Tips for Obtaining a Visa for Vietnam

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!

14 Responses to “Tips for Obtaining a Visa for Vietnam”

  1. Trisha Miller

    This is great, JoAnna! I do plan to visit Vietnam someday, so I’m grateful for the advice…..I think the best tip you list is to call and make sure the information is correct. It’s too easy to rely on what’s posted on a website, which can get us in trouble when it’s out of date.

    Reply
  2. Nomadic Matt

    A really easy way to get a vietnam visa is to fly into Asia and use one of the travel agents there. Takes about 3 days.

    Reply
    • JoAnna

      Thanks for the suggestion Matt. The guy I was sitting next to on the plane to Hanoi had a letter from the embassy so he could get a visa at the airport, but I’m also not sure how that process works. I don’t know much about getting a visa upon arrival in general, so thank you for adding your tip.

      Reply
  3. Camels & Chocolate

    Man I WISH I had read this prior to my honeymoon! We were simply transferring through Vietnam and were not even allowed to get on the plane in SF as we didn’t have a transit visa to connect in Ho Chi Minh! Total nightmare. We came home from the airport the night we were supposed to have left on our ‘moon! And it was the Friday of a holiday weekend, so had the airline not helped us change our ticket entirely, we would have missed four days of our trip.

    (http://camelsandchocolate.com/2010/07/how-china-airlines-saved-my-honeymoon/)

    Reply
    • JoAnna

      That does sounds like a nightmare! What a horrible thing to have happen on your honeymoon! I’m glad the airline was able to help you deal with the issue.

      Reply
  4. Sheena

    Nice tips! We’re planning for a trip in Asia,this would be helpful. I also think of my passport being held hostage after a couple of weeks=)

    Reply
    • JoAnna

      Every country in Asia has slightly different rules for visa requirements, so definitely do your research for each country before you leave.

      Reply
  5. Titaza

    I was allowed to enter the country too, which was good thing. Not sure what the Visa policy is/was, all I knew is that I needed one. I used a service called Lucky Vietname Visa. At the visa desk I was greeted by unorganized chaos where I turned over the documents I had received from Lucky Vietnam Visa. I was given another form to fill out then had to wait, sweat (because it was hot) and wait some more. I have no idea if using the visa service helped or not but I am here.
    I return to the US via Tokyo/Narita Airport and JFK.
    I am going to check out Saigon now.

    Reply
    • JoAnna

      Thanks for the tip, Titaza. Glad to hear you made it into the country okay!

      Reply
  6. Roberto Agustin

    I also prepare a plan of traveling to Vietnam. I visit some online sites. However, many sites do not meet my requirements, I got through the phone call, but the their support to customers makes me unhappy.
    I finally visit http://www.myvisa.vn , It is wonderful, I found the cheapest price, I called again and was pleased with my requirement and include of other relative services. I have a little surprise for the care for customers. This is just my experience, you try to corroborate this. And I advice you apply Vietnam visa on arrival based on this reliable site.

    Reply
    • JoAnna

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Roberto. It’s always good to hear that there are other options.

      Reply
  7. Visa for Vietnam

    You should remember to bring along with some money in cash for stamping fee since there is no ATM machine or money changer in arrival halls.

    Reply

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