What is Vietnam visa on arrival?

The Vietnam visa on arrival (VOA) is a fast and effective option to apply for an entry visa to Vietnam. Out of the three ways to get a visa, the visa on arrival is preferred by travellers because of its easy application procedure, convenience and fast processing time.

The VOA is available to virtually all citizens from countries around the world and is easily organised by travellers with a reliable internet connection. However, the application method for the VOA is slightly different for those planning to visit Vietnam. Many countries let travellers apply and receive a VOA at the destination airport of the country visited on holiday. However, for travellers to Vietnam it is necessary to firstly obtain an “approval letter” which is issued by the Vietnam Immigration Department. But, this part isn’t straightforward because a foreign traveller does not have the option to apply personally for this document. So, it is necessary to use a locally based travel agent to get the approval letter organised on your behalf. Travellers must at least hold this letter before being a able to board a flight to Vietnam.

vietnam visa on arrival

Visa Exemptions
Citizens from over 160 countries have the option to apply for the Vietnam visa on arrival.

However, there are citizens from certain countries that are exempt from the visa requirement and can enter Vietnam for a specific period of time. This applies to certain SE Asian countries for a period of up to 30 days, and European countries (such as Italy, Spain, Germany, France and Great Britain) for a stay of up to 15 days. If you plan to stay for only one or two weeks this is likely to be a practical option for you.

With no need to organise a cheap Vietnam visa, you only need to book your flight and you are ready to go, but it is also necessary to have a return flight booked (return date must be within the visa exemption period) and confirmation shown at immigration on arrival in Vietnam.

Visa Options
For travellers unable to qualify for visa-free travel or the planned stay in the country is longer than the 15 or 30 day exemption period, it will be necessary to complete the process to apply for a visa.

The type of Vietnam visa will depend on the intended travel plans with a choice to apply for a single-entry or multiple-entry visa with duration of 1-3 months.

The available visa options include: 1 month single-entry, 3 months single-entry, 1 month multiple-entry and 3 month multiple entry.

If the travel itinerary is solely limited to travelling within Vietnam the single-entry visa is more than enough, but for those planning the Indochina tour with the intention to visit neighbouring countries like Cambodia, Laos, or Myanmar, a multiple-entry visa is a must.

If you intend to fly into Vietnam and arrive at one of the major international airports (Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, or Danang) the quickest and easiest option is certain to be applying for the Vietnam visa online.

However, for tourists planning to visit Vietnam by sea or land border crossing, you will need to make alternative arrangements as the visa on arrival would not be an appropriate option. For the land or sea entry, a traveller will need to organise a visa via a local Vietnamese embassy before arriving in the country

vietnam visa on arrival

Approval letter
Before it is possible to gain entry to Vietnam and apply for the VOA, you will need to arrange for an approval letter to be issued. This letter essentially lets you enter Vietnam without holding an official visa, but confirms you will be purchasing one once you arrive in the country.

It is essential to at least hold a copy of the approval letter for the Vietnam travel because most airlines will stop travellers boarding if they aren’t able to display proof of being able to enter the destination country.

There are plenty of locally based travel agencies that can help organise the approval letter for the Vietnam visa on arrival. The travel agents can process the approval letter within a period of two business days. However, there are also services available for travellers in need of the urgent documentation.

The basic process of applying for the letter is to fill out a quite simple form and make a payment to the agent for a processing fee.

The cost of applying for the approval letter is in the region of $17 to $34 and depends on the number of people, type of standard or urgent Vietnam visa, and whether extra services are chosen. Also, an extra $25 stamping fee is payable on arrival at your destination airport.

In addition to preparing the approval letter, you also want to complete an application form (NA1) which is needed for the visa stamp at the airport. This form can be requested from your Vietnam travel agent. It is best to fill out the application form before travelling to be completely ready on arrival. A passport size photo must be attached to the application form.

On arrival in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, or Danang, make your way to the immigration area and look for a sign saying “Landing Visa” or “Visa on Arrival”. Queue up and make sure the relevant paperwork is ready (approval letter, passport and application form) and wait for the visa to be processed.

After a short wait - about 15 minutes at quiet times - go the counter or window to collect your visa and passport, while also paying the $25 stamping fee.

However, when travelling at busy times and arriving at Ho Chi Minh City there can be long queues. But, waiting time at immigration can be avoided by using a fast track option to pass and complete the immigration process more quickly.

Overall, the process to apply Vietnam visa on arrival is relatively straightforward and quick. The ability to apply for the visa online is certain to appeal too many, and avoids having to queue or send the original passport to the local Vietnamese embassy.

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