Guide to Visa procedure at Vietnam airports

Airport Visa Procedure and Payment Process (Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Da Nang, Cam Ranh [Nha Trang]) .
Arrival Document Checklist:
1. Your passport must have at least 6 months validity
2. 2 passport-sized photos (4*6 cm)
3. Visa approval letter
4. Completed Vietnam visa application form
5. Cash: 25 USD (single entry); 50 USD (multiple entry)

VOAs are handled by Department of Immigration staff at the airports and if the airport is operating, so is the VOA office. It is absolutely vital that you have your visa processing fee(s) on you, in cash as the authorities do not accept credit or debit cards. Unless you can pay in cash you won’t be allowed into the country and you could end up having a wonderful holiday camped on the wrong side of the barrier until your return flight leaves. If you have a bank card an immigration officer might offer to escort you to an ATM landside to withdraw some money. They have been known to accept payment in currencies other than U S dollars but are not obligated to do so and therefore it should not be counted on. Recently an ATM has been installed at Tan Son Nhat Airport (HCMC) adjacent to the landing visa counter. While this might be of help to those arriving without cash, it is still advisable to bring the amount required. ATMs do break down or run out of cash and the inevitable lack of clarity regarding the dong/ US dollar exchange rate applied at the landing visa counter (the ATM issues dong), plus additional card charges, means it should be thought of as the method of last resort.

At Ho Chi Minh City (Tan Son Nhat International Airport) the VOA window is situated at the far end on the left as you enter the immigration hall. Do not join any queues for Immigration Control. The counter itself is sign-posted – LANDING VISA. When you get to the Landing Visa (VOA) window, be prepared to hand over your passport, ONE completed copy of Form N1, the entire letter of approval and ONE passport size photo (the officer will staple your photo to the form if not already attached). You should then go and sit down. Even with few people being processed do not expect passports (with the visa attached) to be returned in the order that they were presented at the window.

When your visa is ready, your name will be called (do keep your ears open) and at the same time your passport held up to the window with the photo page showing. You then pay the processing fee – U S$25 for single entry visas (one and three months); $50 for multiple entry visas (one and three months). The notes should be in good condition (no marks, nicks or tears) but it is not necessary for them to be brand new. Once you have paid, your passport will be returned to you, along with a receipt for your payment. Be sure to check the newly issued visa for any errors while still at the window. You then go to an immigration control post to be processed in the normal way. Baggage reclaim and Customs are downstairs.

At Hanoi (Noi Bai International Airport) the VOA procedure has changed with the opening in January 2015 of the new international terminal. The VOA counter is situated opposite the immigration posts – the signage can be difficult to see if there are lots of people milling about. You must hand in your passport and documents at THE RIGHT-HAND SIDE. Then proceed to the left-hand side (or if busy, take a seat) to wait while your application is processed. There is large-screen display to the left of the counter, and when your visa is ready your passport photo, name and country will be shown and your name read out. At this point you pay. If you are processing multiple passports you will receive one pink receipt for all of them. Your visa(s) will have been affixed to a page your passport(s) and should be checked for errors while you are still at the counter. You can then proceed to the ‘Foreigners’ immigration queue. The entire process can take as little as 10 minutes or as much as an hour if there at lots of applicants and/or other flights have arrived at more or less the same time so the queues for immigration are long.

At Da Nang follow the exit signs. As soon as you enter the huge hall it is very easy to find the VOA window – it is on the left hand side and is clearly visible. The process is reasonably quick (approximately 15 minutes with all necessary paperwork completed before landing) but do bear in mind there is no guarantee it will be always be the same. After receiving visas / passports back, progress onwards to immigration control. Immigration Control can be slow, sometimes 3 or 4 long lines. Everyone queues up together going through the same check-points and there are no separate checkpoints for Vietnamese passengers and other nationalities.

Tip. If there are two or more of you obtaining VOA it would be prudent that once you’ve handed in your paperwork, that one of you stands in line for immigration control. That way you won’t be at the back of a long queue.