Monday, August 5, 2013

Vietnam Customs Regulations

Thanks to policies to promote tourism, custom regulations in Vietnam today are getting simpler than ever before. However, as a sensible visitor, you should pay attention to basic information about essential documentation and things you are obliged and not obliged to bring along on arrival at and departure from Vietnam.

Travel Documents:
For a start, even though valid passport and entry visa or visa approval letter to Vietnam are generally required for all visitors; travelers of some countries such as Finland, Norway, Japan, Korea and members of ASEAN are exempted from visa with 15-30 day validity according to unilateral and bilateral visa exemption agreements of Vietnam government.
Others visitors may obtain visa at Embassies & General consulates of Vietnam, travel agencies or on arrival. Visa on arrival means that you attain visa approval by Vietnam Immigration office in advance and get visa stamped on your arrival. For more detailed information, please check our pages about visa to Vietnam.

Goods and Products:
You are able to bring the maximum amount of the followings; otherwise, it is mandatory to declare and pay import taxes:

Duty Free:
Cigarettes: 400
Cigars: 100
Tobacco: 100 gram
Liquor: 1.5 liters
Perfume and jewellery for personal use
Souvenirs and gift items valued at not more than US$ 300

Materials Under Declaration
There are no restrictions on the amount of currency, gold, precious metals and stones; however, you have to declare on the customs forms provided that your luggage includes:

Declare if you bring:
Foreign currency: in excess of US$ 5,000
Vietnam Dong: in excess of VND15.000.000
Gold: in excess of 300gr
Gold and jewellery not for personal use
Video tapes, CDs: CDs and tapes are often kept for screening and returned to you after a few days

Banned Materials
Things below should be excluded from your luggage:
- Weapon, ammunition, explosives and inflammable objects
- Military technical equipment; drugs, opium and other narcotics
- Anti-government literature; pornographic literature, etc.
On top of this; antiques, some types of precious stones, wild animals, rare and precious plants listed in Vietnam’s red-book could not be exported.
Visitors are normally required to fill in arrival-departure forms and also custom forms on condition that you bring things that require declaration or exceed duty-free norm. Nevertheless, from 15 November 2010, arrival-departure forms are exempted for all visitors in all international airports and 12 border checkpoints in Vietnam. Thus, it is likely that may not have to fill in any form when you visit Vietnam.
Please be noted that this is only a brief summary and that customs regulation in Vietnam are subject to change at any time. So, always double check all information before making any important decisions. The Vietnamese Customs maintain an extremely informative website which you can refer to.

Vietnam visa exemption

A Vietnam visa is required for all nationalities except those eligible for a visa exemption. With the visa exemption program, visitors can enter Vietnam with just their passport and a return ticket. If these visitors wish to stay longer than the stated period, they can apply for a visa at a local Vietnamese embassy or consulate; or apply online for a visa-on-arrival.

Below is a list of nationalities who can enter Vietnam without a visa:

NationalitiesTime Allowance
Sweden15 days
Norway15 days
Denmark15 days
Finland15 days
Russia15 days
Japan15 days
South Korea15 days
Thailand30 days
Brunei14 days
Laos30 days
Cambodia30 days
Malaysia30 days
The Philippines21 days
Indonesia30 days
Singapore30 days

*** Vietnamese Overseas are eligible for a 5 year visa exemption.

Vietnam entry requirements

Vietnam is not so strict on entry visa requirements like other countries. Below is list of things you will need to know before you enter Vietnam:

Mandatory Requirements (in case you get your visa in advance from the embassy)
* Passport should be valid 6 months beyond intended stay
* Vietnam visa is required

Mandatory Requirements (in case you apply for a visa on arrival online)
* Applicants must enter Vietnam by air to Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh city or Da Nang.
* Passport must valid at least 1 month from the date of exit.
* Two passport photos size 4 x 6 cm (see photo specifications).

In most case, you do not need to show the following:
* Proof of Return
* Vaccination Certificate
* HIV Examination Certificate

Vietnam visa on arrival

Applying for a Visa on arrival will save you time and in most case money. In fact, obtaining a visa on arrival is increasingly the most popular way to travel to Vietnam.

What is visa-on-arrival
Vietnam and some other countries in the region such as Cambodia, Indonesia (Bali Island), India and to a lesser extent, China, have allowed travel agencies to obtain a visa on arrival for their customers on their behalf. Previously, only travellers booking a tour in Vietnam can have their visa arranged by the tour company which must possess an international tour operator license. Since 2005, the new law has changed the format of visa on arrival - making it easier to obtain than before. Many travel agencies have thrived in the visa business in Vietnam.

This is a legitimate process and your visa is issued by the Vietnam Immigration Department. There are many online tourism businesses where you can apply online for your visa. As indicated in the Ordinance on Entry, Exit and Residence of Foreigners in Vietnam (No. 24/2000/PL- UBTVQH 10 of April 28,2000), Chapter III, Article 6, foreigners are granted entry at International Border gate point under the following conditions:

a) They enter for funerals of their relatives, for visits to their seriously ill relatives;
b) They depart from countries where Vietnamese diplomatic missions and/or Consulates are not available.
c) They enter for visit under programs organized by international tour enterprises of Vietnam;
d) They enter to provide urgent technical support for programs, projects, to give first- aid to seriously ill person, accident victims, to provide rescue for victims of natural disasters and epidemics in Vietnam.
e) For other urgent reasons.

Except for condition C, in which customers will have to deal with a travel agency who will forward the applications over to the immigration office, the rest of conditions need to be verified and pre-approved by Vietnamese embassies and consulates abroad.

How to apply
You need to submit your application form online with one of the travel agents providing visa-on-arrival service. After that you will receive an approval letter - which you show at Vietnam airport and collect the visa stamp (read more about procedures at Vietnam airport). Documents you need to submit at the airport include: your approval letter, your passport, 2 passport-photos.

1- The process of applying for a visa-on-arrival is rather simple and straightforward. Most agencies explain at great details how to get one on arrival and all agencies follow similar process so you will not be confused.
2 - Visa-on-arrival saves both time and money - especially if you need one urgently.
3 - No hassle with sending away the passport.

1- Visa On Arrival works only with air travel so if you plan to come to Vietnam by crossing the border or on a cruise, you cannot apply for a visa-on-arrival.
2 - The wait time at the airport can be long. You will have to wait in line from 15-30 minutes to get your visa stamp, though the traffic depends on where you are flying from and on what day.
3 - Visa On Arrival is often processed on a group basis - you may find your name on the list with another 15 applicants you probably will never know of.

Vietnam Entry and Exit Form

Vietnam Entry and Exit Form (M3) is required of all foreign passengers arriving in Vietnam by air. The form will be handed out to you either on the airplane or when you arrive at a Vietnam airport. After you fill in the form, please return it to the immigration officer who will stamp your passport with a visa-on-arrival, or give you an entry stamp if you already have a pre-arranged visa. You can also save time by downloading the form and filling it in advance.

How many forms do you need
Even though at the end of the form it is indicated that you need two forms, in reality you just need to make one copy to fill and submit at Vietnam airport.

Instruction to fill M3 form
1 - Name and surname: must write in capital and must match your passport details
2 - Date of birth: write in dd/mm/yyyy order
3 - Sex: fill in male or female
4 - Place of birth: write both city and country name
5 - Write both nationality if you have. Eg: United States / United Kingdom (not American or British)
6 - Passport details: write your passport number, kind of passport (standard/diplomatic/official) date of issue and expiry date. For section "Issued by" - please check your passport for details.
7 - Profession and place of employment: this section must match the record you provide Vietnamese embassy when applying for a visa, or for visa-on-arrival, simply fill in your current occupation.
8 - Present address: this is your home address in the country you are coming from
9 - Children accompanying: list all that apply
10 - Purpose of entry and exit: write one that applies (tourism/business/study/work/other)
Name, address of contact: this can be the name of the hotel if you are a tourist, or a company if you come for business purpose
11 - Proposed duration to entry and exit Vietnam: give as exact estimation as possible. Note that this record must match the visa you applied for.
12 - Port of arrival and departure: Write down Arrival: (Tan Son Nhat Airport, Noi Bai Airport, ...)
 Departure: (Tan Son Nhat Airport, Moc Bai border gate...) you might be requested to present a return flight ticket in special cases.
13 - Done at ... on .... : write down the name of the airport or border gate through which you are entering Vietnam and sign.

Opening time of Vietnam Immigration Department

Vietnam Immigration Department will open and solve problems related to entrance and exit visa procedures for guests in all the weekdays (working days) except Saturday, Sunday and traditional holidays. Mark your calendars and just be well prepared!

Opening hours for guests:
Morning: from 8 a.m to 11.30 a.m
Afternoon: from 1.30 p.m to 4 p.m
Please see the following Vietnam Immigration Department’s details for direct contacting

Vietnam Immigration Department
First floor, Room A2, #64 Nguyen Dinh Chieu street, Dakao ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam

Tel: (00) (848) 5404 3118


In case that you have urgent requests related to entrance and exit visa procedures out of opening hours, please contact directly staffs in charge.

Vietnam Immigration Office

Foreigners, who stay in Vietnam more than 1 year and want to ask for a temporary residence card, are suggested to send the temporary residence card to the Vietnam Immigration Officeor Police Immigration Management of Cities/Provinces under Central authority.

Procedures provided for asking to issue visa, extending, supplementing, visa modifying and asking for temporary residence certificate:
Foreigners would like to ask to issue, extend, supplement, modify visa and temporary residence certificate do need submit records to the Vietnam Immigration Office or Police Immigration Management of Cities/Provinces under Central authority.

If asking to issue visa, extending, supplementing, modifying visa, asking for temporary residence certificate are for tourism, the Vietnam international tourism companies -behalf of customers – will be responsible for dealing with Vietnam Immigration Office or Police Immigration Management of Cities/Provinces under Central authority.

If extending, supplementing, modifying visa, asking for temporary residence certificate are for the individuals such as: family visit, marriage, child adoption, treatment … the application must be confirmed by the ward, commune or shelter agencies which has jurisdiction.

Procedure provided for asking to issue visa in case of losing passport:
In case your passport is lost in Vietnam, you do need immediately report to the ward, commune where your passport was lost or contact the diplomatic representatives, your Embassy or Consulate in Vietnam to ask for a new passport or other documents that can be used as a valid passport. And then, you should apply for the new Vietnam visa.

Procedures provided for staying purpose conversion:
Foreigners who want to convert their purpose of staying in Vietnam must be approved by agencies, organizations or individuals as a guarantee to complete all the procedures in Vietnam Immigration Office or Police Immigration Management of Cities/Provinces under Central authority (where the agencies, organizations or individuals guarantee).

Procedures for temporary residence card:
Foreigners staying in Vietnam more than 1 year who would like to ask for a temporary residence card are suggested to send the temporary residence card to the Vietnam Immigration Office or Management immigration police Cities/ provinces of Central authority.

The address of Vietnam Immigration Office in Vietnam:
- In Hanoi: 40A Hang Bai, Hoan Kiem.
Telephone: (04) 8245055, 8260922.
- In Hochiminh City: 254 Nguyen Trai, Dist 1.
Telephone: (08) 9201701.
- In Danang City: No 7 Tran Quy Cap, Danang City.
Telephone: (90511) 823383