Why You Shouldn’t Overstay Your Vietnamese Visa

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“Please come this way.”

The young immigration officer ushered me towards an open door, his immaculately-polished shoes squeaking slightly on the waxed airport floor.

“Is there a problem?” I asked, as innocently as possible.

“Maybe. Maybe not.” The officer’s face gave nothing away, but I already suspected that my afternoon was about to get a whole lot worse.

A few minutes later, it did.

It all started when I’d arrived in Ho Chi Minh City four weeks earlier, walking across that same polished floor. With the flight landing around dinner time and after the usual hour of lining up for an arrival visa, my mind was set firmly on a cold beer and a steaming hot bowl of pho.

It wasn’t until I was in the taxi on the way to my hotel that I happened to open my passport.

“Wait. That’s not right,” I muttered, peering closely at the full-page sticker in the dim light. “It’s only 28 days!”

Vietnamese tourist visas come in five variations: 15, 30, or 90 days, with the latter having single or multiple entry options. I knew that from my last visit less than six months earlier, and had even double-checked both my old visa and the new official approval letter before booking my onward flight. For thirty days after I arrived.

Somebody in that little visa office at the airport had made what would turn out to be a rather costly mistake.

With a non-transferable ticket, it would have cost several hundred dollars to move my departure date forward a couple of days. Figuring that there had to be a better way, I asked my local friends for suggestions. No matter who I posed the question to, the answer was the same.

Don’t worry about it.

Stories abounded of travellers overstaying by a day or two. Most of the time, they received a dirty look or a stern warning not to do it again. Worst case scenario: an on-the-spot fine of around $25.

That was about half the price of a visa extension, and given that my “overstaying” was caused by an error by immigration officials in the first place, the general consensus was that there wouldn’t be a problem at all.

Now, as much as I love Southeast Asia (spoiler: a lot), that affection doesn’t usually extend to border officials. Underpaid and a law unto themselves, rules tend to be flexible to say the least.

Fortunately, one of my friends knew someone who knew someone in the immigration department. Contacts are everything, and Vietnam is no exception. If anyone could give me a definite answer, surely they could.

After a few minutes on the phone and plenty of rapid-fire Vietnamese, the answer came back: any more than two days would be a problem, but you’ll be ok. A small fine at best.

If only that had turned out to be true.

Plane at airport, sunset

I turned up at the airport well ahead of time, with a copy of my visa authorisation letter and around thirty dollars worth of Vietnamese dong in my wallet. Surely that would be enough?

After reading online that it was best to sort out any visa issues before trying to go through passport control, I told my story to the agent at the check-in counter. He also didn’t think there would be a problem, but suggested talking to an officer at a nearby desk just to make sure.

And so it was that I found myself being led through that open door in the immigration hall and ushered into an office. Seated behind the desk was another uniformed official, the stripes on his shoulder confirming what his aura of authority had already suggested: this was the man in charge.

On a nearby chair sat an upset backpacker, her red face and exasperated expression telling of a lengthy argument that I’d just interrupted. Oh great. If she’d been there for a while with no success, my chances of getting out without incident weren’t looking good.

“So why did you overstay your visa?”

With the relaxed expression of someone with power and all the time in the world, the officer leaned back in his seat and gazed at me. “Don’t you know that’s a serious offence?”

“Indeed I do, sir, and I’m very sorry” I replied. “Unfortunately there was a small mistake made when I entered Vietnam, and one of your colleagues accidentally put the wrong date on my visa sticker. See, here’s the authorisation letter, and here’s my previous visa for 30 days, and here’s my current visa for only 28 days. My flight was already booked, and I couldn’t change it, so…..”

My voice trailed off as he pushed himself back from his desk.

“You overstayed your visa,” he snapped. “You need to pay the fine.”

“Even though I should have been given 30 days?”

“That doesn’t matter. When did you find out that the visa had the wrong date?”

“About five minutes after leaving the airport.”

He smirked widely. “You should have checked when you got your passport back. That was your mistake.”

We went back and forwards a little longer, but he wasn’t going to budge. I was going to pay some money to leave the country. The only question now was the amount.

AirAsia wing

“How much?!”

Now it was my turn to stare. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

“Two million dong.”

At approximately $100, this was far more than I’d ever heard of anyone paying for overstaying by a couple of days. Almost certain the rest of the money was going into the official’s pocket, I protested that the usual rate was 200,000 dong per day.

“The fine went up at the start of the year. Two million dong for up to 15 days, five million after that.”

I asked to see the official memo that outlined the new system. There wasn’t one. I asked if I would get a receipt for paying the fine. Of course I wouldn’t. Was there anyone else I could talk to about this? No.

Pulling out my wallet, I took all the cash I was carrying out and placed it on the desk.

“I don’t have that kind of money. Can I just give you what I have?”

He slowly flicked through the notes — around 600,000 dong and a few dollars in Australian currency — before looking back at me.

“No. You need to pay it all.”

“What happens if I can’t?”, I asked.

“Then you don’t get on your plane.”

Five minutes later, I walked dejectedly back through the immigration hall. After telling the official I had no more cash, he’d escorted me out the door and pointed towards a distant ATM. “Use a credit card. Get the money out. You need to pay somehow.”

I toyed with the idea of waiting a little while, then trying my luck at passport control anyway. It seemed appealing, but if I’d been sent back to that same official after trying to sneak out without paying, I expected a $100 “fine” would quickly have become the least of my worries.

Grudgingly withdrawing the cash, I returned to the office and handed it over. Placing the large wad of notes into a filing cabinet, the officer asked me to sign a document in Vietnamese, wrote something in my passport, and then broke into a smile for the first time since I’d met him.

“You’re lucky. This is the first time you have overstayed your visa, so you will still be allowed to come back into Vietnam.”

“Thanks”, I replied, “but I think I’ll go somewhere else next time.”

The grin disappeared from his face. “Why?” he asked. “Don’t you like Vietnam?”

I stood up and headed for the door.

“Actually,” I said over my shoulder, “up until an hour ago, it was one of the countries I loved most in the world.”

Have you ever overstayed your visa? What happened when you did?

74 Responses to “Why You Shouldn’t Overstay Your Vietnamese Visa

  • I’m sorry to hear about this, Dave. I guess one thing traveling teaches you is that no matter how big the gaffe, 1) it’s never the government’s fault, and 2) a large chunk of change will generally solve the problem (at least in Asia). You are not the first person I’ve read about who had the wrong dates stamped on their visa—it happened to a friend of ours recently, too. Did you apply for yours at a consulate/embassy, or do the online visa process? We’ve done the online visa twice, and never had a problem. Obviously that’s not any real proof, but since those visas wind up being issued at the airport, I suspect they are far likely to be correct since they are issued on the spot and if the dates are wrong, that is a WHOLE lot of people walking around with wrong dates.

    I hope you do go back to Vietnam some day and don’t let this (admittedly terrible) experience completely sour you on the country. As you point out, this kind of corruption is rampant pretty much everywhere in South East Asia.

    • Yeah, it’s one of the reasons that I just don’t like dealing with officialdom anywhere in the world — it’s always your problem, even when it’s not your fault. I actually went through the online visa approval — this was about the fourth time I’ve used it, and had never had a problem before now. Your comment about a lot of people walking around with the wrong dates was likely correct — Lauren also had the wrong date on her visa, but as her flight out was a couple of days before mine, she dodged that particular bullet.

      Don’t worry, it hasn’t really put me off Vietnam — I’ve had shitty border crossings in most other SE Asian countries too, and it doesn’t stop me coming back. It was just a grumpy comment to a greedy official. Almost everyone else I’ve met in Vietnam has been absolutely lovely — and hey, as if I could go without perfect bowls of pho and amazing coffee for the rest of my life! 😉

    • Obviously you don’t get it STEPH (@ 20 YEARS HENCE)…It is not too much about the 2 days Visa rip off from the Immigration, as much is about the outrage corruption and illegal fees ( bribes) for overstay, extension visa or any other visa in Vietnam..No other country in the world the custom corruption is as bad as in vn.

      Oh , and MAYA you sound like a dominant prick, so I think you should be hang up by the balls for about a week , so you can learn how to talk more politely and keep your “unlimited knowledge ” of Asia to yourself.

  • I always forget to check my passport has the correct stamp from immigration but luckily nothing has gone wrong for me yet *touch wood*. I guess the moral of the story is to always remember to check your passport! Or be prepared to pay a fine/bribe…

    • Yep, it’s the kind of thing that it’s definitely easy to get complacent about after you’ve been travelling for a while, because it’s almost always correct. Except, y’know, when it isn’t…

  • I overstayed my visa in Thailand only because it was cheaper to pay the penalty than to do the visa run…I didn’t have any issues. I paid the penalty and was on my way. I wonder if you had just gone through passport control if the same thing would have happened.

    • In hindsight, that’s probably what I should have done. Then again, there’s probably not really a ‘right answer’ — so much depends on the whim of the person you happen to speak to on the day.

    • Thailand used to be like that. Not anymore.

      Starting in a few weeks, Thai immigration will give anyone who overstays by 90 days or longer a one year ban from visiting Thailand. More than a year overstay, will be at least a 3 year ban. And on and on.

      Thai tourist visas are also now being scrutinized, and if you have more than one tourist visa chances are you’ll be turned away at the airport starting August 12th and not allowed to enter the country. Read posts on Thai Visa dot com if you need more info. They’re keeping up on the situation but it’s getting very bad here for tourists since the military junta took control.

      I’ve lived in Thailand for 12 years as it’s a very tourist friendly country. Not anymore.

      That’s why many tourists, particularly backpackers or digital nomads who may stay a few months, are now starting to avoid Thailand. I’m leaving next week after 12 years. It’s become a country very unwelcoming to many tourists and not a place i want to spend my money anymore. Malaysia is going to be my next port of call for a few months. Lovely place, fabulous people and they love welcoming long-stay tourists.

      • Thailand used to be like what? You can still overstay by a few days and pay a 500 baht/day fine when you leave — that hasn’t changed, and you won’t be banned for it (currently, at least).

        I’m in Thailand at the moment, and definitely aware of the change in approach by immigration officials (both now, and next month when they come fully into force). Note that I say change in approach, not change in law — the rules haven’t changed, they’re just being more strictly interpreted than in the past. I have to ask, though — what visa have you been on for the last 12 years? If it’s not a tourist visa, the recent changes won’t affect you. If it is, then it’s pretty hard to make a case that you’re a tourist after over a decade in Thailand, no?

        I wouldn’t agree that “many tourists” are avoiding Thailand, as most tourists won’t be affected by this at all. Digital nomads and long term, multi-entry backpackers who have half a dozen entry/exit stamps in their passports aren’t the majority of visitors to the country, or even close to it.

        Even though it will affect me personally, I don’t actually have an issue with a stricter interpretation of what a ‘tourist’ looks in Thailand. The only issue I have is that there is a lack of consistency between consulates (who will happily issue tourist visas to anyone, because it makes them money) and immigration officials (who’ll then turn people with those tourist visas away if they have “too many” (whatever that means) in/out stamps in their passport. If the rules were changed to something like ‘no more than 90 days as a tourist in a calendar year’ (or whatever number you prefer), it’d be a much clearer process and less prone to interpretation at the border.

  • Garhhhhh how frustrating! It’s such a shame when things like this happen, having government officials treat you like that can leave a particularly bad taste in one’s mouth. I’m glad you were able to somewhat separate the experience from your overall impression of the country.

    • Yeah — I think I was more frustrated at the fact that I knew I was being scammed, he knew that I knew I was being scammed, but there was nothing I could do about it. I was happy to pay a small fine even though the ‘overstay’ wasn’t my fault, but 5x the going rate? Yeah, that’s an issue….

  • This almost happened to me. Based on your experience, I’m glad it didn’t. I booked flights into and out of Vietnam 30 days apart. But the 30-day visa was really a 29-day visa because it was set to expire the same date the next month even though February was a short month.

    I had to change plans for another reason. I thought the extra day would have been fine but now know better. Thanks for the heads up.

  • Catherine
    7 years ago

    Ah, this sucks! I guess it could have been a lot worse though, at least you’re free to enter the country again in the future 🙂

  • Was the rise in fines real, or did he scam you?

    • Nobody I spoke to, including those with contacts in immigration, had heard of an increase in the fines for visa overstays. Even now, nine months later, I can’t see anything online that talks about it. So… I’ve got no idea of the truth of the matter, but the fact that he had no documentation that he was willing to show me on the subject suggests that it could well have been a scam.

  • This is the kind of thing that freaks me out about travelling, especially in Asia where rules are not only broken but seemingly allowed to be broken by whoever feels like it. Glad you got through relatively unscathed despite the money – I think it’s more sad that it’s tainted your experience slightly :/

    • Yeah, it’s an unfortunate reality (and sadly not just in Asia, either — it’s equally rife in many parts of Africa and Central America. Anywhere where pay is poor and corruption is widespread, really). It doesn’t put me off, but it’s frustrating and often expensive to deal with. I still love Vietnam… just not the people at the border. 🙂

  • Francesca
    7 years ago

    My little sister overstayed her Aussie WHV by a week. She was flying out of Sydney after NYE and her flight was $500 cheaper the week after she should have left (oh, and it was my birthday that week too!). She was taken in to a scary room with a scary man, cried all over him that there was no way she could possibly have left me all alone on my birthday; she was let go with nothing more than a sigh from the immigration man and a promise from her that she wouldn’t do it again!

  • So if you’re down to your last few dollars and you REALLY don’t have the cash to pay does anyone have any idea what they would do? You miss your flight and just go on living in Vietnam forever as a street person?

    • You’d hope they’d let you away with it — although you’d probably have to show them that none of your cards worked to withdraw money. It’d be pretty unusual for someone about to fly to Melbourne (as I was) to not have $100 to their name… hell, it’s close to 20 bucks just to take the bus from the airport to downtown… but you could always try to convince the immigration guy anyway.

      Of course, you are technically breaking the law, and I don’t know how things work in Vietnam — can you be thrown in jail if you’re unable to pay the fine? Seems unlikely, but not impossible…

  • Wow this really scares me, I have been in Vietnam for 6 months, i arrived on a 30 day visa extended it twice and then was 200 usd for a 60 day visa which was extended again for 60 usd. I went to the visa place in phra ngu lao today to inquire about another extension and they called their visa person and told me I had to pay 130 usd because I arrived, but did not leave the country when i received my 60 day even though I asked numerous agencies and the vietnamese staff at my school about the 60 day. Hopefully I won’t have to pay more when I leave in December.

    • I hope you’re ok — it really does seem like a lot will depend on who you end up talking to at immigration!

  • I overstayed in Thailand once. I made the mistake of not checking the stamp at all and did not realize I overstayed until catching my flight out. I overstayed by 12 days, and was charged 600 baht per day, so it ended up costing me about $225 usd. I luckily saved a bit of cash that I brought with me, if I had not, I probably would’ve been thrown in Thai jail, because I lost my ATM card about 2 weeks prior.

  • I overstayed 2 days and they asked for 1 Million yesterday. He was so friendly, so I told him I spent all my $$$$ in their country from North to South. Now I have very less money. And I am from Singapore so don’t expect USD from me. I said I have some Dong and I can give it to him. I tried to settle it for 500 K and finally he was fine with paying 700 K Dong to clear the immigration. I just consider it as a experience for close to 43 SGD. It is nice to see an Immigration officer arranges priority baggage security checks for you and waving his hands to send you off 😛

    • Who would have thought that ‘official’ fine was both inconsistent and negotiable, hey? 😉

  • Well, here I sit in Hanoi with a visa that expires 4 days before my flight.
    I was totally stupid though, before I came I looked up visa on arrival and all the sites said that was how to get a visa, however I never opened up any web sites, so I didn’t know you needed a letter of approval first. I went to Mynamar first, then on to Laos, when at the airport checking in they wouldn’t let me board the plane without a visa. The airline official took my passport and 150. dollars and went to the Vietnam embassy and got me a visa…….but it’s a typical Lao visa, only good for 15 days. I went to immigration here in Hanoi and the offical was very stern, NO that visa cannot be extended – I have to leave the country and come back to get a tourist visa.
    I need to pay 50. dollars to change my flights, so I’ll be going early.

    • Ouch! $150 for a 15 day visa that can’t be extended! I don’t even know what sort of visa that is — you shouldn’t have been able to get anything less than a 30 day tourist visa, at least as far as I was aware, regardless of who was arranging it. An expensive exercise. 🙁

  • It’s called a D visa, guess I should have gotten a C visa. Don’t know if Lao screwed us or what….but the D must stand for dumb. Geeezzz, all the traveling I have done, this takes the cake! Lao was easy on arrival, so is Cambodia. Hopefully your blog will help someone else in the future!
    My first thought when discovering that my visa would expire was to ignor it – go to the airport – and leave….but the immigration officier was so nasty I am glad I didn’t do that….I’d probably be sitting in the Hanoi Hilton (if you are old enough to know what I mean).

    • Fortunately or otherwise, I am old enough to know what you mean 😉 Yeah, I wouldn’t be messing around with Vietnamese immigration either, they really just aren’t any fun to be dealing with at all.

  • Oliver Hassan
    6 years ago

    Hi, currently in Vietnam right now… me and my mate have the exact same problem as Fred, only realised 2 days ago. We booked our flights 30 days apart but, I guess, because it’s February they’ve only given us a 29 day visa, 1 day too short. Our flight out on March 3rd is fairly early in the morning so we were thinking we could get away with checking in online and then trying to get through passport control the night before… Just wanted to know what others thought of this idea? You reckon it could work?

    • It might work — my girlfriend did the same thing with a flight leaving around 3am, and got nothing except a dirty look. Your limitation will be what time check-in opens for your flight — even if you’re checked in online, I doubt you’re going to be able to get through without getting a boarding pass and your passports verified by airline staff for an international flights, and especially not if you’ve got bags to check in.

  • Just got a Vietnam visa from the embassy in Bangkok. I thought it was going to be for one month but it only was 30 days. Because March has 31 days, I am stuck by one day. I could leave on the date given but my airline ticket is for one day after. I was told at the embassy in Bkk that there was nothing they could do and I have to take care of this matter in Vietnam. After reading your tale, I am loathe to try an overstay. Should I bring it to the attention of the immigration official when I land? Get a visa extension at the office near Pham ngu lao? How much should that run?
    I really don’t want to come home one day early because I live in Pattaya and am trying to avoid Songkran on Apr. 19.

    • You can definitely try to bring it to the attention of the immigration person at the airport, but I suspect they’ll tell you there’s nothing they can do about it since it’s already in your passport with the date printed/written on it.

      Given the grief I had, the only advice I can really give is to get a visa extension from an agent/the office in Pham Ngu Lao. I don’t know what it costs these days — I was quoted around $50 or so from an agent at the time. Look on the upside — you can stay longer in Saigon and totally avoid everything to do with Songkran. 😉

  • well from what I read(Vietnam immigration law) you are fine for over staying your visa by 48hrs no fines what so ever. About the fines for over staying your visa by more than 48hrs are. 500,000 – 2,000,000 for 15 days or less depends on the circumstances. 2,000,000 – 5,000,000 for 16 days and above.
    Found this out while lying in bed at my hotel in Vietnam with a 1 month expired tourist visa.

    • Yeah, that sounds about right. It’s just a shame the law isn’t always followed, hey? Even without the mistake on the visa, I still overstayed by less than 48 hours.

  • What a crap article wining about being expected to comply with a country’s laws, and what a load of crap bullshit comments thinking this is all terrible. If all of you are as regular travelers as you pretend to be, then it should be no surprise to know that regardless of the authorization of any kind of visa it is ALWAYS at the discretion of the migration officer in charge to decide whether or not to give the full amount of days, and sad or unfair as you might think it is, ofcourse it’s your fault for not checking the dates right away when getting your passport. And then you even have the nerve to start arguing with the guy? Jesus, it appears you are first time travellers, typical arrogant western brads — anywhere in Australia, the EU or U.S. you would have been given a HUGE fine AND then deported with a ban. Why are you complaining about wonderful tourist-friendly countries doing exactly the same? Because they finally start getting pissed off that cheap Western back packers show zero respect for their laws? If you think Thailand and Vietnam are so awful, then you should travel only to other overly organized Western countries… ah, I almost forgot, these countries are of course not as cheap as Thailand and Vietnam. Shame on you all, you have a terrible arrogant attitude problem, you should be banned from going to these countries unless you are willing to respect their laws.

    • Thanks so much for your friendly, polite and well-reasoned comment, Maya — it’s always good to have such lovely people stop by the site. :/

      I didn’t think there was much whining (or ‘wining’) in this post — the title was “Why You Shouldn’t Overstay Your Vietnamese Visa”, not “Why My Life Is So Hard”, after all. I don’t disagree that the responsibility is always on the traveller to check their visa details on arrival — that’s why I mentioned it in the post. As I wrote in the article, when I did realise the dates were wrong, I made several enquiries about how to deal with the situation. As it turned out, on the day in question at least, the advice I was given turned out to be wrong. My “argument” with the official was much more about the size of the fine/bribe, and the lack of evidence he had for charging such a high amount.

      Your point about Australia, the EU or US is misguided — I’ve never experienced or heard of anybody accidentally being given the wrong dates on their visas in any of these countries/regions, and the article is about Vietnam, not anywhere else.

      I may be many things, but a ‘first time traveller’ and ‘typical arrogant western brad’ (or brat) is pretty wide of the mark. I’ve spent years travelling in SE Asia, and I’m heading back to Vietnam again (for the second time after writing this post) next week. Apparently I don’t think “Thailand and Vietnam are so awful”… in fact, I’ve never said anything of the sort. Read any of the dozens of posts I’ve written about how much I love these countries before unleashing your bile next time, hey?

    • MAYA you sound like a dominant prick, so I think you should be hang up by the balls for about a week , so you can learn how to talk more politely and keep your “unlimited knowledge ” of Asia to yourself.

    • Vietnamrocks
      2 years ago

      Calm down em. Let’s be clear:

      1) Money = the law in Vietnam. You can pretty get away with anything in Vietnam if you have money unless you upset someone high up in the government food chain, which would devalue the face of the country. If the locals cheat the law every day, then I would not expect foreigners to follow the law either.

      2) It goes both ways for Asians visiting foreign countries. With the exception of Korea, Japan and Singapore; I would say most pacific and SE Asian tourists are quite primitive when it comes to following western etiquette.

      3) Speaking of arrogance, it’s quite hypocritical for you to say, because Viets are probably more arrogant in general compared to most Westerners because we don’t give two cents about anything unless it is related to saving face, family or friends.

      So there’s no shame on either side, to be honest. The guy paid his coffee money and the officer got an early Tet gift from the tourist…

      As for Dave – just remember. Just carry a bit more cash next time, because it’s better to pay $100 to get out of a problem than creating a huge issue. If it gets too serious, you can contact your local embassy or consulate, because the last thing these officials want to do is escalate the problem to their superiors. Because Consulate/Embassy problems = no coffee money for the local officials :).

  • Thanks for the great article! We’re on a motorbike trip from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi. We’re in Da Nang today and are needing to extend our visas here. Wasn’t sure if it was worth extending or just paying a fine… but your article was all we needed to read! If it wasn’t a Sunday we’d be headed over to the office now!

  • What an instructive and helpful article, and enhanced by many of the comments, especially the indignant one calling you names. I will check my visa dates from now on before I leave the customs area. I was surprised that a saavy guy like you would argue with the authorities, as I’m sure you would generally advise your friends not to do that. I like the happy ending that you did not stay away from Vietnam despite your hurt feelings in the moment. It is a beautiful testament to the draw of these wonderful people in their magic land. That experience with the customs director will probably prove to be one of the more important expierences in this phase of your life. I’ll bet as you walked away he thought to himself “Dave will be back, he’s hooked on us”.

    • Yeah, it’s definitely rare that I bother arguing with immigration officials. I guess in this case I had a misguided hope that because it looked like a genuine mistake, there might be a positive outcome. Should have known better!

  • I overstayed my Vietnam visa by a couple of days. My fiancee, her father and I had ride our scooters a hour to pick up a blank form and then ride another hour to another town. We bribed the police with money and beer to fill out the form. We then took the 8 hour back to HCM city. We spent several hours waiting for an official to, literally, throw a 3 day temporary visa in my face and snarl,”Come back in 3 days.” You have to realize that most officials are from the North and many have some hatred to Westerners.

  • Nhu Quynh Dang
    5 years ago

    Great article by the way!
    I’m so sorry for your experiences in Vietnam. I guess all the immigrations in all the countries are really strict when it comes to overstay your visa even by one day.
    Please don’t think badly about our country. I know the immigration is harsh but the citizens are not bad at all. I have been to Australia for a student visa and graduated Uni there. Once I applied for another partner visa and got refused because my husband forgot to put my name on his initial visa but I didn’t receive the refused email letter and I have no idea what happened until I asked the immigration why my result took so long. They talked to me like “well, we sent you the result ages ago, you overstay your visa by one week? I don’t care. It’s your fault for not receiving the email, it’s your fault for not asking us” and received the 3 years ban.
    Once when i came to Bali for holiday, the immigration doesn’t allow couples to go and check the passport together and yell at us and we thought it’s the same in Australia when couples can come together.
    Vietnam is indeed a beautiful country I must say 🙂 Despite some ignorant people but I guess they’re everywhere not only Asian countries.

  • Franziska
    5 years ago

    Dave, so grateful you have answered a question for me. I’ve a visa that expires on 21.8 and a flight arriving on the evening of 20.8. I’ve either got to extend my visa or get into Cambodia by 21.8.
    Thanks a million for sharing this horrible story.,so that others don’t hace to suffer.
    And well written too!

  • Pritesh Makwana
    5 years ago

    Hey! This was a great read…do you reckon I would be OK if I overstay by 30 minutes? My flight back to London is at 00.30am and was thinking I might be OK if I get through passport control on the last day of the visa because by the time it’s midnight I’ll be on the plane??

    • Obviously I can’t guarantee anything, but based on my girlfriend’s experience (who had a flight at 3am the day after her visa expired and got nothing more than a dirty look,) you’ll hopefully be ok. Be at the front of the check-in line when it opens, and get past border control as quickly as possible!

      • callistus
        3 years ago

        can I extend my social visa… for 3momths

        • Having never had a social visa, I’ve got no idea. You’ll need to check with immigration.

  • SH__! I just came through the immigration into Vietnam after spending 6 mos in India. Internet was nearly impossible to access in the Indian Himalaya so info on the Vietnam visa was jumbled in my mind as I made my way to Delhi for the flight. They mentioned the ‘letter’ as I checked in but I said they give a visa upon arrival and they allowed me to continue boarding. When I got to Vietnam after an overnight flight through Kuala Lumpur I was exhausted from lack of sleep and the trip to Delhi from the Himalayas. When they asked for that letter I said I am getting the visa on arrival. They said I had to have that letter. Then they sent some travel agent to talk to me. She said it was 140.usd to get a visa. I said then I would look ingot flying to Cambodia. I had no way to access the internet which they said the airport didn’t have. Another official came to talk to me and he looked up the cost of the flight and said it was 156.usd. My intention was to avoid all the visa costs by stopping in Cambodia ot Thailand and going overland to Vietnam. SO here I was in Hanoi thinking I could get the VOA and being asked to pay 140.usd for a visa. I had 100.usd in cash with me and some Indian rupees. I asked if I could just get a two days visa and I would go overland and leave the country but they just kept saying 140.usd.
    I was so exhausted and just wanted to sleep so I just decided to hand over the 100.usd cash. The guy took it and wanted the other 40. but my visa card wouldn’t work to get it in Dong. He took the money and came back with a 30 days visa. I had asked if a two weeks visa would be cheaper and he said they cost the same. Then he said for the other 40.usd we would have to go to the ATM outside near the baggage area. When we went there I was able to withdraw the cash but when I look back on that, I was an idiot and should have just put in the wrong code and told him I couldn’t get it. I stupidly gave it too the guy. The thing is we were done after he came back with the 30 day visa. I was somehow worried about him having to pay the extra 40.usd That was really stupid because he wouldn’t have had to do that. He would have just let it go. I accept it that I was an idiot through the whole experience and should have just said I want to talk to my embassy, the us embassy. They then could explain to me what is the right procedure and what is the actual fine if any. Apparently the French and Italian get a 2 weeks visa for free but not Americans. Gee I wonder why. I am ok paying my dues for the bombing that my country perpetrated upon such a beautiful country and all the weapons that were tested in the jungles of Vietnam but still 140.usd for a visa. Ok, lets say 100.usd, the 40. was my utter stupidity. But still @*&%!!! That was all my usd, also my fault and stupidity. I should never have admitted to having that and just said I have 50.usd and paid them that. I probably would have gotten the 2 weeks visa. It’s only been about 6 days since entering the country and I am still getting over the visa debacle. But I have to say Vietnam at least in the North is indeed a gorgeous country from the seat of a scooter. And the Hmong a warm and lovely, rugged mountain people. I have 3 more weeks so if I continue to be amazed with Vietnam then the 140.usd will fade and I will almost be able to just take it as a lesson (which I already know) to really pay attention when I read something about needing a letter upon arrival. However, I still think that I might have waited it out in the airport a little longer until I knew for sure that I would have to pay at least 100.usd and not the 140. Besides I would have had to pay 40.usd anyway for the letter and actual visa. Don’t let yourself get into this position, it really can put a wrench into your journeying. NOw I have to find usd maybe from other travelers in Hanoi, to make the overland crossing into Cambodia or fly out. The point of this journey was to see Vietnam as a kind of pilgrimage as an American. I guess I am really paying my dues. The French who colonised Vietnam for over a hundred years are not being penalised, they didn’t however, drop hundreds of tons of bombs and Agent Orange on the people and countryside either though. As an aside, Vietnam is soo beautiful as far as I much as I have seen so far that I find it hard to understand how anyone could come to a country they hardly understand and drop those kind of weapons(napalm, agent Orange, frag bombs etc.) on this beautiful piece of earth. And I protested the war in my last years at uni being tear gassed to stop it!

  • Hi, please help us or offer advice as we are so scared…! We arrived in Vietnam on 10th Dec and are currently in Phan Thiet until 23rd Dec and then move to Ho Chi Minh where we get our flight back to the UK on 27th Dec. We weren’t given any advice when we booked our trip (with a well known online company) and found out that our visa expires on 25th so we’ll be overstaying by 2 days.
    I emailed the Vietnamese Embassy but they have told me to ask our present hotel for help. Our hotel (reputable and 4 star) have said they can get ‘a man’ to arrange this BUT we need to give him our passports for up to 6 days. We’re so worried about doing this – we really feel uncomfortable about surrendering our passports.
    I was wondering if we should just arrange this in person when we get to HCM- can they sort this out in a relatively short space of time??
    We really don’t want to rebook our flights as it will so expensive, and we’ll also lose out on the hotel we’ve paid for. Or should we just risk the fine?
    Advice GREATLY appreciated. Thank you.

    • I’m sorry, I can’t really give you any certainty — I’m just a fellow traveller to Vietnam, and have no influence with immigration there whatsoever. I’d suggest, though, that you’d be cutting things pretty fine to try to get your visa extended when you get to HCMC, as you’ll have at most a couple of days before it expires. That’s not to say it couldn’t be done — it’s surprising what can be done in a hurry in Vietnam at times, especially for the right price — but you’d want to at least call your intended hotel in HCMC and see what they have to say about it. Doing these things through the hotel is a good idea if possible, particularly because they always want to hold your passport anyway.

      So, if you decide not to wait til you get to HCMC on the 23rd, you’ve got four choices — rebook your flight for the 25th and take the financial hit, trust your current hotel to arrange the visa for you, go to HCMC earlier to get a visa extension sorted out, or try your luck at immigration. Based on my experience, if you wait until immigration, there’s a good chance that each person will be up for a 2 million dong fine. That’ll be cheaper than rebooking, albeit with plenty of extra stress and hassle. If you go down that path, arrive as early as possible at the airport.

      I can’t tell you whether you should trust your current hotel to arrange an extension. All I can say is that I’ve never been burned in Vietnam when I’ve put my faith in random strangers to help me out (this story, for instance).

      If it was me in this situation, I’d probably first try to find out how long it would take to arrange an extension in HCMC (either yourself, or through a hotel), and head down there a day or two early if necessary. Failing that, I’d likely put my faith in my current hotel to sort it out. The (up to) six day timeframe doesn’t sound too excessive, by the way, since it’d likely involve someone getting on a bus, going to HCMC, waiting for however long it takes immigration to issue the extension, and come back to where you are. Especially if that’s over a weekend or holiday period, I could see it taking a few days.

      Good luck in whatever you decide!

      • Thank you for replying.
        I emailed the Vietnamese embassy again who were totally useless…!
        Think we might go ahead and trust our present hotel- I’ve asked the hotel in HCMC but not heard anything yet. You’re completely right- it’s more for peace of mind that we want to get everything sorted.

        Thank you again. Amazing story re passport by the way!!

        • That’s probably as good a plan as any. The hotel really doesn’t have anything to gain by messing you around, especially in these days of bad TripAdvisor reviews etc. That’s not to say everything is certain to go perfectly — it’s Southeast Asia, after all — but chances are you’ll be fine.

          Again, best of luck! 🙂

  • Oh no, Vietnam is one of my favs too. This has tarnished it a little. Glad you decided to pay the ‘fine’ and get out of there. Really good to know – don’t overstay your welcome in Vietnam!

  • Just happened to me today. Visa expired 3 days ago and thought no biggie – $50 on the spot is what it cost me. Hurts after you spent so much having all the fun and ready to GTFOOVN!

    Nov 2017

  • My visa expired 2 years ago in 2015. I only have $500 right now. What can I do? How much do I have to pay? I live in Saigon right now. I am an American. Do I have to buy an exit visa and pay the overstay fee? How much would I pay? I have no ATMs.

    • I really don’t know, sorry. I can’t imagine the authorities are going to look too kindly on overstaying by two years, but what action they might take, I have no idea. Good luck!

  • Dimitri
    3 years ago

    Hello Dave and everyone else.

    I have a question, i have a 30 days visa
    Valid from 16 nov to 16 dec.
    But i went in VN on the 8dec and leaving on the 2 jan, so less than 30 days but not in the good dates.

    I did the same thing for Myanmar and they told me it’s ok, you just have to enter the country before the expiry date and still have 30 days.

    So I wonder is it the same for Vn ? My expiry date is 16 Dec and I entered before on the 8.

    • It possibly depends on the type of visa you got, but for visa on arrival, my understanding is that you are given permission to enter between two dates, and once you do enter, you get a visa valid for 30 days from the date of arrival.

      That said, as with any visa question, you really need to talk to an immigration official, not a random person on the internet, for a definite answer. 🙂

  • Hey Dave, I have exactly the opposite problem. I’m German so I have 15 days Visa free entry but they gave me 17. Entered 29.12 by bus and the stamp says “permitted to stay until 14.01”. I want to exit to Laos. 2 extra days sounds really great because I like Vietnam very much. But I don’t want to risk a thing…

    • Based on the logic they used with me – “it’s what’s printed on the visa that matters”, you shouldn’t have a problem. As always, though, the ultimate decision is made by the immigration person you encounter on the day.

  • Hey Dave, I just wanted to share my current experience from the same airport.

    I arrived to Hanoi, had electronic visa pre-arranged and got for some reason 31 days (21.12.2017 arrival, valid till 20.1.2018). My plane from Vietnam was on 21.1.2018 at about 4 pm, but I wanted to go to Laos and apply for another visa, so didn’t bother me much till I was turned out from the border two times (first reason was I cannot exit there with electronic visa and on other border crossing I couldn’t go with a motorbike), so I just decided to overstay by one day. After reading this story I was prepared to pay a lot.

    At the airport in Ho Chi Minh City I just went to immigration after checking in, where young immigration officer told me I will have to pay a fine, then other officer came and took me to the side there where we waited for another officer, who wrote something on the back of my printed electronic visa and said it’s done, then I went back to immigration where he didn’t trust the thing written on the paper and called by phone the higher ranking officer. Then he just gave me an exit stamp and I was free to go, without paying anything, which I was really happy about. BTW I am from Czech Republic, I think they maybe base the fines on the country where you are from.

    All the best to everyone,

  • Dustin Evans
    2 years ago

    Just keep arguing with them and waste their time. They will relent usually.

    • While that’s often true, it’s a pretty high risk option when you’ve got an lengthy international flight departing in a couple of hours and the official is well aware of that fact!

      • I overstayed my visa by 9months. Called 3 agents that charged me over $1,000 usd. Thank goodness I got a contact that was able to handle it for 10million vnd

  • Hi Dave! I read your post and honestly, I felt bad for it. To be honest, the way the immigration guy was asking your questions like a boss and demanded you so much money really disgusts me. We all know the Vietnamese Immigration officials need the money and mostly all are corrupted. Also, I just had a bad customer service experience with a visa agent here in Saigon for my business visa extension and due to their bad service, I posted a negative review on their Fb page. And those jokers started to threaten me that if I don’t remove my negative review from their page, they will cancel my visa. I mean they just want to make us look like villains here. Once again, sorry for what you have gone through. P.S. And charging you 2.000.000 VND for a few days? Jesus, give me a break! This nonsense does not happen in any country except here in Vietnam.

  • Hi theo, i have some question ,can i contact u in pm ? I get the same trouble, have u one mail or messenger for i contact u ?

  • Had a pretty much identical issue leaving Vietnam with an overstay of x2 days. Paid $100 to get out at Da Nang airport. My tormentor looked like he was max 17 years old.

    ..Same schtick… I was in ‘serious trouble’ apparently. I wasn’t, because I’d looked it up online, they give you a x2 day buffer costing $22 dollar for each day overstayed. He insisted he had to ‘make a call to his boss but couldn’t promise anything”. Right. I sat there arms crossed while he made his imaginary call to his imaginary boss. We silently agreed to play out our little charade.

    So ‘lucky for me” his boss said okay. I just needed to part with the cash. I came back from the ATM with cash in hand and we were buddies again. He was careful to assure me “Money for Vietnam. Not for me… And my boss!”

    Hahaha… All the joys of travelling in South East Asia. 🙂

  • Rasmin
    1 year ago

    I had found your blog post after my wife had similar problems last week.

    However, I cannot understand your frustration. Also in my eyes the blame lay with you. You should have checked the stamp in the passport immediately.

    My wife was at the office on Thursday morning, paid the fine and the “service fee” and was supposed to pick up her passport with the new stamp next Thursday. Today, Monday morning, after only two working days, the call came from the office. All done.

    Would it have been easier, faster and cheaper to get a police clearance certificate and confirmations of all whereabouts? Certainly not. So, the service fee was fine and the service just excellent.

    • I’ll be honest, nearly seven years later, I’m not too concerned whether you understand the frustration or where you think the blame lies. A thing happened, I wrote up the experience, and everyone moved on.

      I’m not sure what “the office” is that you’re referring to, but if your wife had to leave a passport and come back days later to retrieve it, it doesn’t sound like the same thing I went through at the airport anyway.

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