If you’re thinking of heading to Vietnam, dont let the visa requirements get you down! It’s a bit of a tedious process, but i’m telling you now – it’s so worth it!
Vietnam went through a terrible war, but coming to the city in 2019 you’ll see it busy with business, agriculture, entertainment, excitement, and history on every street corner.
The first time that I was weighing whether I wanted to go to Vietnam, the key sticky factor was the fact that there isn’t a visa on arrival for Americans. When I started doing research I realized quickly that the details were pretty slim in terms of what you needed. Since I have an American passport, most of the countries I’ve visited had a fairly easy and straightforward process. For Vietnam, they are very strict for Americans entering so be sure you read through everything below to understand whats needed prior to embarking on your journey.
After going through the process of getting the pre-approval letter and then the headache upon arriving at the airport I decided that I must document the experience to help others to understand everything so when you arrive you’ll have an easy experience.
Vietnam Visa Exemption (Vietnam Visa on Arrival)
As of 2019, there are 24 countries that you do not need a visa to be able to enter Vietnam. Most of these are either Asian or European countries and each have different allowances for the number of days you can stay without a visa.
For the following countries, you do not need to request a visa prior to arriving and can fly to the country with just your passport in hand:
Vietnam Visa Exemption Countries: Chile, Cambodia, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Brunei, Myanmar, Belarus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Russia, South Korea, Spain, and Sweden, United Kingdom.
If you want to know how many days you can stay, ranging anywhere from 15-90 days depending on the country, you can check the Wikipedia page for their visa exemption here.
If you are a part of the exemption countries, you do not need to get a pre-approval letter. Simply fly to Vietnam and enter through immigration to get stamped. It’s extremely hassle free and easy for you guys 🙂
Vietnam Visa Process
For those not included in the exemption list, you will need a pre-approval letter completed prior to flying. Your originating airport will request that you have the letter prepared before you can board the plan.
First Step: Pre-Approval Letter
To get the pre-approval letter, you’ll need to find a company in Vietnam that will get the approval letter processed and stamped for you. This part is where some visitors may end up getting swindled as there are companies that just take your money and never get you the approval letter.
When I visited Vietnam, I used the company that was listed on the US.GOV website for visa information which suggested www.vietnamvisa.com. The process was fairly straightforward. Simply fill out the visa form, pay the service fee of $16.99, and then wait for the approval letter to be sent to your email.
It took only 2 business days for it to be completed which was pretty fast. This does mean that you will need to do it in advance (I’d suggest at minimum a week before you fly out).
They also have rush processes if needed for urgent arrivals.
Second Step: Visa Sticker In Vietnam
Once you’ve successfully arrived in Vietnam, the normal process would be to approach immigration, however, you still need to get a visa stamp upon arrival.
Head to the “Landing Visa Counter” upon arrival similar to the one in the photo above in Ho Chi Min’s airport. This is probably the most important part when you arrive. There is typically no directions on what to do so i’ll break it down below:
- Fill In Form: Find and fill out the visa application form. You’ll need all details filled in and you’ll find it has English translations on it.
- Photo: Bring with you one 1×1 photo* to attach to your application.
- Submit Papers: When complete, approach the counter to provide the form with the photos to have it processed. They will take this and begin processing it.
- Wait: Sit while it’s being processed. This can take up to an hour or more to complete. Your name will be called once complete.
- Pay Visa: Approach the payment counter when your name is called to pay the fee of $25 USD. Ensure you either bring US Dollars or have the local currency already before arriving at the airport. US dollars is your best bet to proceed quickly.
*If you dont have a photo upon arriving, you will have to pay an extra $5 USD for your photo to be taken.
Once everything has been processed you’ll now have a sticker-visa on your passport and you can then go back to the immigration lines and file through to begin your journey into Vietnam.
Vietnam Travel Guide
Checkout our full guide to Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh City here.