Visa Information for Expats in Hanoi & Vietnam
Whereas six-month business visas were once automatic through a travel agency, changes made in the last few years have decreased a visa on arrival’s maximum amount of time to three months; one-month visas are also issued. This situation only affects those coming to Hanoi without official employment–if you are a diplomat, executive, student, or have other documented work or business in Vietnam, your business or student visa will be unaffected by these vacillations in regulations.
If you hold a passport from Japan, South Korea, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Russia, Finland, Brunei, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Cambodia and Laos, you are exempted from 14 to 30 days as from the date of arrival. The following types of visa are available for Vietnam:
TOURIST VISAS are valid for 30 days with a single entry. This is the easiest visa to get if you’re coming to have a look around. It can be extended only once, so options are somewhat limited if you decide to stay longer. However, you may be able to change a tourist visa to a business visa in-country through one of the travel agents offering visa services (see “Visa Extension” below). Application fees recently dropped by 30% to encourage a greater stream of tourists.
BUSINESS VISAS are valid for three to six months years and can be arranged with single or multiple entries. One and two-year business visas are also possible with special permission. If you have arranged to work or do business in Vietnam, your sponsoring employer or business will provide a letter to allow you to apply for a business visa. If you don’t have a letter, you can apply for a business visa through a travel agent in person or on-line once you have already arranged a tourist visa. The travel agent supplies an invitation letter and submits the application for you. A three-month, multiple-entry business visa costs $120 – 150, and maybe extendable in-country.
STUDENT VISAS are usually arranged after arrival in Hanoi. It’s easiest to enter Vietnam on a tourist visa and then change to a student visa with a letter of endorsement from your school.
There is no RETIREMENT VISA for Vietnam—for those wishing to retire to Vietnam, the only option is to extend and re-extend a business visa. Due to changes in visa regulations, many long-term Western residents in Vietnam have recently relocated to Laos, Cambodia, or Thailand.
The notorious communist bureaucracy has melted off of the Vietnam visa process in recent years, and the application can be efficiently processed at a Vietnamese embassy, by mail, or even on-line.
If you apply on your own, you can get single- or multiple-entry visas for stays of one or three months. To extend your stay you will have to leave Vietnam. You’ll have to fill out separate applications for each member of your family, though the visa agents offer discounts for multiple visas.
If you’re getting your visa through a company or other organization, you will get a multiple-entry visa valid for either one or two years. Children and spouses will be included in the invitation letter from your sponsoring body.
For all visas make sure your passport is valid for at least six months, and you’ll need two passport photos. The standard processing time is five days at a Vietnamese consulate, but give it two weeks if you’re submitting it by mail. It takes about a week to process a visa on-line. As long as you have a valid passport and no criminal record, it’s a rubber stamp process, just a matter of filling out the forms and paying the fee.
If you’re arranging your visa yourself, the most efficient way to get it is on-line. You register and pay through a travel agent, and your visa will be waiting for you at the airport upon arrival. One reliable and efficient company for on-line visa registration is Vietnam Stay, and you can find all the necessary forms and information here: