Update: This post was written in 2019. I'll update it once it becomes clear what the process for getting a longer term visa is. If you want to enter Vietnam now you can.
You can apply for a 30 day e-visa. You'll need 10K worth of insurance and a negative PCR test and that's it! It's not the cluster f^%k that Thailand is with a Thai Pass, Thai Visa, multiple PDF documents, prebooking a bunch of things before hand etc.
Vietnam currently offers the opportunity to obtain a one year, multiple entry tourist visa for Americans. It’s the ideal visa for digital nomads because it allows you to travel and live in Vietnam as well as abroad with ease.
I used to live in Thailand on a non-b visa as an English teacher and then I did expensive visa runs for a year. Obtaining a 3 month tourist visa, then leaving the country to obtain another 3 month tourist visa. Going to immigration constantly to extend visas and going to consulates abroad.
I got quite tired of paying money and dealing with Thai immigration almost every month. It was also annoying to have to leave the country and go apply for a new visa at an embassy abroad in Laos, Korea, Japan or Cambodia.
I could not just travel worry free. My Thai visa was always on my mind. So when I found out that Vietnam offers a 1 year tourist visa and that the only requirement was that you had to leave every 3 months I was sold.
No dealing with immigration? Great. All I have to do is leave the country every 3 months minimum? Fine by me. I can travel where ever I want and don't need to worry about visiting an embassy? Amazing, and it’s valid for 1 year? Perfect. I can actually focus on my online business and travel when I want.
How to Get a Tourist Visa For Vietnam as An American
Please note, if you just want to get a simple tourist visa you can use the official government website. You’ll get a 1 month, single entry tourist visa. For the 1 year visa for Americans, use the process below:
Step 1 – Visit Vietnam-Visa.com
On the website you have the option to select what visa you want. As an American you can get a 1 year multiple entry tourist visa, a 1 year multiple entry business visa or a 1 month tourist visa.
You have to indicate your entry date too. Make sure your entry date is correct. Don’t fly into Vietnam on January 16th but indicate on Vietnam-Visa.com that you’re flying in on January 14th. Be accurate with dates.
The 1 month tourist visa can be obtained at a lower cost using the Vietnam e-visa process. Vietnam-Visa.com however is the best way to get a business or 1 year tourist visa.
The 1 year business visa is more expensive but it allows you to live in Vietnam for a whole year without needing to leave. This visa is ideal for non Americans or Americans who want to work in Vietnam.
The 1 year tourist visa is only for Americans and is for tourist purposes so don’t get the 1 year tourist visa then work a job in Vietnam. For this particular visa it’s valid for 1 year upon issue.
By leave, they just mean leave. You need to cross a land boarder or fly somewhere else. You don’t need to reapply for your visa too. It’s valid for a year. So every 3 months plan a trip.
Step 2 – Order your visa and print it out
When you submit your payment, Vietnam-Visa.com will process your visa then email you when it is ready. Please allow for 3 business days for the visa to be completed. They do offer a rush service, but just budget the time you need.
You’ll be emailed a paper with your name on it and visa number. You need that paper to get on the plane as it’s proof you have a visa. Vietnam does not have a visa on arrival for Americas so if you don’t show this document you can’t get on the plane.
Step 3 – Pay the stamping fee at the airport
Once you print out and show your letter to the airport staff, you’ll fly to Vietnam. Upon landing at the airport head over to immigration and fill out the required form.
Submit the immigration form, your letter from Vietnam-Visa.com, your passport and a passport photo of yourself.
Then sit and wait until your name is called. When your name is called you’ll pay $135 USD for the stamping fee as it’s called and they will return your passport with your 1 year tourist visa.
Please note they want payment in USD.
Step 4 – Go through Immigration
You should now have a 1 year tourist visa for Vietnam. All you need to do now is go through immigration at the airport. All in all you’re going to spend about 1.5-3 hours at the airport getting everything setup.
1 Year Tourist Visa For Americans in Vietnam
So that’s it. It’s a very simple, easy process. Yes, it’s a bit strange the first time you do it so that’s what compelled me to make this post and video. Does it really work? Yes. Is it safe? Yes. Is it a scam? No.
You have to go through a company to get a letter of invitation. I used and recommend Vietnam-Visa.com.
- Go to Vietnam-Visa.com and select the 1 year tourist visa.
- Be accurate with dates about when you will arrive.
- Prepare your passport, letter from Vietnam-Visa.com, passport pictures and $135 USD in cash.
It’s that simple.
The July 1 2020 Vietnam Visa Rule Changes
So Vietnam passed some new regulations that directly effect their tourist visas that now go into effect on July 1st 2020. The biggest and most significant change is the "permitted to stay" stamp which has now been changed from 90 days to 30 days.
I went to immigration to ask about how this effects unique cases like mine where I have a 1 year tourist visa (as the US and Vietnam have a special reciprocal agreement and they had no answers for me. I specifically wanted to know that as an American, am I going to really have to leave the country every month? It appears that way for now until they have some sort of process setup to allow foreign tourists to extend their stay in country.
But if they don't develop a process, it functionally makes a 1 year tourist visa pointless. Just get a 1 month, visit and leave going forward once everything gets back to normal after Covid.
In the official law, which you can check out here it does appear to have some way to be able to extend in country, but we will see how that plays out.If they end up out sourcing that to private companies which want to charge foreigners $100+ per 1 month extension, no one is going to be happy about that and it will kill off tourism beyond a coming here for a few days.
It will also make it more difficult to attract teachers and skilled workers as the current process everyone follows is to come here on a tourist visa and then submit the required documents to change their visa type which is a process in and of itself.Having to leave the country every month, or pay an excessive fee to extend 1 month is unreasonable if you're trying to get everything setup here for work at a school or company.
Imagine you want to visit Vietnam.
You pay for a visa, but every month you need to give your passport to some company and for a week every month you don't have your passport with you and you have to pay an excessive fee.So for a 3 month trip to Vietnam, you'll have to pay for a 3 month visa for most nationalities and then pay $200 to extend the full length of your potential stay.3 month visa for Vietnam: $50 roughly2 extensions visa a private company: $100$250 USD for a 3 month tourist visa just to visit Vietnam? Give me a break. I can just go to Thailand, get 1 month free on arrival or pay $40 USD for a 3 month visa.It's crazy.
No one is going to come here beyond a month then. It dangerous also to constantly hand off your passport. What if the company loses it? Then it becomes a massive problem for you as the company won't be held liable obviously.I've gotten a few comments too from Vietnamese saying "good, foreigners take advantage of SE Asia and exploit it." But I'm not sure how this helps or how foreigners exploit SE Asia. You're driving away people from spending money in a part of the world where tourism is a thriving industry.
I do agree with cracking down on people who work on tourist visas, don't follow the rules etc.But there are people like me out there. Self employed guys who travel and who follow the rules. I'm just a bit annoyed because I was told originally that I could get a 1 year tourist visa and all I would have to do is leave every 90 days.Then surprise! We're changing the rules.
If I knew it was going be every 30 days, I would have never come here in the first place as it's a waste of time and money for me to leave every month.Also, Vietnamese tend to equate "foreigners" with white people. I'm not sure why as their is large community of Koreans, Chinese and Japanese. All of which will also be effected by these changes.
Also, I'm culturally different from a South African or Russian. It's a bit annoying to be lumped together as Vietnamese don't appreciate being considered "the same" as Thais or Cambodians for example.
Time will tell if this immigration policy change is good or bad
So to conclude, immigration has no idea what is going to happen going forward as I could not get a clear answer. Will you be able to extend in country? No one knows. Will you need to use a private company to extend every month? Well you can do that now and the price I'm always quoted is $80-100.Last, should you still visit Vietnam?
Yes, of course, but going forward it may appear to be a country where you can only come for a few days as they appear to be making a longer term stay impossible.