(Note: This post applies only to volunteers going to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City who get the “Tourist” visa for Vietnam. If you are volunteering in Da Nanang, you must get a “Volunteering Visa”)
Most travelers to Vietnam need a visa to enter the country, including our volunteers.
Until recently, this meant applying for the Vietnam Tourist visa directly with a Vietnamese embassy or consulate in your home country — either in-person or by snail-mail.
This traditional process was more expensive and time-consuming and involved the uncertainty of sending your actual passport through the mail.
Fortunately, the Vietnamese government has simplified the tourist visa process in recent years. Their solution is the Vietnam Visa On Arrival (VOA).
The VOA lets you obtain a visa letter of approval online, then print and present the letter upon arrival at the airport in Vietnam. No need at all to deal with a Vietnamese embassy or consulate.
How the Vietnam Visa on Arrival works
1. Apply online for a visa approval letter ($10-$25).
2. Receive the visa approval letter by email and print a hard copy.
3. Present at the airport in Vietnam: passport, visa approval letter, 1 passport-sized photo, visa application, and visa fee in cash of $25 USD (or 600,000 Vietnamese Dong)
Read on for more details and background on the VOA:
Steps to apply for a Vietnam Visa on Arrival
1. Apply online with a travel agency for a visa approval letter
Yes, you must apply for your visa approval letter with a travel agency — rather than directly with a Vietnamese embassy or consulate.
A search online will list dozens of travel agencies offering this visa service (most are Vietnamese). The fees charged by reputable travel agencies range from $10-$25 for single-entry 30 day visas (most common visa for our volunteers).
Last week I used Tung Ngoc Travel Co to get my own visa approval letter for my upcoming trip to Vietnam (I erased my DOB and passport # to post my doc online).
The process with Tung Ngoc Travel Co. was easy, fast, and reasonably priced at $14. It took them 2 business days to email me the visa approval letter. (I get no commissions from Tung Ngoc).
For most travel agencies, allow 3-5 working days for standard processing.
2. Receive the approval letter by email and print a hard copy
The travel agency will email you a PDF. Print a copy and put it in your carry-on bag.
Before you leave home for Vietnam, make sure you have the following:
- 1 passport sized photo
- your passport (valid for at least 6 months at time of entry)
- visa fee in cash of 25 USD (for single entry visa) or 50 USD (for multiple entry visa).
- visa approval letter
- visa application
3. Present visa materials to Immigration at airport in Vietnam
When your flight arrive arrives in Vietnam, youl will walk toward the Immigration section. Look for the counter that says “Visa On Arrival”. Present all of the items mentioned in Section 2 above.
An immigration officer will then process your visa and place a large detailed visa sticker inside your passport. It typically takes 15-30 minutes to process your visa as you stand there and wait.
After you get your passport handed back to you with the visa inside, you will then get in the main line to get your passport stamped by an immigration officer.
That is it!
Who doesn’t need a Visa for Vietnam?
Passport holders from the UK, France, Spain, Italy and Germany can travel to Vietnam without a visa for 15 days. This special arrangement has been extended to June 2020.