Most travelers need a visa to visit Vietnam, and fortunately, a simple process exists to apply for and receive an e-visa online. However, trying to find that process can be complicated. Search online for "Vietnam e-visa" and you'll find a deluge of results, mostly for third-party companies that advertise "e-visas" but are actually offering a "visa on arrival." Adding to the confusion, you can also apply online through your local Vietnamese consulate for a paper visa, which is different from an e-visa.
There are essentially three ways to get a visa for entering Vietnam. The easiest way is to apply for an e-visa through the Vietnam Immigration Department, which is available to citizens from 80 different countries who want to visit Vietnam for tourism for up to 30 days. The second way is to apply through the nearest Vietnamese consulate in your home country, which isn't recommended for tourists but necessary for anyone who wants to stay long-term. The third option is to use a third-party company which provides tourists with a visa on arrival, and is perhaps the common method used although not always reliable.
Nationals from 23 countries can travel to Vietnam for a period of 14 to 90 days—depending on the nationality—without a visa.
|Visa Requirements for Vietnam|
|Visa Type||How Long Is It Valid?||Required Documents||Application Fees|
|E-Visa||30 days||Scan of passport and photo||$25|
|Consular Visa||Up to 12 months||Application form, passport, passport photo||Varies|
|Visa on Arrival||Up to 90 days||Scan of passport and photo||Processing fee plus $25 stamping fee|
The Government of Vietnam launched an e-visa program in 2017, streamlining the process for getting a visa and skipping the need for questionable agency sites. The most complicated part is finding the correct website, so just make sure you're applying for an official e-visa from the Vietnam Immigration Department.
The e-visa is available to nationals from more than 80 different countries, including the U.S., U.K., Mexico, EU nationals, and many others. The e-visa allows for a single entry into Vietnam for a period of up to 30 days, and visitors can enter the country at most ports of entry, including all of the international airports and most land crossings.
Visa Fees and Application
Once you're on the e-visa website, the process is fairly straightforward and easy to complete. However, there are a few things to be aware of before you begin.
- You'll need a digital photo or a scan of your passport as well as a recent digital photo of yourself on a neutral background (like a passport photo). A picture taken with your mobile phone should suffice.
- Triple check the information you fill out to be sure everything matches exactly as it's written on your passport. E-visas have been rejected for inconsistencies in spelling, spacing in the name, or a typo on the date, and you'll need to re-apply (and re-pay) if that happens to you.
- The visa fee is $25 and is payable at the time of application. Since this is your actual visa, you won't have to pay a "stamping fee" when you get to Vietnam, which is the case with other companies offering visas on arrival.
- The processing time takes three business days. If everything has been filled out correctly, you'll receive an email with your visa attached to print out and bring with you to enter Vietnam.
You can also apply for a visa through your nearest Vietnamese consulate, which can be done in person, by mail, or online. Completing an online application through a consulate is not the same as applying for an e-visa, since you'll receive your physical visa in the mail—assuming you're approved. If you're planning to visit Vietnam as a tourist and not stay longer than 30 days, the e-visa process is your best option. If you plan to stay longer than 30 days, you'll need to apply for a visa through the consulate.
The maximum amount of time you will be approved for depends on the country you're applying from. For example, U.S. citizens can apply for a visa that is good for up to 12 months and allows for multiple entries. Vietnam doesn't offer individual "work visas" or "study visas," so if you plan to stay for the long-term, you'll just apply for a 12-month visa and mark the reason for staying on the application.
Visa Fees and Application
Look up the Vietnamese embassy for your country or nearest consulate if one exists. If you happen to live near a consulate, you can apply in person. Otherwise, you can mail, email, or electronically submit your application.
- The documents you'll need to submit are your completed application form, original passport or a photocopy of your passport, a photo of yourself (2 inches by 2 inches), payment of visa fee, and a self-addressed and prepaid return envelope (if receiving visa by mail).
- The fees vary based on the reason for your visa and the duration of your stay. Reach out to the embassy or consulate where you're applying via phone or email to get an accurate and up-to-date price.
- If you're applying in person at the consulate, you can pay in cash or with a credit card. If you're applying by mail, you'll need to send a money order. If you apply electronically, you'll need to pay with a credit card.
- The standard processing time is three days, but you can pay for expedited service if needed.
- If you apply in person or by mail and submit your original passport, it will be mailed back to you with the visa affixed inside.
- If you apply online or mail in a photocopy of your passport, you'll be mailed back a loose-leaf visa which you'll bring with you to Vietnam.
Visa on Arrival
Before the official e-visa program was launched, visas on arrival were the most convenient method for travelers to get a visa and continue to be one of the most popular. Dozens of companies exist to help travelers get a Vietnam visa, and many of them advertise their services as an "e-visa." However, only the Vietnam Immigration Department issues real e-visas; anything else is a visa on arrival at best or a scam at worst.
The Vietnamese embassies around the world warn about using unauthorized visa services and cannot confirm the authenticity of any particular website. While many of them legitimately provide visas on arrival, others have been used as vectors for identity theft or credit card fraud. If you decide to use a visa on arrival service, research the company well and be wary of websites that suspiciously charge much less than others.
The only benefit to using a visa on arrival service is that many of them have a faster turnaround time than the three-day processing for the e-visa and that third-party websites may be more user-friendly. Other than that, they're more expensive and are more of a headache when you arrive in Vietnam. Plus, visas on arrival are only accepted at Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang and Nha Trang airports.
Visa Application and Fees
The application process itself is almost identical to applying for an e-visa since you'll fill in all of your personal information and trip details online. However, there are a few important differences, especially regarding the fees.
- Just like with the e-visa, you'll need to submit a digital photo or scan of your passport and a digital passport-style photo of yourself.
- You'll be able to choose if you want a 30-day visa or a 90-day visa, with the latter being slightly more expensive.
- When you apply, you'll pay a fee to the company for using their service, which varies but the cost is usually around $20.
- The visa fee itself is $25—just like the e-visa—which you'll need to pay in U.S. dollars at the immigration desk when you arrive in Vietnam (many of these companies refer to this as a "stamping fee").
- After applying, within a few hours to a couple of days you'll receive your "invitation letter" via email. Once you arrive at the airport, you'll have to wait at immigration to exchange your invitation letter for the actual visa.
- Immigration officials will call out travelers one by one, so the wait time depends on how many people are there and how quickly your name is called.
There are no set consequences for overstaying your visa in Vietnam, and the punishment you'll receive is at the whim of the immigration officer who catches you. You won't be allowed to board a plane without speaking to an official if your visa is expired, so don't count on being able to "sneak by." The consequences for overstaying by a couple of days range from a slap on the wrist to paying $20 to paying several hundred dollars, with little recourse to appeal or argue. There are even instances where due to a typo on the visa, the traveler had less time in Vietnam than they believed. That doesn't excuse you from overstaying, so be sure to double-check your visa details the moment you receive it.
Overstays longer than a few days will incur even higher charges, in addition to possible detainment, deportation, and not being allowed to return to Vietnam.
Extending Your Visa
If you plan to stay longer than your visa allows, most visas can be extended for an additional three months by requesting an extension at a Vietnam Immigration Department office, located in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Da Nang. You'll need a valid reason for staying longer, but the actual documents you need and fees you'll pay—as with much of Vietnamese bureaucracy—depend on the immigration officer who helps you.
Similar to the visa on arrival, you'll find several agencies who will request the extension for you if you search online for "Vietnam visa extensions." It simplifies the process for the applicant, but remember that none of these are officially sanctioned groups. Use them with caution and research a company well before providing your passport information and credit card number.