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All foreign nationals need a visa to enter Vietnam, with certain exceptions: citizens of Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Japan and South Korea do not need a visa if they are travelling to Vietnam for less than fifteen days, have a passport valid for three months following the date of entry and hold a return air ticket.
Citizens of certain ASEAN–member countries, including Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore are also exempt for stays of up to thirty days. Tourist visas are generally valid for thirty days and for a single entry, though three months multiple–entry visas are also available. A standard thirty–day visa costs the local equivalent of US$30–100, depending on how quickly you want it processed.
The majority of visitors apply for a visa in their country of residence, either from the embassy direct, or through a specialist visa agent or tour agent. Processing normally takes around a week, though many embassies also offer a more expensive “express” service.
If it’s difficult to get to your nearest Vietnam Embassy, consider buying your visa online at wvietnamvisa.com. Prices range from US$22 plus US$25 ‘stamping fee’ (for a one-month, single-entry visa) to US$34 plus US$50 ‘stamping fee’ (for a three-month, multiple-entry visa.) On receipt of your fee (usually within 24 hours), you’ll be sent a document to print out and show immigration on arrival. The process is very efficient and currently only requires a short wait upon arrival, though this wait could get longer if the system proves popular. If you follow this route, look out for the Visa on Arrival desk at the airport before you pass through immigration.
To apply for a tourist visa, you have to submit an application form with one or two passport-sized photographs (procedures vary) and the fee. The visa shows specific start and end dates indicating the period of validity within which you can enter and leave the country. The visa is valid for entry via Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang international airports and any of Vietnam’s land borders open to foreigners.
Business visas are valid for one month upwards and can be issued for multiple entry, though you’ll need a sponsoring office in Vietnam to underwrite your application.
One-year student visas are relatively easy to get hold of if you enrol, for example, on a Vietnamese language course at one of the universities; you’ll be required to attend a minimum number of classes per week to qualify. It’s easiest to arrange it in advance, but you can enter Vietnam on a tourist visa and apply for student status later – the only downside is that you may have to leave the country in order to get the visa stamp.
Special circumstances affect overseas Vietnamese holding a foreign passport: check with the Vietnamese embassy in your country of residence for details.
Thirty-day extensions are issued in hanoi vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, Nha Trang, Da Nang, Hué and Hoi An. Some people have managed to obtain second and even third extensions, usually in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Applications have to be made via a tour agent. In general they take three to five days to process and cost $25 for the first one-month extension.
Holders of business visas can apply for an extension only through the office that sponsored their original visa, backed up with reasons as to why an extension is necessary.
Incidentally, overstaying your visa will result in fines of between US$10 and US$50, depending how long you overstay and the mood of the immigration official, and is not recommended.
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