Fed up jumping through hoops to renew your tourist visa? Let’s get down to business and snag you a sexy new Vietnamese business visa instead.The Vietnamese visa situation is a joke. Americans are stuck with a raw deal, and everyone else is doing even worse—forced to make visa runs to Cambodia every 90 days. What’s a traveler to do?
The answer is a business visa, my friend.
What’s a Vietnamese Business Visa?
Despite the word ‘business’ being right there in the name, Vietnamese business visas aren’t reserved for business travelers, investors or entrepreneurs. No brother, these visas are accessible even for sneaky, resourceful tourists like us.
The wording of a Vietnamese business visa is vague. It’s meant for travelers ‘exploring business opportunities in Vietnam,’ which could mean whatever the hell you want it to mean.
Meeting with top-level executives? Get a business visa. Sampling street food? Get a business visa. Exploring Saigon’s brothels? Business visa.
If you plan on staying in Saigon for more than a few months, a business visa is your best bet to reduce headaches. And the primary reason I say that is because business visas can actually be renewed/extended inside Vietnam, which is a rarity these days.
Coming from outside Vietnam, obtaining a business visa is virtually identical to getting a tourist visa. You’ll go through an online agency, who prepares your invitation letter. For a business visa, the invitation letter includes information for your sponsoring company, who in your case doesn’t matter. As far as immigration is concerned, it doesn’t matter either.
In Vietnam, you can get an approval letter for a business visa—with a duration of 1, 3, 6 or 12 months. While the visa can be EXTENDED in Vietnam, you’ll still have to leave and re-enter the country (at a valid border crossing, such as Moc Bai, or through a major airport) to obtain the visa.
Once you have your business visa, you can kiss border runs goodbye. Business visas can be extended indefinitely (as of right now) from travel agents inside Vietnam.
How Much Is a Vietnamese Business Visa?
Business visas have hidden costs associated with them, but turn out cheaper in the long run than getting multiple tourist visas.
For example, a business visa’s cost is comprised of the invitation letter (paid to your travel agent) and the initial stamping fee (paid to immigration), and later is subject to renewal fees.
Business visas range in price, depending on how honest your agent is. The invitation letter is going to cost the most, typically a couple hundred dollars (depending on how long the visa is good for). The stamping fee is often comparable to that of a tourist visa.
If you’re wondering what the difference is between getting a business visa and a tourist visa, it’s in the ease of renewing and staying in Vietnam. Tourist visas are either impossible or prohibitively expensive to extend inside Vietnam, while business visas are much easier.
Of course, you don’t need a 12-month business visa, although 1, 3, and 6 month business visa availability is somewhat dependent on your country of origin. Americans, for example, are now restricted to yearly business visas.
Should You Get a Business Visa?
Ah, now that depends. I would recommend getting a business visa if you need to stay in Vietnam long-term, and want to avoid visa runs.
On the other hand, you should probably get a tourist visa if you’re just making a short trip to Vietnam and don’t need the convenience of a business visa.
The visa dance is all about min-maxing your travel experience. Personally I’d rather spend a little more dough up front and avoid wasting my precious time, but I know not everyone cares about that. What’s important is looking into the different fees for your specific home country and planning accordingly.
Let me just provide a little insight to why I chose to get a business visa. Last time I passed through Moc Bai border crossing, I spent almost 2 hours waiting for my visa to get processed. That’s despite me being the sole person in line, all because I refused to be extorted for twice the official stamping fee.
The option is on the table and I encourage you to take advantage of it while it lasts.