Last week, Viet Nam News asked its readers about their experience with the visa renewal and extension process in Viet Nam, and their recommendations for better services. Here are some of the comments.
David Wood, English, Nha Trang City
Foreigners are asked to pay up to US$200 for a $10 visa extension; either that or leave the country every three months at a cost of thousands of dollars. Just a year ago, you could extend a 3-month visa for $40, now that same visa extension cost $175. Where, I ask, or more importantly the government should ask, is that money going? The government certainly isn't getting all of it.
Why is there any need for this to happen? What does the government gain by pretty much forcing long stay residents to leave? For example, take me and the many like me - single retired and have their pension in a Vietnamese bank. I cost nothing to Viet Nam, take nothing from Viet Nam and have no wish to marry, quite the opposite. Every penny received from the UK ends up spent in Viet Nam. Yet now, like many others, I am now leaving.
No other country would do this. Many countries actively encourage pensioners to come to their country to spend their wealth, which is an awful lot of money. My 20k a year may not seem like much, but multiply that by thousands of others and it is.
Truth is, maybe the people at the top of the government are not fully aware of the reality of what's happening and would welcome foreign pensioners. They need to make some changes if they wish to keep them, and the most important change is to totally scrap the visa rules.
In its place have an institution like Vietcombank issue a temporary residency card on behalf of the government to any customer who has his pension paid into an account. It is so very simple and gets rid of all the corruption and ill feelings. The government, which owns the bank, will have all the private details they need; the country and pensioner would both benefit.
The process to renew a visa is a wondrous experience. My experience is twofold. Yes, you can extend your visa in Viet Nam, however it is a costly exercise. Last year, I wanted to pay for a US$245 3-month-extension to an immigration office in Nha Trang. They said that they couldn't do it so I'd have to go to Da Nang or HCM City.
Another problem is that currently you cannot get a visa on arrival for family and friends. Meaning they have to travel with a tourist visa and then face all the red tape to change the status.
Despite some shortcomings, the government is already moving in the right direction. I would recommend Viet Nam enable service offices to expand their visa on arrival services. The government should also consider whether they want to encourage people to retire in Viet Nam. After all, retirees can contribute their expertise and spend their pensions here, which would benefit the Vietnamese economy.
Ivan Shoshkov, Russian, Ha Noi, Viet Nam
The visa process should be available online. This way foreigners could avoid all the bad agents who overcharge. Someone should be able to renew a business visa inside the country. Corruption should be fought. Make the process more simple, less corrupt and accessible.
If you come here to work, you need a working permit. With a work permit you can get a residence card and then you don't need a visa anymore. As long as you're working here illegally, you'll have to go through the painful visa process every few months.
I don't really see the government fault here. It's mainly backpacking teachers who complain about that.
Andrew Burden, Canadian, Ha Noi
Visa runs are a complete waste of time, money and resources. I paid for a "letter of introduction" from a travel agent in Ha Noi who doesn't know me, only to then fly to Vientiane, Laos, arrive at the airport and then wait several hours to fly back again. I could easily have slept in, gone for a coffee, donated blood, or continue to teach English.
Viet Nam should capitalise on the new ASEAN economic community and steal tourists from the popular 30-day visa-free Thailand. Why am I paying travel agents and bus operators only to wait hours at borders? Traffic police ignore me, so I ignore red lights.
I actually plan and sometimes overstay my visa and just pay the fine. Depending on my job and holiday schedule, it makes economic sense. Why not encourage visitors?
Allow a number of countries free visa entry and allow repeat visitors (that's us English teachers or retired guys) to stay as long as we want provided we don't get in trouble with the law. Every day here means more of my money spent on food, hotels, taxis and etc.
I have even changed my traditional Thai holiday in favour of Cambodia and Laos because Thailand is getting less friendly and I don't feel welcome. Statistics prove, free visas double or triple visitor numbers. Open the gates to let the fat-wallet people in! — VNS