing, are you going only to Phu Quoc? If so, you do not need a visa! Phu Quoc is a special economic zone that foreign citizens can enter visa-free for 30 days! Otherwise, this map will help you determine if you need a visa or qualify for visa-free entry. I love Vietnam and visited 4 times in 2015, so I am rather jealous of citizens from the countries that have this agreement with Vietnam.

edit 07.21.2016 – This map is no longer accurate. As of July 1, 2016, Vietnam changed their policies on 15 day visa free for citizens of the UK and very possibly other regions as well.

Visa_policy_of_Vietnam

Similar to Cambodia, Vietnam also gives the option of either a Visa on Arrival or Advance Visa. Each of my trips, I have used the same service for my arrival visa but I understand that for families with small children especially, the advance visa is much more convenient.

Visa on Arrival

This method is only available to travelers who will be flying into Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City or Da Nang when first entering Vietnam.

Step 1: To enter Vietnam, you need an “invitation letter”. There are many companies that offer this, so far I have had very good experiences with My Vietnam Visa – be careful to fill in your information exactly correctly, especially regarding your arrival date.

Step 2: Pay for your invitation letter and submit your paperwork – you can check the cost of the letter here. For 1 stamp for 1 month single entry, the fee will be USD$20 but there are other options for multiple entries and different lengths of time

Step 3: A few days after submitting your form, you will receive your invitation letter. Yay! It’s a party in Vietnam! Other people are invited too! This is completely normal (and yes, a bit weird since total strangers now know your passport number). Double check that all of your information is correct and remember to print this out before your trip!

Step 4: Prepare your supporting documents.
– passport must have more than 6 months of validity
– two 4cmx6cm passport photos
– a completed entry form (this can also be done in the airport, but it will increase your waiting time) – Download it here
– USD$45 – make sure these are clean, crisp bills
They can be very picky about this! When I flew into Hanoi, they would not accept a bill that had some small scribbles in the corner (of course it was a $20). I ended up having to pay the difference in Singaporean dollars and trust me, it was not an ideal exchange rate.Note: Most airlines will check your documents before they allow you to check in. This can include requesting to see a return or on-going flight out of Vietnam.
Once you land in Vietnam:
Step 4.5: If you have not previously filled out the M3 entry form, you can pick one up from the counter but seriously, do it in advance! You will need to have the address of where you will be staying.
Step 5: Find the visa on arrival counter.
In Ho Chi Minh, if you are facing the row of immigration counters, the visa office will be on your left-hand side – look for the cluster of blue chairs that make up the waiting area.

 

saigon.airport

In Hanoi, after you enter the immigration area the visa desk is on your right-hand side but the sign is oddly parallel and facing away from you.

 

hanoi

Step 6: Give them one photo, the letter, the form and your passport. Sit back down.
Step 7: Now you play the waiting game. Over my three visits, I have waited between five and thirty minutes. I have heard of people waiting up to an hour when the staff are really busy. The HCMC airport definitely has a bathroom in the waiting area, I’m uncertain about Hanoi. Pay attention to the person at the counter because they aren’t very loud, and may mispronounce your name.
Tip: Pay a few bucks for the seats at the front of the plane if you are flying on one of the Asian budget carriers – most people (at least coming from Singapore) are getting the visa on arrival, and being at the front of the line will make this a shorter wait.

Step 8: When you hear your name, leap up like a crazed person – even if it has only been 10 minutes. Everyone does this. Pay the nice customs agent $45USD in exchange for your passport.

Step 9: Go through customs. Do a happy dance. You are in for an amazing vacation.

Step 10: Get yourself a bahn mi, some pho and a bia stat! (I love Vietnam so much, it’s slightly ridiculous and also the reason I am heading back there for a 4th time to round out 2015).

It seems a lot more complicated than I remember now that I have written it out, but trust me – as long as you follow these steps, you will be in Vietnam in no time.

Advance Visa from the Vietnam Embassy

If you are entering Vietnam by land, or you would rather not wait for your visa to be processed in the airport – you can also apply and get the visa in advance from your local Vietnamese embassy. The procedures to do so seem to vary by embassy so here are a few links based on where the majority of my readers are coming from.

Canada

United States of America

United Kingdom & Ireland

I hope you found this post helpful! Over the next few weeks, I will also expand my Visas section to include information on how to get work visas for Singapore and South Korea.

Disclaimer: Please keep in mind that this info comes from my experiences in 2015 as a Canadian passport holder. I am happy to answer any questions – but it is always a good idea to double check that these rules are still current when planning your trip!

 

Where to next?