The Visa Process - Vietnam 2007

This is the first trip I have planned that required a travel visa. Though obtaining one of these should be a fairly simple procedure, it's slightly concerning in that there exists the possibility of screwing up the application or losing your original passport in the mail.

Those fears aside, I realize this process doesn't warrant the full, detailed explanation I'm about to give, and that there exist other methods of obtaining proper entry. But, nevertheless, for those who appreciate a little extra knowledge, here's how it worked for me.

Note: U.S. citizens should use the following link to visit the consular services section of the Vietnam Embassy in DC's website: CLICK HERE

There, you will be able to download the most current PDF version of the application. As of July 30th, 2007, the above image is what the one-page application looks like. The web page will also give you instructions on how to prepare your application. Instructions that I followed, thusly...

First, I had two passport photos made. For this particular application, you only need one, but the embassy suggests having a second. Fortunately, passport photos tend to come in pairs, and should cost about eight dollars.

Unfortunately, the Travel Gods determined a long time ago that these things should never be pretty. It's a little game they play. But there's likely a bit of divine method in their madness, for as the late Erma Bombeck said: "When you look like your passport photo, it's time to go home." Anyway, I sure hope the Gods are having a nice laugh over the fact that they made me look like a terrorist.

Next, I went to the post office and purchased a $16.25 stamp for a cardboard, flat rate Express Mail mailing envelope. This is so the embassy can return your passport. Not that you couldn't figure this out on your own, but this means you put YOUR address in the TO section of the attached mailing label.

hen it was off to Publix for a $65 Money Order (or Cashier's Check) payable to THE EMBASSY OF VIETNAM. Remember, they don't accept personal checks, and if you plan on having multiple entries in and out of the country, you'll need to pay extra. I'm pretty certain it runs double - $130.

When everything is done - you've filled out your application, attached one photograph, and purchased your money order - place the contents along with your original passport, in the Express Mail envelope. But don't seal it. Just slide it inside a priority mail flat-rate envelope. The postage, along with having it certified, will be about five dollars. My package went into the mail on August 1st... two days after I had already purchased my airline ticket.

Eight days later, on August 9th, the return Express Mail package arrived. Sort of.

I chose not to check the little box that allows the mailman to simply leave the envelope at the door, figuring it was probably best to have somebody actually sign for it. You can't just be leaving a passport on the front porch all day. So, after two failed delivery attempts, I simply had to go to my local station and pick it up (with proper ID). The end result: A perfect transaction. Affixed to one of the pages of my passport was my visa, all shiny and new. You might notice that it is good for one month. When I filled out the application, I purposefully set my proposed date of entry and exit for two days earlier and two days later than my actual airline reservations. This was to make sure I wouldn't run into any problems with flight changes or cancellations. So, my visa is good from November 29th through December 29th. Our travel dates are December 1st through December 15th.

And that's pretty much it. Clockwork.

Embassy of Vietnam
1233 20th St., NE, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: (202) 861-0737 - Fax: (202) 861-0917

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