Anyone who’s been to Vietnam or is interested in visiting has to negotiate the Vietnamese embassy for a visa. It’s always a strange and slightly unnerving situation but things have gotten better every time I go.
While you can get a visa through a service agency, I usually do it myself through the U.S. post office. My normal procedures are as such:
(1) Go online to obtain the proper forms and instructions at the embassy website.
(2) Verify with the embassy how much the visa fee is by sending an email (use that funky “visa fee” link a the page above to send an inquiry email)
(3) Have passport photos taken
(4) Go to the bank for a money order/cashier’s check
(5) Mail off the materials (form, photos, money, passport) at the post office with a delivery confirmation and postage-paid return envelope so the embassy send my passport back to me.
About 3 weeks later, the visa arrives and I’m happy! That’s been how we’ve gotten our visas in years past.
Visa Exemption for Overseas Vietnamese
This year, I sent for an overseas Vietnamese visa which is essentially an open-ended visa to Vietnam that’s good for a set number of years. It’s technically called a “Visa Exemption for Oversees Vietnamese.” It took 2 tries, but my husband and I received ours. Now we have don’t have to get a visa every time we go to Vietnam! Details are available in Vietnamese and in English through a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) website.
If you’re interested in filing for one, remember to FOLLOW all the instructions carefully, fill out the online forms, save them in .pdf format, and when printing it out – make sure to INCLUDE the little barcode in the lower left-hand corner. (This is where I goofed the first time.) To do so, in Adobe Acrobat, print in A4 paper (legal size) or better yet, set the printing preferences to “shrink to fit” and print to regular paper. If you don’t have the bar code, the embassy will return your materials, like they did with ours. They kept the money order so I didn’t send another check when I resent my materials.
I sent a cover letter with my materials and make sure to match their checklist of the following items:
1. The completed 2-page form, signed and dates (don’t forget that barcode!)
2. Photos (staple on the form, attach the other with a paper clip)
3. Valid passport
4. Cashier’s check for processing fee
5. Proof that you’ve got a connection to Vietnam. This means
A. Proof of former Vietnamese citizen ship (I sent a copy of my birth certificate, see the official site for all the options)
B. Proof of relationship to an overseas Vietnamese (for my husband, I sent a copy of our marriage certificate, see the official site for all the options, e.g, for your kids)
6. Self-addressed stamped envelope (get the post office to asses the right amount of postage)
As usual, I mailed the materials as registered mail with delivery confirmation. Earlier this year, I slogged my way through the Vietnamese instructions. Now, there are English instructions too. Regardless of your language, do read the instructions carefully. This is a bureaucratic process, as with all government type of dealings. (Think of the tax forms that will be due next month in the U.S.!)
Tourism is one of Vietnam’s chief industries and I’m happy to see them make it a little easier for folks to visit.