Vietnam’s eVisa encourages travel

HO CHI MINH CITY, 16 March 2017: Ho Chi Minh City’s tourism authorities claim that the launch of an eVisa, last month, has increased travel bookings to Vietnam and particularly the southern city which is the country main gateway.

Local media quoted the city’s Vietnam National University’s Tourism Institute head Nguyen Duc Tri, saying the eVisa also enables improved data and updates of foreign tourists visiting the country, which will help tourism officials to monitor trends and adapt the country’s tourism products to meet demand.

According to Ministry of Public Security’s Department of Immigration, 490 foreigners applied for an eVisa since it was introduced in February. Of that total 210 applications were filed a week after the pilot scheme was introduced

A two-year pilot programme started 1 February. It allows travellers from 40 countries to apply for an eVisa and pay for it through a bank transfer.

The 40 nationalities eligible to apply for the eVisas are:

Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Brunei, Bulgaria, Chile, China (does not apply to Chinese e-passport holders), Colombia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Luxembourg, Mongolia, Myanmar, Norway, Panama, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Timor Leste, the United Kingdom, the United States, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Tourism experts also suggested the government should add more countries to the list of eligible nationalities once the pilot programmed has been tested.

Applications for Vietnam’s electronic visas (eVisas) can be submitted online via government websites (English) or (Vietnamese).

In response to questions about the speed of the two new websites, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism’s Travel Department head Nguyen Quy Phuong, said that they were slow with poor response gaps during the first days of operation, but the immigration agency was working to fix the problem.

Applications are processed by the immigration authority within three working days, after which time applicants can access and print their eVisa using an ID provided by the website during the submission process.

The approval process at three days is slow compared with a similar facility offered by Myanmar where invariably travellers receive their approval email within 24 hours.

Under the new process, the visa fee must be paid by bank transfer apparently to guarantee transparency and convenience for tourists.

The bank transfer process is cumbersome and far from convenient when compared with credit card transactions.  With the exception of China, the accepted payment channels for eVisas, worldwide, are MasterCard, American Express or Visa.

Each applicant must pay a non-refundable application fee of USD25 via a bank transfer. If the applicant has internet banking then the process is not difficult,  but it requires leaving the website to go to another website (bank) to make the money transfer.

No letter of guarantee or invitation is required for online visa applications, and eVisas have avalidity period of 30 days.

Each applicant is provided with a digital code, to check the application’s progress and print their eVisa once they have been issued. They can also present the codes at border gates and airports for scanning.

The eVisa is accepted at 28 entry gates (eight international airports, 13 international border gates and seven seaports nationwide) in Vietnam, including the major hubs of Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Danang, Can Tho City, and Phu Quoc Island. This is a definitely an improvement on Myanmar’s eVisa system and hopefully Myanmar will follow Vietnam’s lead on opening the eVisa to more overland checkpoints.

The pilot scheme will be evaluated by the government and results reported to the National Assembly once completed in 2019.

Vietnam offers visa-free travel to seven countries; Japan, South Korea, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, and Russia.

It also offers visa-free entry for citizens of nine ASEAN countries; Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, and the Philippines.

Vietnam decided to extend visa exemptions for an additional year for tourists from the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain to boost travel arrivals.

Nationals of the five countries will enjoy visa-free travel for a 15-day stay until the ruling expires 30 July 2017.

For the first two months of this year, Vietnam welcomed 2,206,659 international travellers increasing 33.0%.