The Vietnamese government has approved a two-year extension of the pilot e-visa issuance program for foreigners visiting the country.
The policy was launched on February 1, 2017, allowing citizens from 40 countries to apply for electronic visas. These countries included major tourism markets of China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the US, the UK, Germany and Sweden.
Last year, visitors from 6 countries, Australia, India, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the UAE were added to the list.
The e-visa application scheme was scheduled to expire next February, but has been extended now.
As of August 31 this year, more than 241,000 foreign tourists have entered Vietnam with e-visas, according to Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT).
The policy allows foreigners to apply for a 30-day, single-entry e-visa for holidays or business trips by paying a US$25 application fee online.
Applicants are required to complete a form available on two separate websites (one in Vietnamese and the other in English) run by the Ministry of Public Security. They will receive an application code and will be asked to pay a non-refundable fee online.
It takes three working days for tourists to find out if their applications have been approved or not.
Visitors with e-visas can enter the country at any of Vietnam’s eight international airports, including Tan Son Nhat in Ho Chi Minh City, Noi Bai in Hanoi and Da Nang in the central region. They can also arrive via land at 13 international border gates, and via sea at seven ports across the country.
The e-visa extension, which is still in trial mode, is one of the steps taken by the Vietnamese government to make tourism a key economic sector.
Earlier, Vietnam had approved visa exemption for visitors from France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK for another three years to give the tourism industry a growth impetus. Western Europeans were big spenders, shelling out on average US$1,316 per trip, according to VNAT.
With the new system, as well as visa waiver policies for several countries in Asia and Europe, the tourism industry hopes to welcome 17-20 million foreign visitors and gain US$35 billion per year by 2020, contributing 10% to the country’s GDP, compared to the current 7.5%.
More than 11.6 million foreigners arrived in Vietnam in the first nine months of this year, a 22.9% year-on-year increase. The country received 12.9 million foreign arrivals in 2017.
A global report published last month by the United Nations World Tourism Organization ranked Vietnam’s tourism growth as fourth highest in the world.