Vietnam is among the countries that require visas from most travelers – including Americans like me! You can and should get a visa on arrival! Vietnam has a process unlike that of most other countries in that you:
- Don’t need to mail your passport to an embassy or consulate
- Don’t need papers like bank statements, hotel bookings, invitation letters, etc.
You can apply for a visa before you arrive. Depending on the country you’re in, you might need to make a trip to the embassy or consulate, or plan your trip far in advance. If you mail your passport, you should always leave at least a week for rush service or a month for regular service! However, you can wait until the last minute if you get it on arrival.
Why You Should Get a Vietnam Visa on Arrival (VOA)
If you need a visa, you can get one on arrival if you get to Vietnam via air. Only international airports have the ability to give you a visa when you get there. If you plan to get to Vietnam by bus, boat, train, etc., you need to visit an embassy or consulate.
If you fly into Hanoi (Noibai – HAN), Ho Chi Minh City (Tan Son Nhat – SGN), or Da Nang (Da Nang – DAD), you can get a VOA. Get one because:
- It’s more flexible. You don’t need to make a trip to an embassy or consulate, nor do you need to mail your passport anywhere.
- It’s cheaper. Embassies can charge what they want, up to something like $100 USD for visa service. With a VOA, prices are standard.
- It takes 2-3 days for a standard VOA application to process, but could be quicker than that. You can pay for service as fast as 2 hours.
- You only need 5 minutes online to register for one.
How the Vietnam Visa on Arrival Works
When you get to the airport, you will first need to pass through customs. In Noibai International Airport (in the capital Hanoi), the gates are on the right and the VOA desk is on the left. To get your visa, give the officers:
- Your printed VOA letter, applied for online, ahead of time
- Your passport with at least 2 free pages and 6 months of viability left
- Two passport photos
- Completed visa application form
- $25 cash (USD) for a one month visa (more for longer stays – check the websites about visas to Vietnam to be sure about updated prices)
All of these need to be prepared beforehand, except for your completed visa application form. You can print one yourself and fill it out prior to arrival, or get one there. The benefit of having one beforehand is that you won’t have to wait in line. Depending on when you arrive, the lines can get really long!
How to Get a Vietnam Visa on Arrival Pre-Approved Letter
The weird thing about VOAs to Vietnam is that you need a letter that “pre-approves” you. Before your flight, you should have this printed out. The best way to get one is to go online and pick an agency that will get it for you. You pay their fee for whatever visa you want, fill out your passport information, and they will send you back that letter.
The visas that are available for Vietnam:
- 1 month single entry
- 1 month multiple entry
- 3 months single entry
- 3 months multiple entry
- 6 months multiple entry (US passports only)
- 1 year multiple entry (US passports only)
In case it confuses you (as it did me), a 1 month multiple entry visa means that your visa is valid for a full month. During that time, you can come and go freely into the country, via any mode of transportation (including boat, bus, etc.). The different time periods are how long your visa is valid for. Single and multiple entry are how many times you can enter the country on that visa.
Reliable agencies for Vietnam visas on arrival include:
- Vietnam Visa Pro*
- Vietnam Visa Govt VN (not officially affiliated with the Vietnamese government, despite the name)
- Quick Vietnam Visa
- Vietnam Visa Online
- Visa 4 Vietnam
They all work the same way, so the only difference between them is the price. The thing about Vietnam is that price is not always indicative of the quality of service you will get. The prices of these websites vary; just because one is cheaper than another does not mean it is not as good. What’s great about the VOA is that the letter you get is the same. Don’t be afraid to go for the cheaper price – the service is exactly the same!
*I used Vietnam Visa Pro for my visa letter and can definitely recommend their service. I got a 1 month single entry visa and standard 2-day delivery. Online, they charged me $6.07 with a Visa card. The price officially says $6, but I assume they took the extra cents to cover credit card fees. I put in some personal information including passport country and number. The same afternoon, I got the letter with my name on it!
How the Process Works
Pick one of the above websites. They will ask you to input your information (basically your name, address, date of birth, passport information, and when you expect to arrive to Vietnam). The date you put for expected arrival is very important. If you have the letter but you try to enter the country before the date on the letter, you will be denied. That date determines when your visa will expire as well. For example, I knew that I would visit Hanoi, Vietnam from October 3 to October 6. Just in case, I put that I would arrive to Vietnam on September 30. When I got my visa in Noibai Airport, it should have been valid for a full month. However, because my visa validity period started technically on September 30, my visa would expire on October 31 – not early November.
Put in your credit card information and wait for a confirmation email!
With Vietnam Visa Pro, I got my confirmation email for my visa application letter just before 3 pm. It took them about 40 minutes to send me a confirmation that I paid for the letter. Before 7 pm, I received my letter! They included the letter in three JPG files, along with a Microsoft Word file of the visa application form. This one is the one that is optional to print out and bring, but I did anyway to save time!
The thing to note about these letters is that everything is in both English and Vietnamese. They include an introduction as well as the dates your visa will be valid for and your name, country of your passport, and passport number. Make sure this is all correct!
If you pay for standard service, the company will put everyone in the same letter. This means that your name, passport country and number, gender, and birthdate are included. Everyone on that letter gets the same letter – meaning they will have all this information as well. For the most part, this is not a big deal. Your name, gender, and birthdate are generally readily available on the internet. Your passport information is not enough to do anything with, either. However, if you are paranoid about privacy, pay a little extra for a private letter.
What to Do at the Airport
Once you have your letter, just check to make sure the dates and your personal information are correct. When you get to the airport, just go to the visa on arrival desk with all the things you need, and wait for your visa to get approved! That’s it!
*This post does NOT contain affiliate links. I get NO compensation whether you choose to get a Vietnam visa on arrival letter from the companies I have here, or not. Rest assured, I tell it how it is!
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