Ah, the dreaded visa! I know how difficult it can be to find straightforward information online about visas. Do you need one? How do I get a visa? Where to apply? Is this website reputable or am I getting scammed or overpaying? That’s why I’ve laid out this all-questions-answered guide to getting a Vietnam visa for US Citizens.
Having applied twice (and seriously messing it up one of those times) as well as having lived in Vietnam for a total of 6 months, you’re in good hands. So no more stress, you’ve got this! Getting a Vietnam visa (for US citizens) is relatively easy.
Do I Need a Visa to Enter Vietnam?
YES! I learned this the hard way by showing up at the airport without a visa. Luckily, Jake and I are those weirdos that get to the airport like 5 hours before their flight.
We were able to get our visas last minute, but it cost us almost $300 since it was on a weekend and last-minute.
You will not be allowed on a plane without having applied for a visa online. Don’t be confused when you hear “visa on arrival” for Vietnam.
All that means is that you actually get the visa when you arrive, however you will never be allowed into Vietnam without the “Approval Letter.”
What Am I Applying for Exactly?
What they actually send you is a sponsored letter or an “Approval Letter” which your airline will ask for when you are checking in for your flight. They are not sending you an actual visa, just one of the requirements that you will need when you actually wait in line and apply at the Vietnam airport.
You will receive the letter by email and I advise you to print out a few copies for each person you applied for.
You can see an example of the Approval Letter on their website here. I can verify that this looks exactly like the one that was emailed to me, except that yours should come with a second page.
The second page should have a list of names (not all of them are people you know). As long as your name and information are on there correctly and exactly match your passport, there’s nothing to worry about.
How Early Should I Apply?
At least a week before your trip since the processing time for the sponsored letter can take up to 4 business days. However, with the online Vietnam visa, you can apply as early as 6 months in advance and the visa date will only start once you enter the country.
Since I made the mistake of not having a visa the first time we came to Vietnam, this last time I made sure to get our visa about 2 months in advance. That’s the best part about this visa, you can apply from the US or while on the road very easily!
Where Do I Apply?
The best way to apply for your Vietnam visa is ahead of time online. In fact, as far as I know, it’s the only way. The best visa service sit is Vietnam E-visa, which costs vary depending on the length of the visa that you want to apply for.
This was definitely the cheapest and most legitimate site that we found and we have used them for both our long-term trips to Vietnam!
They send you an email with a letter that you need in order to check in for your flight and then when you actually apply for the visa at the Vietnam airport.
How Much Does a Vietnam Visa Cost? The Vietnam Visa Fee
There are two separate costs involved in the Vietnam visa application process. The first is the fee you pay to Vietnam E-Visa to provide you with a sponsored letter.
The prices are listed below under “Normal Processing.”
Then you pay a second fee when you show up at the airport depending on the length of your intended stay. For us, we planned to stay 90 days on a single-entry visa (we weren’t going to leave Vietnam).
So that costs $25 USD per person (they like it to be in USD, not dong). It’s listed as the “Stamping Fee.”
Different Types of Visas
I’m only going to talk about Tourist Visas (or Travel Visas) here, although there are business visas. However, I have no experience with those. This chart below shows the different visas you could apply for:
As a tourist, you can get a visa for 3 months without having to leave. Most likely you will be applying for the 30-day tourist visa, or a 1-month single entry visa (if you don’t plan to leave Vietnam and come back).
UPDATE: Visas for Vietnam have changed and now are a lot more expensive. You can still get a 3-month visa (multiple-entry) but it’s now $239 per person. They no longer offer the 1-year visa or the 6-month visa.
If you’d like to visit Vietnam for longer (which we have never done so please research this more if that’s your plan!)
I believe that you get a multiple entry visa that lasts 6 months or a year but that requires you to leave the country once every 3 months and re-enter.
What is the Difference Between a Single Entry and Multiple Entry Visa?
With a single-entry visa, you are not allowed to leave the country. For example, we arrived in Vietnam in April on a single-entry tourist visa for 3 months.
If for some reason we decided to hop over to Laos or the Philippines, when we got back from our trip we would need to apply for another visa.
However, if we had originally applied for a multiple-entry visa, we would be allowed to re-enter without problems for the full 3 months.
What Do I Need to Bring to the Airport?
Listed below are the Vietnam visa requirements for us citizens directly from the e-visa website. The entry and exit forms will be given to you at the airport.
To save time, you can print out the Vietnam visa application form which Vietnam E-visa will email to you along with the approval letter.
The only required documents that you need to worry about are your Passport and the extra photos.
Vietnam visa requirements for the passport photo
You will need to get two correctly-sized passport photos taken before you leave the USA. The cheapest place is usually Costco or Walmart!
Quick tip: If you find a place that does them for really cheap, get a few extra and keep them with your passport!
Technically, they are only allowed to be 6 months old, but if your appearance doesn’t change too much you should be fine. We bought a bunch of extras in Mexico when we renewed our passports and used them for Vietnam.
What Happens When I Arrive in Vietnam?
Airport situation: crazy! The first time we paid for the “emergency” package which at that time (not sure if it still does now) included the company taking care of our Vietnam visa application process at the airport as well.
Although this was very nice since we didn’t have to wait in line and it only took about 10 minutes, it was very expensive and not worth it.
How it will really go is a bit of a mess when you have to do it yourself, but that’s part of the fun of travel, right? The whole visa application procedure took about an hour and a half because multiple flights arrived at the same.
Applying at the airport: entering Vietnam!
When you get to Vietnam there will be a waiting area where you fill out your application. You need to fill it out completely, attach one of your passport photos (unless they ask for more), and then hand all of that in WITH your passport.
There was a lot of confusion when we were there and people were waiting in the wrong line just to get the application papers. There is no line for that.
Go straight to the front and ask for the papers, fill them out, then go turn them in with everything I mentioned above.
Once you have everything turned in, it’s time to take a seat and wait. When your visa is ready (which could take an hour or so) then your passport photo will come on the screen and you can go up and get your visa.
This is when you pay the second application fee, which is expected to be paid in USD. However, since we didn’t come straight from the USA, we paid in dong. She didn’t have any change in dong so I actually got a few dollars back.
Help people out
Once you’ve got a hang of how the application process works if you see anybody struggling, help out! Traveling is a great opportunity to learn patience and have opportunities to be kind to others when a situation is stressful.
A lot of the tourists arriving might not understand English or Vietnamese, which are the only two languages that were on any of the applications that I saw. Imagine how hard it must be to try to apply for a visa in a language you don’t know.
“Date of arrival”, “Date of previous entry to Vietnam”, etc would be terribly difficult to answer. Those extra few minutes you have could make the beginning of someone else’s trip a lot easier.
If you’ve never gotten a visa before, you might think that the airport situation when you arrive in Vietnam is pretty complicated and terrible. Which it is, but this whole visa application process is a breeze compared to getting a visa in other countries.
More Posts About Vietnam You Might Like:
- Pros & Cons of Living in Hanoi
- How to Plan a Halong Bay Trip for CHEAP
- How to Hike to the Best Viewpoint in Vietnam: Bai Tho Mountain
- Where to Rent the Cheapest Scooters in Hanoi
Have a US passport and are planning a trip to Vietnam? Save this for later! (: