Increasingly higher on the list of most-visited countries in the world, Vietnam is opening its borders to international tourism and taking advantage of technology to do so.
That’s why it recently launched an online visa application system (eVisa) that is now available to visitors of 81 different nationalities. This eliminated for eligible foreigners the need to take an appointment with a Vietnamese embassy or queue for a long time at the airport.
However, there are also other online processes in place for tourist permits for Vietnam that may get travelers confused. For example, the approval letter.
This page is intended to clear some doubts regarding the approval letter for Vietnam, including:
- What is the approval letter?
- Do all foreign tourists need one?
- What is the difference between the Vietnam visa approval letter and the eVisa?
- How to use the letter
What Is the Vietnam Visa Approval Letter?
The approval letter (often mistakenly called Vietnam invitation letter) is a necessary requirement for those who intend to apply for a Vietnam visa on arrival, who will need to obtain it before traveling.
This may cause confusion because in many countries, travel authorizations applied for at the airport don’t need prior applications. Tourists are used to presenting the immigration officers with their eligible passport and the relevant visa fee.
In the case of Vietnam, however, things work differently. Foreigners wishing to arrive at the Vietnamese border without a visa will need to register online and complete an application form prior to departure in order to obtain pre-approval for the visa on arrival.
If the application is successful, they will receive the approval letter, which they then need to carry with them as they travel.
Do I Need an Approval Letter for Vietnam?
All those who wish to enter Vietnam with a visa on arrival instead of an eVisa or traditional paper permit will need to obtain an approval letter before departure. However, not everyone is eligible.
The following is a list of countries whose citizens can apply for a letter of approval for Vietnam:
- Bosnia & Herzegovina
- Czech Republic
- Hong Kong
- Marshall Islands
- New Zealand
- Papua New Guinea
- San Marino
- Solomon Islands
- South Korea
- Timor Leste
- United Arab Emirates
- United Kingdom
- United States
Not being eligible for a letter of approval doesn’t mean that you can’t travel to Vietnam. There are several other options available depending on your specific circumstances (i.e. your nationality as well as the length and purpose of your stay).
Should You Get an eVisa or an Approval Letter for Vietnam?
Tourists intending to obtain their Vietnam visa at the airport should apply for an approval letter online. If you’re eligible for both the eVisa and the visa on arrival, the decision is entirely up to you.
There are both advantages and disadvantages in choosing the approval letter. Here are the main upsides:
- If a visa on arrival is granted, the traveler is allowed multiple entries into Vietnam
- By applying for the approval letter online and the entry permit at the airport, the visitor won’t have to lodge their visa application at a Vietnamese embassy or consulate in person (this applies to the eVisa application too, which is entirely online).
The following are the main downsides of the approval letter:
- Although the approval letter is processed and granted online, the final entry permission is not. The approval letter holder still needs to queue at the airport at the immigration desk before they’re granted a visa on arrival (this does not apply to eVisas)
- A mandatory stamping fee must be paid in cash in order to obtain a visa on arrival at the airport
- The approval letter can be used to obtain permission to enter only at 5 of the 8 Vietnamese international airports. Those crossing a land or sea border are not eligible for an approval letter. On the other hand, the eVisa is accepted at most Vietnamese main entry points.
How Do I Get a Vietnam Visa Approval Letter?
In order to get a letter of approval, eligible foreigners must complete an online application on the government website before traveling. The application in itself is pretty straightforward and requires the following:
- Fill out the application form with all required information (including travel plans and dates)
- Submit a copy of your passport
- Pay the relevant fee.
It’s important to apply for the letter well in advance in order to leave the Vietnamese authorities enough time to process the request.
Please note that once the application is submitted and the government sends the applicant the approval letter, this does not constitute a visa or a permit to enter Vietnam. The approval letter is a first step towards obtaining a visa on arrival at a relevant Vietnamese airport.
How to Use the Approval Letter to Enter Vietnam
Once they have finalized their travel arrangements and received the approval letter, foreigners can take off to Vietnam.
Here is a list of items to bring to the border with them in order to use the Vietnam approval letter to obtain a visa:
- A printed copy of the approval letter
- 2 recent photographs following the Vietnamese visa photo requirements
- The same valid passport as the one used to submit the approval letter application
- The relevant visa fee in cash.
Once arrived at one of the 5 relevant airports in Vietnam, approval letter holders can queue at the immigration desk and provide the above items to the Vietnamese officers. The officers will make the final decision regarding the traveler’s admission into the country and provide them with a visa on arrival.