On our first visit to Vietnam — five years before the launch of the Vietnam e-visa — getting a visa to enter the country was a bit of pain. Globally, e-visas were still in their infancy in 2012, and the Vietnam visa-on-arrival wasn’t available to overlanders like us.
Which left us with two options:
- Get a Vietnam visa in our home country prior to departing for Asia;
- Or, try and get the visa at an embassy or consulate in a neighboring country prior to arriving in Vietnam.
Given that we didn’t know whether our travels would eventually lead us to Vietnam, we opted for the latter.
We ended up having to pay a fixer in Phnom Penh to drive to Battambang and arrange a visa on our behalf. The process was not exactly cheap or fast, and meant handing over our passports to a total stranger and being without them for the better part of a week in Cambodia.
Times have changed, and there are more options than ever for getting a visa for Vietnam.
While we cherish our stories of shady couriers and tense border crossings, we’d be happy to remove that particular element of stress in our travels moving forward.
Fortunately, Vietnam makes it pretty easy for citizens of a number of countries to quickly and easily apply for a Vietnam e-visa online prior to arrival, saving time and stress.
Here’s what you need to know about applying for a Vietnam e-visa, based on our own recent experience and thorough research.
Vietnam E-Visa vs. Visa On Arrival (VOA)
The main difference between the E-Visa and Visa On Arrival (VOA) is flexibility, time, and options available.
If you don’t know your exact travel dates, want to stay in Vietnam for longer than 30 days, or require a multiple entry visa, your best bet is Visa On Arrival. However, you should expect to spend more time in immigration standing in lines and filling out paperwork when you arrive in Vietnam.
If you do know your exact travel dates, plan on staying no longer than 30 days, and will not need a multiple entry visa, the E-Visa is probably your best bet. The Vietnam E-Visa is a particularly good bet if you are traveling with small children or plan on arriving late.
Who Qualifies for a Vietnam E-Visa?
Let’s get this one out of the way first, because what’s the point of going through all the work if you don’t even qualify for the Vietnam E-Visa, right?
The main criteria:
- You have to be a foreigner outside Vietnam (okay, pretty straightforward);
- You have to have a valid passport with an expiry date 30 days beyond your e-visa expiry date;
- You must not be traveling to Vietnam within 3 business days (the e-visa takes 3 business days to process);
- You must not need a multiple entry visa and/or plan to stay beyond 30 days in Vietnam;
- You have to be a citizen of a qualifying country;
- You have to be arriving in Vietnam at a qualifying port of entry;
- And, you can’t be banned from entering Vietnam (I know, harsh, right?).
Currently, there are 80 qualifying countries and 33 qualifying ports of entry, so chances are good that you probably qualify for the e-visa. But I’d recommend checking the latest on the official website to be on the safe side.
Which brings us to the next tip…
Apply Through the Official Government Website
Many websites claim to be the “official” Vietnam e-visa website, but there’s only one official website for submitting your application, so don’t be fooled!
If they change the link and the url above doesn’t work (which is sometimes the case with government websites), search for Vietnam e-visa and click on any domain ending with “.gov.vn.”
Another tipoff that it isn’t the official site is if there’s a “Service Fee” involved. Currently, the e-visa fee is US$25, and that’s it. If you are paying by credit card online, expect to tack on another US$1.00 for processing.
If you do opt to use another visa website that charges a service fee, it’s not necessarily a scam. The fee is what the company charges to complete and submit the application on your behalf. If you’re here at AwayGoWe, I suspect you don’t mind doing the added legwork yourself in the interest of saving a bit of beer money (plus, it’s really easy to do it yourself, so why not!?).
Please note that you must complete a new e-visa online application process for each individual traveler in your party, regardless of age (unless they are a minor who is explicitly listed in your passport — more info on that below). For example, for a family of four travelers with four separate passports, you will complete four separate online applications, pay 4 x $25, and receive four separate e-visa documents.
What You Will Need for the E-Visa Application
The hardest part about submitting the application is likely just collecting the information you need and formatting the pesky two images you’ll also need to upload. Yep, that’s right, you’ll need two image files, properly formatted. We’ll start there.
ID Photo & Passport Page Scan
You’ll need to upload two images. Here is the information and specs:
- Photograph: 4 cm x 6 cm ID photo (headshot), looking straight, no glasses. 50kb max file size.
- Passport Data Page: Full page with photo and all data. 200kb max file size.
There are good examples of what they’re looking for on the online application page.
Required Personal Information
In addition to the two images above, you’ll obviously need to supply some personal information. Currently, this is what is requested (* = required info):
- Basic Info – Full name*, date of birth* (remember, DAY/month/year), current nationality*, nationality at birth;
- Other Info – Religion* (yep, it’s required), occupation, permanent residential address, phone number, email address*;
- Passport Info – Passport number*, type of passport (i.e. ordinary (most visitors), official, diplomatic), expiry date* (DAY/month/year);
- Travel Info – Intended date of entry to Vietnam*, number of days you plan to stay in Vietnam (up to 30)*, purpose of entry* (e.g. tourism, working, visiting relatives, etc.), intended temporary residential address in Vietnam* (e.g. hotel name, relative’s address), e-visa validity dates* (by default, 30 days from your entry date), entry & exit checkpoints* (e.g. Noi Bai Int Airport (Ha Noi)).
- Other Info (if applicable)
- Hosting organization name and address – this does not apply to most tourists coming to Vietnam to sightsee.
- Under 14 years old accompanying children included in your passport – this only applies if you are traveling with accompanying minors who are explicitly listed in your passport (the U.S., for example, no longer does this). If you are traveling with children under 14 years and they are not listed in your passport, a separate e-visa application must be submitted for each of them, from birth, onward.
You’ll need a Master Card, Visa, JCB, or a major Vietnamese credit card to pay the e-visa fee (currently US$25 + US$1 processing fee). At present, the site does not accept AmEx, PayPal, BitCoin, or anything else.
Completing & Submitting the Online Application
So, you’ve determined you qualify for a Vietnam e-visa, you’ve scanned your images and collected your personal and travel information. Let’s get to it!
Head on over to the National Web Portal on Immigration e-visa page, read all the instructions thoroughly, then, midway down the page click “here” next to : “For outside Vietnam foreigners,” and away we go!
On the next page, read the info carefully, click the confirmation checkbox, and click “Next.”
Which brings us to the actual online application.
- First, upload your two images by clicking “select” in the relevant image section.
- Next, enter your Personal Information according to the instructions.
- Remember, dates are DAY/month/year. For example, December 20, 1980 = 20/12/1980.
- Also, be very careful to select the correct entry AND exit checkpoints. There are different checkpoints for those arriving by land, air, and sea. For example, there are separate choices for Da Nang Seaport and Da Nang International Airport, depending on whether you are arriving by sea vessel or airplane.
- When you have completed and reviewed the application form, click the checkbox next to “I assure…”, enter the Captcha (if you can’t read it, click the recycle icon to try another), and finally, click “Review application form.”
Provided you didn’t anger the application-form gods in some trivial way, you’ll be ushered along to the next page where you will review your completed application.
- If all looks good, click “Payment” to proceed to payment.
- If you need to make changes, click “Back”.
Please note that by this point you have been assigned a registration code (currently beginning with “E”). This is your reference number and will not change if you go back and edit your application. You’ll want to record this number in case your internet connection has a meltdown, etc.
The next page will give you a summary of your order. Click “I agree,” then “Pay e-visa fee” to continue with payment.
Select your payment method and follow the instructions. If payment is accepted (i.e. your bank or credit card company doesn’t decline the transaction for whatever reason), you’ll be redirected to a confirmation page.
Expect to get two emails within the next hour:
- A confirmation email regarding your online application from “Vietnam Immigration Department”;
- Payment confirmation/receipt, provided your payment was accepted (ours was from “Payoo ViDienTu”)
What to Expect Next
The Vietnam E-Visa should take about 3 business days to process. We submitted our applications on Wednesday, 13 March and received our e-visa decisions in four separate emails between Monday, 18 March and Tuesday, 19 March.
When you receive your decision email, you’ll be prompted to follow the link to the “Check application status and download E-Visa” page. Enter the requested information, and if all goes as planned, you should be directed to a page where you can download, you guessed it…
Your Very Own Vietnam e-Visa!!!
Print that baby out and guard it with your life.
How to Use the Vietnam e-Visa
Great! You have a $25 piece of paper. Now, what do you do with it!?
Bring your e-visa with you to your port of entry into Vietnam. When you reach immigration, choose a queue to get processed and receive your entry stamp.
Do not go to the Visa on Arrival desk
You already have your valid e-Visa, which allows you to go straight to immigration.
Again, there is no additional “stamping fee” if you have an official e-visa from the official site. You should not need to bring any additional money for immigration with you.
That’s it! Enjoy Vietnam!