On 1 February 2017, the Vietnamese government introduced a system for the issuance of electronic visas. Tourists no longer had to wait in line for hours at the airport to obtain a visa on arrival. However, the COVID-19 pandemic also threw a spanner in the works for Vietnam’s tourism sector. As of March 2022, the borders of the country are open again and tourism is slowly picking up.
The surge of tourism in Vietnam
From the start of the century, the Vietnamese tourism sector has developed at a rapid pace. Since 1997, it has become a lot easier for foreign travellers to travel through the country, which has slowly attracted more and more tourists. Since 2000, only about 2 million tourists have travelled to the country each year, but this number increased to more than 18 million in 2019. One of the reasons for this has been the issuance of electronic visas since 2017. This makes it a lot easier for tourists to travel to Vietnam.
Because of the pandemic, tourism to the country stalled almost completely. This was a heavy blow to the Vietnamese economy, which to a large extent is dependent on tourism and, as such, foreign travellers. In early 2022, when travel restrictions in many countries were lifted and it was possible again to apply for a Vietnam visa, tourism slowly picked up. Since then, millions of tourists have dared to travel to the East Asian country, but it may take some time to equal the number from before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The amended visa rules
Although it is possible to travel to Vietnam again, not all rules are the same as before. Until early 2020, it was still possible to apply for a visa for a stay of up to 90 days. This allowed many tourists to plan a longer trip to Vietnam. However, since the COVID-19 pandemic, this regulation has been suspended and a visa application can now only be submitted for a maximum of 30 days.
Thus, if travellers want to stay in the country longer, they need to extend their visas. This can only be done in the country itself and is not an easy process. It is only possible to extend the visa by submitting an application at the Vietnamese immigration service. This application has to be written in Vietnamese, which generally makes it quite difficult for a foreign tourist. Because of this complicated process, it is advised against extending the visa in Vietnam. An easier alternative is to temporarily leave the country and reapply for an e-visa in a neighbouring country. It is currently unknown if and when visas for a stay of up to 90 days will be granted.
The Vietnam e-visa: application and authorised travel purposes
The most important requirement of the Vietnam e-visa is having a valid passport. This entails a standard passport; therefore, emergency passports, identity cards and residence permits will not be allowed. Furthermore, the passport needs to be valid for six more months from the date of arrival. In addition, the visa application needs to contain the arrival and departure locations in Vietnam, the expected duration of stay in the country and at least the address of the first accommodation.
Other requirements of the e-visa are related to the travel purpose. A traveller can use an e-visa if the purpose of travel is tourism or business. It is therefore possible to use the visa for a holiday, but also for visiting family and friends. It is also allowed to attend conferences, business meetings and visit business partners. However, an e-visa does not allow you to study or live in Vietnam, work for a Vietnamese organisation, engage in professional journalism or be politically active in Vietnam.
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