Between the holidays and being a procrastinator, I never mailed our visa applications to the Vietnamese consulate in time for our early January departure to Hanoi. Since I was in New York City, I took an Uber over to 48th and 1st, and applied in person at the Consulate of Vietnam.
Rush processing the Vietnam Visa at the Consulate
After showing ID and getting a visitor badge, it was a quick trip up the elevator to the office. Arriving just after they opened at 9:30am meant no lines. I handed over our passports, our completed applications and $80 each for the 30 day single-entry visa and another $30 each for the last minute rush fee and was told to have a seat — the visa would be ready in 30 minutes or less. Payment was accepted with a money order, bank check or cash. No credit cards accepted. While waiting, the office started to fill up as over a dozen people appeared to submit their applications.
Vietnam Visa By Mail
If I had planned in advance and applied by mail, there were two options: send your entire passport with one photo, the payment and a return envelope or make a color copy of your passport page and send two photos. In both cases you also needed to send the application and applicable payment. The nice thing about the second option is there’s no concern over your passport getting lost, instead they return a loose-leaf visa that you carry in your passport instead of it being affixed inside your passport.
We took our own photos at home in front of the wall and use the kiosk at CVS to print the pictures. It’s a pretty simple process where you download the Kodak kiosk software and upload your image for printing. Otherwise a CVS employee can just take your photo and print it for you. Either way it’s $12.95 for two passport photos.
Vietnam Visa On Arrival (VOA)
Our other option would have been to get a visa on arrival once we arrived in Vietnam. As James previously reported visa on arrival would have been $135 cash on arrival. During our trip, I spoke with another US citizen that arrived on January 19, 2017 and he said he paid the $135 in cash and had to wait about 45 minutes in the arrivals hall for it to be issued. I’m glad we did it ahead of time so as to not wait in the arrivals area after a long flight — if only I hadn’t procrastinated and wasted that rush fee!
Edit: In the comments of this post, some people report still been able get the $25 VOA (plus the cost of the letter of approval) since the price changes started in October 2016. Any reports before October 2016 don’t really help as this is a recent change. The person I talked to was only not allowed to select the cheaper option and was forced to pay $135. Other reports online indicate the same. It seems you may or may not be able to get the $25 VOA but it’s a gamble. Please let me know additional data points in the comments.
If you’re applying, I’d suggest calling the embassy you are mailing your application to and confirming the current rates. But overall it was a simple process.