On Vietnam Visas

On Vietnam Visas

I’m in hard-core planning mode right now. The Autumn is my chief travel season–kids are back in school, summer vacations are over, and the weather is cooler, yet it’s before the serious risk of snow. Despite Mexico, Cuba, Colombia, and Germany as my 2017 Wishlist leftovers, it’s looking more like Vietnam, Hong Kong, and Spain.

Photo by Nam-ho Park, Flickr

Vietnam and Hong Kong are booked, so it’s not even a question of if but when. I may be a planner, but the decision to go with Vietnam was a bit, well, not very thought out. For instance, I discovered after I bought the plane tickets that I needed a visa. I had visions of having to trek to New York City to a Vietnamese consulate to apply for the visas, of being denied, of screwing up royally.

This is all based, of course, on a friend’s experience–not for a Vietnam visa, but an African country. Imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered that earlier this year Vietnam decided to pilot an e-visa process. And it’s simple:

  1. Head to the Vietnam e-visa site.
  2. Complete the form (you’ll need your passport as well as the address at which you plan to stay in Vietnam).
  3. Write down the registration number that you get upon e-visa application and put it somewhere safe. No really. You’re gonna need it in a few days.
  4. Pay the $25 e-visa fee (note: my bank converted this to just over $26).
  5. Wait three days.
  6. Head back to the e-visa site, plug in your registration code, and voila: save/print your visa.

There are restrictions with the e-visa, of course–you can only stay for a month, and your purpose can only be for vacation. It’s also limited to citizens of forty countries. Oh, and that $25 visa fee is non-refundable if you get rejected.

Photo by Jean-Louis Potier, Flickr

You can still go to the Vietnamese consulate if you really really want to (or if you want to stay longer or are going to Vietnam for reasons other than tourism), but that can take time–who wants to waste time, right? You can also obtain a visa upon arrival in Vietnam; you still have to get pre-approved online and have the approval letter on you when you’re going through all your entry points in Vietnam. At that point it can take another hour-ish to get your visa stamped.

I was super happy to go through the e-visa pilot process.

All in all, I’m really excited to visit Vietnam. It’ll be a short trip–just a few days in Hanoi–but I’m prepared to cram in as much as I can. In particular, I’m really interested in Vietnamese street food, the Night Market, the temples, and wandering the streets aimlessly.

The U.S.’ history with Vietnam is fraught, for sure, but we have President Bill Clinton to thank for officially normalizing relations in 1995. President Obama further helped on that front by visiting Vietnam in Spring 2016 (at the same time lifting the arms embargo, which I have mixed feelings about. While Vietnam did ratify the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment as a condition of lifting the embargo, there are still some serious human rights concerns at hand. Then again, the US certainly has its fair share of human rights violations going on, so perhaps I shouldn’t throw stones).


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