How To Get Visa Approval to Vietnam & Avoid Issues At Customs

When Danton and I traveled to Vietnam last November, we were traveling for 20 hours including layovers. The last thing we wanted to do after landing in Tan Son Nhat International Airport, at 1 in the morning, was deal with problems at customs.

To my disbelief, many travelers were having problems at customs and at the visa approval counter for a number of different reasons.  Some people didn’t fill out their entry form, other’s didn’t have passport-sized photos for their form, and some didn’t even know how much the fee was and didn’t even have cash to pay for it!

The process can be a little bit confusing, and travel agents do not usually help you with getting your visa. There are also some agencies out there that will assist with the process but do not give the traveler all the details needed to seamlessly make it through customs.

We researched very thoroughly well before our flight, and we had no issues. Keep reading if you are planning a trip to Vietnam in the future and need visa approval!

Who needs an entry visa?

Normal passport holders from some countries are exempt from the visa requirements, but with some restrictions. To see which one, follow the link to Wikipedia here.

If you are not on that list, you will need to apply for a visa!

Types of visas

Depending on how soon you need the visa, and how you plan to enter Vietnam, there are some options for you to obtain an entry visa.

Visa on arrival

Visa on arrival is issued after you land at the international airport at a visa issuing counter before customs. You will need to procure a visa approval letter beforehand and you must enter the country by air.

This is the option we chose, and it’s a great one when you have plenty of time before departure. The process was simple. We went through a website and paid a small fee to submit both our applications, then received our approval letter in about 7-10 business days. They also provided a link to a form that could be filled out in advance.

What you need to do using this method

  • Get approval letter
  • Print out and fill form (or get one at the airport in Vietnam)
  • Have 2 standard passport photos
  • Bring $25 USD CASH to pay for stamp

Many people approaching the counter in Vietnam were missing one or more of these items. Don’t let it be you!

We used this website for our approval letter.

Issued visa

This visa is issued in advance through your nearest Embassy of Vietnam. You basically go to the Embassy, pay a fee, and leave your passport there until it is processed and ready to pick up.

It will typically take 2-3 business days to get a stamp and fees vary. It may cost you less or more than applying for a letter online. This may be the best option for you if you are entering Vietnam by land or sea, or just booking a last minute flight!


I am from Canada so the process might be different elsewhere! Share your comments or visa horror stories below! 

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Written by Jennormous

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