After weeks of research and comparing a number of Southeast Asian countries, I’ve finally decided on a “home base” country: Vietnam.
Now just the little matter of figuring out how to get a visa to Vietnam from the US and then booking travel, accommodations, etc.
I thought getting into Vietnam would be a breeze, as it’s common knowledge that the US passport typically makes traveling between countries pretty easy — but after some quick Googling and messaging digital nomad friends, it became clear that Vietnam is a different story.
One traveler described the Vietnam visa process as:
“It’s completely dependent on who reviews your application. Sometimes you get exactly what you want, no questions asked, other times you’re denied with no explanation given.”
Not exactly reassuring.
So when I woke up this morning to find this email in my inbox it was a huge relief:
Granted, I still don’t technically have a 100% approved Vietnam visa yet, I won’t get that until I arrive in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and have my visa on arrival letter stamped at the airport. But since I’ve been given an approval letter (a signed PDF was attached to the email) from the Vietnam Immigration Department, I’m essentially all set.
If you’re going to Vietnam from the US and traveling by air, I recommend doing the “Visa on Arrival” method.
It’s fast, easy, and relatively cheap compared to going to a consulate office to apply for a visa.
Keep in mind that you must start the visa process before going to Vietnam. You can’t just show up in the airport and get a visa like you can in some other countries.
How to Get a Visa to Vietnam From the US
Step #1: Figure out your dates of travel to and from Vietnam
When you apply for your visa on arrival (VOA), you’ll need to know when you’re going to be entering and leaving the country. If you get a visa letter that is approved for a January 2nd entry, and you arrive on January 1st, they won’t let you in.
Step #2: Find a VOA agency site
There are a number of travel agencies based in Vietnam that work with the government to provide you with an official approval letter (from the Immigration Department) for a visa on arrival. For example, I used evisa.com.vn to get my 3 month visa on arrival approval letter, but there are a number of other options out there.
Just be sure to look for reviews, testimonials, or any other evidence that the site isn’t a scam.
Step #3: Choose your visa type and fill out the online form
Which visa is right for you?
It depends on how long you intend on staying and whether or not you want the option to leave Vietnam and return during the length of your visa.
I plan on visiting Indonesia for a month and then returning to Vietnam, so instead of getting a 1 month visa now and another one later, I opted for a 3 month visa that allows multiple entries.
Below is a screenshot from the evisa website.
There are two separate fees involved in getting a visa on arrival for Vietnam.
- Service Fee: This is the fee you pay the travel agency. After you fill out the form and pay them, they’ll get your approval letter from the Vietnam Immigration Department and email it to you.
- Stamp Fee: This is the fee you pay for getting your approval letter stamped and officially getting your Vietnam visa once you arrive (by air) in one of the major airports.
Step #4: Get your arrival documents in order
It’ll take a few days to hear back after you submit your form and payment for the approval letter, but once you get approved, you’ll need to get the following items ready and have them on you when you arrive in Vietnam.
Check the U.S. Passports and International Travel site too in case requirements change.
- Your passport (check your expiration date – you’ll need 6 months validity upon arrival)
- A blank page available in your passport
- 2 passport sized photos
- A printed copy of the visa approval letter (I recommend you print out 2 copies and keep 1 in your luggage, 1 on your person just for backup)
- A completed entry / exit form (you can get this upon arrival, but you can save time by doing it in advance – search for the latest version on Google)
- Cash (in USD) to pay for your stamp fee at the airport
Step #5: Arrive in Vietnam and get your actual visa
Once you arrive in Vietnam you’ll bring your documents to the “Landing Visa” desk, pay for your visa with the cash you brought, and get your actual visa when they call your name or hold up your passport showing your photo.
I’ve been told to make sure the dates on your visa are correct while you’re still at the window rather than running off like you’ve won a golden ticket, as mistakes do happen.
You’re all set!
Have fun in Vietnam and be sure to leave the country or get a visa extension before your visa expires. If you overstay your visa you’re technically just supposed to have to pay an overstay fee, but you run the risk of being the target of scams or of someone taking advantage of your situation in order to get a bribe.
And if you’ve already gotten a visa to Vietnam, share your experience in the comments below — I’m only on Step #4 myself and would be curious to hear how others’ experiences have differed.