HANOI, 30 November 2016: Vietnam’s National Assembly has recently approved a resolution on a pilot project that will offer electronic visas for foreigners starting from 1 February next year.
Saigon Times media reported to be eligible for an e-visa, the applicant must be a citizen of a country that has diplomatic relations with Vietnam and poses no threat to the nation’s security and social order.
E-visas are emerging as an important tool for immigration bureaus as they allow officials to control who is allowed to enter, while making the application process convenient for travellers.
The e-visa project in Vietnam will give visitors a stay of up to 30 days.
The government says it is compiling a list of nations eligible for e-visas, and will identify the country’s border gates for the trial run, but it is understood it will probably be limited to international airline gateways such as Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Danang at the beginning.
To apply for an e-visa, the traveller completes the online form, pays a fee and waits for the system to approve the process. The approval could take up to 12 hours, when they will receive an email message with the visa-approval number. In most instances the reply confirmation number is issued in just a few minutes of applying for the visa.
The fee is non-refundable. Payment is usually made by credit card, but report suggested that Vietnam will start the service using bank transfers; not the most user-friendly method for applicants.
Even though a traveller has a visa approval confirmation number, the immigration official at the border checkpoint has the right to deny entry.
The e-visa system was first introduced in the ASEAN region by Myanmar and has worked successfully helping that country to increase tourist arrivals considerably, while taking the pressure off its embassies that were unable to cope with visa requests.
Vietnam’s e-visa pilot scheme will last two years starting from 1 February 2017. The results of the scheme will be presented to the country’s National Assembly in 2018 when it will be decided whether the scheme should becomes a permanent feature.
The World Tourism & Travel Council recommends the e-visa facility to countries saying its more convenient, gives governments a degree of control over who enters and the funds from the scheme can be used to subsidize tourism promotion. It cites Brand USA as a good example of its promotions are funded in part from e-visa fees.
Last year, Vietnam attracted 7.94 million international visitors, an increase of 0.9% from 2014, according to VNAT.
The top 10 source markets in 2015 were China, South Korea, Japan, the United States, Taiwan, Malaysia, Russia, Australia, Singapore and Cambodia. Thailand has also continued as one of the country’s major visitor supply markets.
Vietnam offers visa-free travel to seven countries; Japan, South Korea, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, and Russia.
It also has a visa-free policy for nine ASEAN countries; Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, and the Philippines.
Vietnam decided to extend visa exemptions by an additional year for tourists from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Spain to boost travel arrivals. These countries are the most likely to switch to an e-visa system once the exemption runs out.
Nationals of the five countries will enjoy visa-free travel for a 15-day stay until the ruling expires 30 July 2017.