For any number of reasons, travellers or expats in Vietnam may find themselves in a situation when they have to extend their visa or perhaps even overstayed their visa. The good news is that it can be done, but the bad news is that not everyone can. It will depend on how you entered the country in the first place.
In this article, I’ll cover what exactly a visa extension is, who can get extensions on their Vietnam visa, as well as the various options you’ll have for doing that. I have personally done visa extensions in Vietnam before. Some of the rules have changed since COVID, though, so I’ve recently updated this article to reflect the latest rules.
What is a Visa Extension?
As the name suggests, a visa extension means that your visa will be extended so that you can stay in Vietnam longer. Moreover, it means that you won’t have to leave the country and re-enter (a.k.a. do a “visa run”) in order to stay longer.
For tourists, you will be able to extend your stay for one month. For business visas, it could be one or three months. It’s important to note that the extension will be for single entry only (i.e. you won’t be able to leave Vietnam and re-enter with that visa).
The visa extension usually takes 5-7 days, so it’s best to do this about a week BEFORE your original visa runs out. Once you get the extension, an additional stamp with a new exit date will be added to your passport.
Which Types of Visa Can Be Extended?
Unfortunately, not every type of visa can be extended. According to current Vietnam entry requirements, those who entered Vietnam without the need for a visa (see which countries are eligible for this here) or those who arranged their visas through an embassy will be able to get an extension.
However, those who entered Vietnam on an eVisa (currently the most popular choice) actually won’t be able to get a visa extension from inside the country. So if you entered Vietnam on an eVisa and want to stay longer, your only option is to leave the country and re-enter with a new visa. In other words, you’ll need to do a visa run.
Extending your Visa without Leaving
As long as you have a visa that can be extended (i.e. NOT an eVISA), then you can do your Vietnam visa extension without leaving the country. The simplest way to do this is through a travel agent.
In order to get the extension, your passport will need to be valid for at least two months and it will need to have at least two empty pages.
Which is cheaper or easier?
Between doing a visa run or applying for an extension, the price is almost the same. Of course that will vary depending on how far you have to travel on the visa run, how long you go, and so on.
By the key difference is that extending your visa without leaving Vietnam is a lot less hassle.
When doing a visa run, you will have to pay for a visa to the country you are running to, pay for accommodation, meals, transportation. While if you decide to fly, the flight ticket prices are harder to predict than bus tickets. If hiring a travel agent to do it for you, there will be a hefty fee, but for some people, the fee justifies the trouble saved.
Another thing to consider is that some travellers have reported experiencing some interrogation when doing their visa run by air, although this is an infrequent scenario.
How much does it cost?
Unfortunately I can’t give exact numbers here. The costs for a visa extension vary according to several factors. These include your nationality, what kind of visa you originally had, how long of an extension you want. The prices are always changing, and different travel agencies may charge different prices.
However, it’s safe to say that a Vietnam visa extension is going to cost you at least US$100.
Doing a Visa Run
Visa runs are a very common and popular thing to do among travelers and foreign residents in Vietnam. It is a relatively quick and simple way to extend your time in Vietnam, and you can even make a little trip or holiday out of it.
In this way, you can either obtain a visa invitation letter before you leave Vietnam or you can apply for a visa in the country you visit (either through the embassy or a travel agency).
If you are good at finding cheap flights, or if your budget permits, you can consider Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, and the Philippines for your visa run.
There are even buses run by travel agencies in Vietnam which operate exclusively for taking foreigners to the border of Laos or Cambodia to do their visa run. You can see them advertised in popular tourist areas.
REMEMBER: You can’t use an invitation letter through the land border unless you get it from a travel agency and ask them to specify the border name on the letter.
If you plan to do a visa-run via a land border, you can either go to Cambodia or Laos. But one thing to note: unless you have a passport from Southeast Asian or other Asian countries, there is a big chance you will have to pay for a visa to enter either of those countries (usually around $35-$40). Do your research before going so you don’t have any big surprises.
Next, decide if you will get the new Vietnam visa through a travel agency in Vietnam (you’ll need to specific which border so you can get the invitation letter from, which you’ll need to show when coming back in), a visa from the Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate in Laos or Cambodia, or through a travel agent in Cambodia or Laos.
You can also get an evisa online here or here. However, you have to make sure that you specify the right border. Also note you can only get a maximum of 30 days and that kind of visa can’t be extended.
If get your new Vietnam visa through an Embassy or travel agent outside Vietnam, you will not need to pay for stamp, fee since you will get the visa sticker right on your passport.
If you go through an invitation letter, you will have to pay the stamp fee when you go through the immigration. For eVisa, you won’t need to pay this fee. See the below table for an estimate on these fees.
With air travel, you can go to a country where you don’t need a visa to enter. Doing this, you can easily apply for an invitation letter before leaving, or just apply for a Vietnam eVisa online, since these two are very common and easy to do for those coming through airports.
If there is a Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate in your visa run country, you can also apply for a visa there.
How much will the new visa cost?
Here are some general costs for the new Vietnam visa you’ll be getting before coming back in. Please note that these prices and durations sometimes change.
|365 days |
*available to US citizens only
*only certain nationalities can apply for this
Bus Options to the Land Borders
If you decide to cross a land border instead, here are the main routes and borders you can cross:
|Ho Chi Minh City||Siem Reap (Cambodia)||Moc Bai, Bin Hiep, Dinh Ba||$8|
|Hanoi||Luang Prabang (Laos)||Nam Canh||$40|
|Hue, Hoi An, Da Nang,||Vientiane (Laos)||Lao Bao|
You can find bus tickets for these routes on 12GO
How to use the new visa (returning by air)
If you decide to do a border run, you can choose to get your new visa invitation letter from a travel agency or obtain the actual visa from the embassy (of the country where you went for the border run). You can also get an invitation letter from a travel agency before leaving Vietnam and get the stamped sticker when you enter again.
Here’s how to do it:
- Secure your visa invitation letter from a travel agency or online before you leave or simply leave the country and find a travel agency in the country of your border run.
- If you already have the letter, present this at the person-in-charge when you cross the border back to Vietnam. If you prefer to get the sticker visa, just let your travel agency or the embassy to do this.
- If you use an invitation letter, you have to pay $25 or $50 for the sticker at the border.
Note: Invitation letters can only be used when arriving at major airports. You need to get the actual visa if you are crossing the border by land unless you find an agency in Vietnam that will address the invitation letter to the specific land border.
How to use the new visa (returning by land)
If you don’t want to do your visa run by air, you can do this by land as well. It’s probably the easiest and cheapest way to do it. Doing the visa this way will get you a visa sticker right away (not an invitation letter), which you can use when crossing a land border. Here’s the step by step guide:
1. Take a bus from Vietnam to the neighbouring country:
- If coming from Ho Chi Minh City, you may want to go to Phnom Penh, Cambodia (4-6 hour bus ride)
- If coming from Hanoi, you may want to go to Luang Prabang, Laos (27-30 hour bus ride, yes you read that correctly!)
- If you are coming from Hoi An, you can go to Pakse (8-12 hour bus ride)
2. Go to a travel agency or the consulate or embassy of Vietnam
- In Phnom Penh, there are many travel agencies in tourists areas. I personally went to Lucky! Lucky! Moto Shop and Visa.
- If going to Luang Prabang, there is a Vietnamese consulate you can go to and get the visa sticker – read more about it here.
- Use your new visa when re-entering Vietnam.
Price and costs of the new visa sticker
The visa prices depend on where you are applying from. The visa cost should be cheaper from the embassy or consulate but sometimes can take longer and require some hassles in getting the requirements together. While going through the agencies will ease the entire process.