Foreign tourists entering Vietnam are complaining that struggles with the country’s e-visa process have forced them to postpone flights and pay brokers four times the official visa cost instead.
Australian tourist Melissa had planned to fly her family to Vietnam from Bali on December 21 last year. So, she applied for e-visas 10 days in advance.
After completing the application, the official Vietnam Immigration Department website stated that “your e-visas will be processed within three working days.”
A week later, Melissa’s application was approved, but the applications for her husband and two children were refused. They were asked to submit new portrait photos.
Melissa’s family then sent new photos and postponed their travel plans until December 24. But by their new travel date they had yet to receive a response from the immigration department. They decided to still go to the airport on the day of their tickets hoping to get to Vietnam. But the family was refused entry without visas.
“The response time is too long. I sent the photos back long ago and today (March 2023, three months since the application) we still haven’t received a reply,” she said.
Melissa’s family returned to Bali and sought a fast and reputable Vietnamese visa service instead.
They contacted a Vietnamese person who helped them get Vietnamese e-visas at a cost of more than $100 per person, while the actual e-visa fee is $25.
Melissa said her trip to Vietnam was great, but the visa procedures left her “unsatisfied.”
Lili Stevens, another Australian tourist, said she had the same problems as Melissa with Vietnam’s e-visa application process.
After receiving notice of a photo error and resubmitting her documentation, Lili was left with no response from the immigration department before her travel date.
With her patience expired, Lili then decided to contact a visa brokerage service to finally obtain her permit to travel in Vietnam.
“Vietnam’s visa process is longer than most other Asian countries,” Lili said.
Promise and chaos
Other tourists have also complained that Vietnam’s official e-visa is too complicated and often confusing.
Vietnam now offers a one-month, single-entry e-visa to visitors from 80 countries.
In order to apply for the e-visa, the first step is to visit the official website evisa.xuatnhapcanh.gov.vn and complete the visa application via an online form.
After submitting the form online to the Vietnam Immigration Department, the applicant will receive a verification code, after which a $25 e-visa fee must be paid.
As advertised, it is then supposed to take three working days for the visa to be issued. Visa application status can be checked at evisa.xuatnhapcanh.gov.vn/tra-cuu-thi-thuc by entering the registration code, email, and date of birth.
Pham Ha, CEO of Lux Group, which specializes in operating luxury cruise ships, said Vietnam’s e-visa website has a difficult-to-remember domain name and foreign tourists only have two language options to choose: English and Vietnamese. He also said the site’s design is not eye-catching.
Due to complicated procedures, many foreign tourists like Melissa and Lili have been forced to contact brokerage services to help them secure e-visas efficiently, although at high prices.
An employee at a visa service unit in Hanoi’s Nam Tu Liem District said that many foreign tourists have used his company’s services to get Vietnamese e-visas because they had problems submitting portrait photos.
However, not all foreign visitors face obstacles when applying for an e-visa.
Enrique, a Spanish tourist, said he had not encountered difficulties when applying for an e-visa to enter Vietnam in 16 days.
He said the process was quite fast and not as expensive as in some other countries. The only problem Enrique had met was that the immigration process at Tan Son Nhat Airport in HCMC was time-consuming.
Subhadeep Pal, an Indian tourist, also said the e-visa application process in Vietnam did not take too much time, although he was fooled by fake e-visa websites that had better interfaces than the official website.
Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh said last week that Vietnam would waive visas for more countries and extend the length of stay for foreign tourists to speed the recovery of the tourism market.
In response to the prime minister’s order, the Ministry of Public Security proposed prolonging the duration of e-visas granted to foreigners entering Vietnam from the current 30 days to a maximum of three months.
This was interpreted as a positive sign after a year of complaints about strict visa policies from tourism industry insiders and foreign tourists, which began when Vietnam reopened its borders post-Covid on March 15 last year.
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