Visas for Vietnam
All visitors to Vietnam from countries not listed on a visa-waiver list will need a visa to enter Vietnam. The countries on this list include Japan, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Russia, Singapore and the Philippines, among others. Citizens from these countries are able to stay in Vietnam visa-free for between 14 days and one month, depending on the country.
Citizens from most countries in the world, including the US, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland and Canada, will need to apply for a visa to enter the country. A tourist visa is normally valid for one month, although it is also possible to apply for a three-month multiple-entry visa for Vietnam.
Like the work permit application process, getting a visa for Vietnam seems simple on the surface but can turn out to be a stressful process involving lots of paperwork and expense, and can leave expats subject to the whims of immigration officials following unclear immigration policies.
Entry visas for Vietnam
Those who need a visa to enter Vietnam can apply for one at their nearest Vietnamese embassy or consulate, either in person or by post. If applying by post, a self-addressed, stamped envelope for the return of the passport is required.
Application forms can be downloaded from the local Vietnam embassy website or collected in person from the embassy. The embassy may request additional documentation such as a letter from an employer, letter of invitation and residence permits depending on what visa one is applying for. For example, if a person is applying for a business visa they will be asked to provide additional documentation to prove the nature of their business activities in Vietnam. Expats should wait for the embassy to request these documents before they send them.
Online entry visas for Vietnam
Some travel companies advertise that all travellers arriving at an airport in Vietnam can apply online for a pre-approved visa on arrival. These companies ask applicants to fill out a form online and pay a fee, and then issue an official letter that can be shown to immigration officials at the airport upon arrival in Vietnam. Getting a visa online is often cheaper and more efficient than getting a visa through an embassy.
However, although there are hundreds of legitimate visa companies operating, note that there are some bogus companies that issue fake letters that are not valid travel documents. Even legitimate documents are sometimes not accepted by immigration officials. It is therefore recommended that visitors obtain a proper visa for Vietnam from an official embassy before travelling to the country.
Student visas for Vietnam
It is relatively easy to get a student visa for Vietnam, because it is possible for someone to apply for a student visa after arriving in the country on a tourist visa. Students will need to enrol in a course (for example, a Vietnamese language course) at a school or university (not with a private tutor) and get formal documentation from the school showing that they are enrolled and detailing how long the course is.
Students can then apply to have their visa status changed from within Vietnam at an Immigration Department office.
Residence visas for Vietnam
Those who wish to live and work in Vietnam beyond the maximum length of stay granted by their entry visa will need to apply from within Vietnam for an extension of stay and a change of their visa status.
Expats will need to apply for a Temporary Residence Card (TRC), which is valid for one to three years. This can be applied for within the country and requires a business visa or valid work permit (which is only issued if an expat has a Vietnamese company as a sponsor).
Expats can download the relevant forms from the Vietnam Immigration Department’s website and submit their application at an Immigration Department office in Vietnam.
*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.