Visas for Vietnam

Nationals of countries on Vietnam’s free-visa list are granted a visit visa on arrival at the border free of charge. These are valid for between 14 and 90 days, depending on the person’s nationality. Citizens from countries not covered under this agreement, or those from countries with free entry who want to stay longer than the period granted on their initial visa, will need to apply for a visa to enter Vietnam. A tourist visa is usually valid for one visit of up to 30 days, although it is also possible to apply for a three-month multiple-entry visa for Vietnam.

Those who wish to live in Vietnam for longer periods of time and potentially take up employment will need to apply for a long-term visa or work permit. While the process seems straightforward on the surface, it can often be stressful and involve lots of paperwork. Furthermore, visa regulations aren’t always clear and the success of an application isn’t guaranteed.

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Visitors who need a visa prior to arrival in Vietnam can apply at their nearest Vietnamese embassy or consulate. In some countries, it may also be possible to submit an application for an e-Visa online.

In addition to the completed application form, embassies may require additional documentation such as a letter from an employer or a letter of invitation, depending on the type of visa one is applying for. For example, business visa applicants will need to provide additional documentation to prove the nature of their business activities in Vietnam.

Foreign nationals who wish to live and work in Vietnam beyond the maximum length of stay granted by their entry visa will need to apply from within Vietnam for an extension of stay and a change of their visa status.

Expats will need to apply for a Temporary Residence Card (TRC). Most expats will be granted their TRC on the basis of being employed by a Vietnamese company, which is valid for a year or more, depending on the length of their work permit’s validity.

Expats can download the relevant forms from the Vietnam Immigration Department’s website and submit their application at an Immigration Department office in Vietnam.

Applying for a residence permit for Vietnam is fairly complicated, with the government changing regulations regularly. Furthermore, the adjudication of applications can be inconsistent at times, which causes further frustration. 

Expats can either apply for a work permit from within Vietnam or from abroad with the help of their employer or a contracted visa agency. Those applying from within Vietnam will need to do so within 90 days of arrival, as the government only grants a three-month period during which expats can stay and search for job opportunities in the country without a permit.

Those who meet the eligibility requirements to apply for a work visa must gather a number of documents, have them translated into Vietnamese, and have notarised copies made in their home country.

There is a fee for submitting a work permit application and, depending on the contract, work permits can be valid for up to two years.

When a work permit is due to expire, the company will either have to file for an extension or, depending on the situation, reapply for the permit from scratch. Extension requests should be submitted 30 days prior to the expiration of the current permit and are usually granted for the same period as the initial work permit.