Since July 1, 2015, all British passport holders travelling to Vietnam for tourism and business purposes can now enter the country for a maximum of 15 days without a visa.
The change comes after a unanimous decision was made at the annual meeting in May. In a bid to increase tourism, a plan was submitted to the ministry of culture, sports and tourism to expand the list of countries that are allowed a visa exception.
Simplifying the procedure has always been a top agenda, and plans to make the process quicker will hopefully be implemented over the next 12 months. Travellers will still need a visa to enter Vietnam for periods longer than 15 days, and those wishing to re-enter within a 30 day period, after departure, will need the correct visa for the purpose and destination of their trip.
Other countries to benefit from the changes are the Republic of France, Federal Republic of Germany, Kingdom of Spain and the Republic of Italy.
The new policy under Vietnamese law is in effect for a period of one year until June 30th, 2016, whereby it will it will be re-considered for an extension.
Until recently, Vietnam has only given out one-way visa exemption policies to 7 countries (Japan, Korea, Norway, Poland, Denmark, Sweden, and Russia), and two-way visa exemption policies for 9 countries in the ASEAN group.
Since the first visa exemption policies were approved, the number of tourists from Japan to Vietnam has increased up to 2.4 times, from Korea is 3.6 times and from Russia is 7.4 times. The new changes will hopefully see an increase in tourism from Europe over the coming months.
For travellers expecting to stay in Vietnam for longer than 15 days, a VOA (Visa on Arrival) will still be required. There have been a number of reports about bogus companies claiming to offer visa services, however this is mostly propaganda put out by Vietnamese embassies that charge a higher fee for processing visas, though it is always best to find a reputable company. There are a number of legitimate companies that can arrange visas on arrival, but these must be organised before entering Vietnam.
From November 15, 2015, British nationals who are married to Vietnamese locals can apply for a visa exemption certificate, valid for 5 years.
Overstaying visa limits is a serious offense and offenders may be delayed from travel until a fine is paid. Passports should be valid for a minimum of 6 months to be eligible for the 15 day visa exemption. Visa extensions are possible, but are no longer as simple as they once were.
Always check for the latest rule changes, and make enquiries for availability in good time. For approved Vietnam visas visit: https://www.vietnam-evisa.org
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New changes to Vietnam visa exemption rules