Top 5 Tips for Getting a Visa to Vietnam

Choosing, applying for and purchasing a visa to Vietnam can be a complex and confusing process, not to mention expensive!

Price tends to vary, and all the details concerning which type of visa applies to you and where to get it seem almost deliberately ambiguous.

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The notoriously long queues at most embassies, the masses of application details, the specific photo measurements, Vietnam’s tens of slightly different visa categories, a range of visa prices, visa on arrival and online applications all make the whole ‘visa to Vietnam’ thing really quite daunting! There’s just so much to think about. It’s not cheap, and where do you even begin?

But with the right insight, this seemingly impossible process can actually be quite straightforward…

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Tip 1: Figure out if you even need one.
Yes, nationals of certain countries do not need a visa to enter Vietnam for tourist purposes. Anyone flying directly into Phu Quoc is allowed entry and up to 30 days stay without a visa, no matter their nationality, but for the rest of Vietnam laws are a little more specific.

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Citizens of Norway, Finland, Sweden, Japan, South Korea, Russia and Belarus are allowed up to 15 days in mainland Vietnam without a visa. This law will be effective until 2019, while from the 1 July to 30 June 2016 nationals from the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain will also receive a visa waiver for 15 day visits.

Lastly, visitors from the ASEAN bloc (which includes Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, The Philippines, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei and Vietnam) receive a 30 day visa waiver to Vietnam, and Bruneians receive 14 days.

If you’re unsure about wether you need a visa to Vietnam or not, just check with the Vietnamese embassy in your country. And if you don’t? We are all very envious.

Tip 2: Get the right visa category

Visa categories Who is it for? Duration of visa
NG1 – NG4 Diplomats and guests of the government, and their relatives or assistants Up to 12 months
LV1 – LV2 People who work with the Vietnamese authorities Up to 12 months
ĐT Foreign investors and foreign lawyers operating in Vietnam Up to 5 years
DN Working partners of Vietnamese Businesses Up to 12 months
NN1 – NN2 Chief’s and head representatives of representative offices of IOs and foreign NGOs in Vietnam Up to 12 months
NN3 Staff members of NGOs, representative offices and branches of foreign businesses in Vietnam Up to 12 months
DH Students or interns coming to study in Vietnam Up to 12 months
HN Conference/seminar attendants Up to 3 months
PV1 Journalists with permanent residence in Vietnam Up to 12 months
PV2 Journalists with short term residence in Vietnam Up to 12 months
Foreign workers/labourers coming to work in Vietnam Up to 2 years
DL Tourists Up to 3 months
TT Dependents (wife, husband, or child under 18yrs) of someone with an LV1, LV2, ĐT, NN1, NN2, DH, PV1, LĐ Up to 12 months
VR People who will visit their relatives, or enters Vietnam for other purposes Up to 6 months
SQ People who enter Vietnam under special circumstances, for market research, tourism, visiting relatives or medical treatment Up to 1 month

Tip 3: Check the official price before you buy.

Every visa type to Vietnam has a specific price, together with a processing fee. If you haven’t already, check the table above to determine which Visa category is right for you, and then have a look at this agent’s list of visa fees to figure out how much you will have to pay for it.

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The fee from your country’s Vietnamese Embassy should be similar to that on this website, but agents will add a further fee for their services and as there is no cap to the fees they can quote you it’s wise to get a few different quotes before you buy.

You can also order your visa online (see tip 5), and a great way of checking for scams is to compare their prices with the government issued rates. Are they cheaper? Yes? Then how likely is it that they’re legitimate? Likewise are they more expensive? How much more? Just be aware.

Tip 4: Get the appropriate photos BEFORE you apply – 4cm x 6cm head shot.

Obvious? Easy? Yes well… Both times I have applied for a visa to Vietnam from Australia, I have forgotten to bring photos with me. If you apply online you can check that your photo is appropriate at the official Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Vietnam website, and if you apply in person at an embassy, the border or with an agent make sure you bring a stash of pics measuring 4 cm x 6 cm. 

Having passport sized and visa sized head-shots is a great idea when travelling anyway, since you’ll never know when you might need them.

Fat pugs make even the longest of visa processes seem worth it
Fat, twisty pugs in Vietnamese cafes will make even the longest of visa processes seem worth it, I promise.

Tip 5: Don’t trust online providers.

Although visa-on-arrival is definitely the cheapest and probably the easiest option for getting a visa to Vietnam, there are so many sites out there running scams. There’s nothing worse than arriving at the border of Vietnam with a fake Visa permit letter, a couple of hundred dollars poorer for it, and no way to enter legally. You just don’t want to get in that situation.

So who can you trust? Check out my post on City Pass Guide, a kind of sister post to this one, for a list of websites which will make a visa for you reliably and cheaply.

I can personally advocate one provider though, as a regular customer – Viet Dream Travel. These guys operate from a shop in the famous backpacker strip Bui Vien, and they are both friendly and efficient, working with exact visa rates and only a small service fee. Check them out!

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Important Contacts: Vietnam Immigration Department Head Offices

Hanoi: 44-46 Tran Phu St., Ba Dinh District, Open Monday to Friday from 8:00 am to 11:00 am & 1:30 pm to 4:00 pm. Telephone: 04 3825 7941

Ho Chi Minh City: 254 Nguyen Trai St., D1, Open Monday to Friday from 8:00 am to 11:30 am & 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm. Telephone: 08 3920 2300

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Maybe see you here?

Now go!

Allow about 5 more hours than planned if you’re applying at the embassy, since logic and administrative order has never been Vietnam’s strong point… Also, for advice on visa extensions please see the City Pass Guide blog article I mentioned above, or visit Viet Dream Travel for a list of their own rates and services. And other than that? Get going, apply for that visa, and prepare yourself for an adventure…

Keen to get travelling but no money to make it happen? 

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