After much deliberation, Vietnam has decided to prolong the validity period of their e-visa as of 15 August 2023. This allows travellers to stay in the country longer than before. With this development, Vietnam seems to follow the examples set by other popular holiday destinations like Thailand and Indonesia.
Vietnam’s visa policy
Ever since the Visa on Arrival was revoked, Vietnam handled one of the strictest visa policies in the area. Whereas travellers to Thailand or Indonesia could easily purchase a visa for a lengthy stay of 60 days, Vietnam merely offered a tourist visa for 30 days. More so, even though travellers from certain countries were allowed to stay in the country without a visa, they always had to leave within 15 days.
The strict visa policy strongly contradicted travellers’ wishes to be able to stay in Vietnam for longer periods of time, or of those who were planning a regional road trip. In fact, Vietnam is eminently suitable for long stays due the relatively low prices, the many tourist attractions the country offers, and the pristine natural landscapes, including beaches, mountain ranges and rice terraces. It is with all this in mind that the current visa policy is seen as an important factor as to why the country is not nearly as popular a destination among tourists as some of its neighbouring countries.
Changes to the Vietnam visa
After months of discussions where spokespersons from the tourism branch pleaded for a relaxation of the visa policy, they finally reached an agreement in June 2023. The changes will go into effect on 15 August this year and are expected to only apply to visas that are applied for on or after this date. It concerns the following decisions:
- The validity period of the e-visa will be prolonged from 30 to 90 days
- The permitted period for a stay without a visa will be prolonged from 15 to 45 days; this only applies to travellers who were already allowed to travel to Vietnam without a visa.
- The visa will now permit multiple trips to Vietnam (multiple-entry)
Who will be allowed to travel to Vietnam without a visa?
Currently, only travellers from 11 European countries and 11 Asian countries can travel to Vietnam without a visa. The European countries this applies to are Belarus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Russia, Spain, the United Kingdom and Sweden. In other words, travellers who hold a passport of one of these countries will be allowed to stay up to 45 days in Vietnam without a visa, instead of only 15 days. There have not yet been made any declarations whether more countries will be added to this list or not. Travellers from other countries, such as Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, or Switzerland will still need to apply for a visa to travel to Vietnam in the near future.
Unclarity regarding the new visa rules
Despite the short term within which the new visa rules will be implicated, there are still numerous uncertainties regarding their precise execution. Firstly, it remains unknown if the new visa rules will be applied to visas that were granted before the rule change. Secondly, questions have arisen whether there will be separate single-entry and multiple-entry visas, or whether all visas will now allow multiple trips to Vietnam. And mostly, nothing has been said either about the possible modifications to the application procedure, or about the possible changes to the costs of the visa.
The purpose of prolonging the validity period
Primarily, the change in visa rules is intended to attract more visitors to Vietnam. The fact is that this year's visitor numbers are still far behind those recorded before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. This has taken a massive blow to the Vietnamese economy, which could well use the revenue from tourism.
More specifically, the Vietnamese government hopes that the longer visa validity period will attract more potential investors. The underlying reasoning, in fact, is that a maximum stay of 30 days is not enough to find good investment opportunities and make well-informed choices. This could dissuade investors. A permitted stay of 90 days would allow more room to truly delve into a business and materialise an idea. Whether the rule changes surrounding the visa will actually make Vietnam achieve its desired goals, however, remains to be seen.