Traditionally you need to get a Vietnam visa in your passport from a local embassy before entering the country. However, it’s also possible to apply for a Vietnam visa online and collect it at the airport on arrival in Vietnam, as Russ Brooks explains
While a bit more involved than other countries, Vietnam does allow foreign travelers to obtain a “Visa on Arrival” or VOA at the airports in Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang. It’s important to note the visa must be applied for in advance online BEFORE arrival in Vietnam. Since the process to obtain approval is performed by local travel agents and not the Embassy, Vietnam hasn’t publicized the availability of this service, and frequently travelers don’t know how to obtain a Vietnam “Visa On Arrival”. It’s also important to note that this process will NOT work for those arriving at any other airport or at a land border – you will need to get a visa from an embassy in the traditional way.
Why Get A Vietnam Visa Online?
Having been to Vietnam previously and remembering the the country’s strictness about obtaining a visa I was skeptical of Internet advertisements for a “visa on arrival” approval letter. However, my travel plans for this trip forced me to seek an alternative solution since I wouldn’t be arriving from my home country (the USA) or be near an embassy long enough to get a traditional visa in person. It turned out that getting a VOA was quicker, cheaper, and easier than getting one at home and especially easy for someone traveling and not being in a steady location.
Getting The Visa Approval Letter Before Arrival
What you’re really paying for isn’t a visa, but an approval letter that allows you to receive a visa when you arrive at either Hanoi or HCMC airport. My Vietnam Visa will email you (in .jpg format) a copy of that approval letter within 2 working days. I happened to apply over the Tet holiday and received an email promptly telling me that there would be a delay since it was a national holiday. I was impressed that I not only got an email informing me of the delay, on Tet no less, but still got the visa in 2 working days.
Using their website is easy, just follow the prompts listed after clicking on “apply online” and fill out the fields for your information. You’ll need to know your passport number and it’s very important to know your exact arrival and departure dates as the visa will only be valid for 30 days from your listed arrival date. While you may arrive after your specified date, you will have to leave by the departure date listed on your visa. You can apply for as many visas as you’d like at the same time and I think it’s a good idea to have everyone in your traveling party listed together on the same form to ease any possible confusion upon arrival.