The Vietnamese government has announced that they will end the automatic renewal of visas of foreigners stranded in Vietnam.
Automatic visa extension due to COVID-19
The global outbreak of COVID-19 made it difficult or even impossible for many travellers abroad to return home. Countries stopped operating commercial flights and repatriation flights were not possible in all cases. As a result, travellers ran into problems regarding the validity of their visas. The electronic visa Vietnam, for example, is only valid for 30 days. The Vietnamese government decided to accommodate stranded visa holders by automatically extending the validity period of the visa as long as these persons were unable to leave the country. This arrangement came into effect on 1 March 2020 and applied to all tourist visas.
Commercial flights resume
This arrangement is now coming to an end. All tourist visas are again subject to the normal period of validity since the last extension. Once this validity period has expired, the person must leave the country. In a statement, the Vietnamese government said that the country now operates regular commercial flights again. This means that it is again possible for foreigners in Vietnam to leave the country. Since 1 January, international flights between Vietnam and various cities worldwide, such as Paris and Frankfurt, have been operating again. This is part of the planned reopening of the Vietnamese tourism sector. Vietnam is also issuing visas again, including the digital Vietnam e/visa , that can be applied for entirely online. Vietnam has temporarily abolished visa-free travel, which means that travellers from, for example, Germany and the United Kingdom currently have to apply for a visa.
Criticism of travel conditions in Vietnam
Although Vietnam is welcoming international commercial flights again, the number of visitors is still limited. Between 1 January and 7 January, 64 international flights carried nearly 8,000 passengers to Vietnam. Only 18 of these flights were commercial flights. The rest were chartered flights. According to tourism companies, this is partly due to the strict conditions that Vietnam imposes on travellers who want to travel to the country. The point of criticism is that these procedures are sometimes unnecessarily complicated. For example, travellers must upload their medical details in one app and their travel details in a different app. On top of that, regions in Vietnam can set their own conditions. Both Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi each have their own apps that travellers must take into account. Airlines in Vietnam, among others, are urging the government to have one app, so that travellers can keep an overview.
Another problem concerns the quarantine rules. Currently, travellers who have not been fully vaccinated must be able to provide proof that they can safely go into home quarantine for seven days. If not, they must book a quarantine hotel. This hotel must be approved by the Vietnamese government. This applies to all travellers, regardless of age or nationality. According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV), which oversees all flights to and from the country, many of the current international travellers to the country are Vietnamese who want to return home. But they, too, run up against strict quarantine regulations. One solution, according to CAAV, is to put a list of approved quarantine hotels online. In this way, travellers do not need to apply for approval from the government in advance. This saves both travellers and the government a lot of work.