Foreigners are urging Vietnam to relax its current visa policies, which they deem ‘unfriendly’ and ‘annoying’ obstacles holding them back from visiting the Southeast Asian country.
Though Vietnam has resumed inbound travel since March 15, both foreign tourists and investors feel the current policy is too rigid.
It is now commonplace for foreigners to face difficulty applying for a visa to come to Vietnam for work, investment, and business, according to Nguyen Ngoc Na Na, director of Hana Company – which specializes in providing business license registration services for foreigners.
Previously, regulations surrounding the issuance of investment visas were considerably more relaxed, Na commented.
According to current visa policies, investors with contributed funds of less than VND3 billion (US$128,194) are only eligible for visas of one year or shorter while investors with contributed capital of more than VND3 billion can apply for a visa with validity of up to three years.
For investors who currently live in Vietnam and want to continue their stay, a tax report must be submitted to authorities and their Vietnamese business must have been in operation for at least three years.
“People who only ran businesses in Vietnam for two years before shutting down for COVID-19 are now finding it difficult to obtain visas or temporary residence cards to return to the country,” Na said.
Cao Thi Tuyet Lan, a sales manager for Viettours Incentives and Events Company, also complained about sluggish visa application procedures.
“We had to wait for over a week after processing a visa application for a foreign partner who needed to come to Vietnam to attend a meeting,” said Lan.
Visa application rejections are also a major hindrance to would-be investors.
The deputy general director of a travel company in Ho Chi Minh City, who asked to not be named, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that many of his firm’s business customers have had their visa applications rejected for unknown reasons.
A Lebanese businessman, who runs a company and employs six staff members, was the latest example.
The man wound up paying significantly more to visit the country as part of a seven-day travel package, including unneeded hotel costs, attraction ticket fees, and transportation expenses, in order to enter Vietnam as a tourist in order to handle his business issues.
Calls to ease visa restrictions
Despite more stringent visa requirements, visa duration is also shorter compared to before the pandemic.
Vietnam’s visa duration for foreign experts and workers has been scaled down from six months to three months without any specific explanation, according to visa service firms.
A recent survey of Vietnam’s business environment conducted by the European Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam showed that about eight percent of European enterprises in Vietnam have urged the country to simplify its visa procedures.
Such strict procedures now rank third among the barriers to improving the country’s investment environment.
Varun Grover, country head of Dutch online travel agency Booking.com in Vietnam, said that a more open, clearer, and convenient visa procedure is fundamental to attracting international visitors and boosting economic, commercial, and trade activities.
“If you ask me for advice [on attracting more foreign visitors to Vietnam], it would be related to the visa procedure,” said Grover.
“Please increase the visa duration by three months because that is a practical need.”
Nguyen Thien Phuc, product manager of Vidotour Indochina Travel, said Vietnam should restore the visa exemption policy to what it was before 2019 because current regulations are driving international arrivals away.
Elaborating on Grover and Phuc’s opinions, Vu The Binh, chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Association, noted that relaxing policies related to e-visas and visas on arrival are also necessary to boost foreign arrivals.