I recently went through my first visa application process, and it was, unfortunately, not as simple or stress-free as I had imagined. Because my trip to Vietnam was planned for the end of August, I knew I had enough time to apply for and get the visa I needed at the beginning of June.
I started the process by visiting the website for the Embassy of Vietnam in the United States. Their consular services section about visas is a bit confusing to navigate, and, it turns out, hasn’t been updated in years. I followed the directions on the website and sent in what was supposedly being requested. After two weeks of panicking because my passport still hadn’t been returned to me (in my mind, being held hostage), I called the embassy to discover they needed yet more information. I wonder how long they were going to hold onto my passport before reaching out to me.
If you need to apply for a Vietnam visa, my first word of advice is not to take my advice as gospel. Definitely read through the Vietnam embassy’s entire website for yourself and call the embassy for clarification and questions. I repeat: Do not rely on this post for the end-all, be-all source of information on how U.S. citizens need to obtain a visa for entry into Vietnam. That said, here are my tips and suggestions to help make the process easier:
- Give yourself plenty of time. The website advises that you send your passport via USPS Express Mail or FedEx with tracking numbers. I also advise this and found that my application and passport reached the embassy within two days. It is supposed to take three days for expedited service and five business days to process a normal application. If you run into any problems, this may take longer. It took me 24 days to get my passport back from the embassy.
- Pay the extra postage for the tracking option. When my passport didn’t come home when I expected it to, at least I had the peace of mind that it was at the embassy and not lost in some mail shuffle somewhere.
- Call consular services before getting a money order. I sent the $30.00 as requested online for a one-month visa only to find out it actually costs $70.00 so I had to send another $40.00. I asked around and found out that most other people have had to do the same thing, and only those who know it costs $70.00 get it right the first time. Please note that visas for greater lengths of time and for different purposes have different fees.
- The website notes that consular services is open Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. This is Eastern Standard Time, so if you’re on the West Coast, get up and get calling because it takes a long time to get through. I called every ten minutes for two days before someone actually picked up the phone.
- Follow the directions exactly when filling out the application. They are very precise about what you need to send where, what you need to staple onto what, etc. I must have done this part right because I did, finally, get my passport with my crisp Vietnam visa glued into the back.
If you’ve applied for a Vietnam visa and have any additional advice, please feel free to drop it into the comments area. And if you’re on your way to Vietnam, safe travels!