To effectively issue e-visas to foreign visitors

Published:  08:17 Thursday - December 01, 2016

To effectively issue e-visas to foreign visitors

The 14th National Assembly has adopted a resolution on piloting the issuance of e-visas to foreigners starting on February 1, 2017, which has been considered a breakthrough in improving the competitiveness of the Vietnamese tourism industry in the future.

The “push” for the tourism sector

On October 14, 2015, the Government issued the Resolution No. 36a/NQ-CP on building an e-government, in which the issuance of e-visas to foreigners was mentioned. The Prime Minister also emphasised and directed the implementation of this issue at the National Conference on Tourism Development in August 2016. It can be said that the application of e-visas demonstrates the high commitment of the Government to the administrative procedure reform process and that it is consistent with the policy of promoting information and technology applications by State agencies during the 2016-2020 period.

E-visas will be issued to foreigners wishing to enter Vietnam by the immigration authority via digital transactions. Accordingly, the application process will be carried out via electronic means. The e-visas will be granted three days after the date of application, can be used once and will be valid for up to 30 days.

The applicants will be provided with keys to access the e-portal of the immigration authority to receive the results, and then they will pay the fees via bank account and print the e-visas by themselves. The new regulation will not only contribute to reducing administrative procedures as well as saving time and costs but also ensure openness and transparency during the process.

In addition, visitors are also no longer required to provide letters of guarantee or invitation letters, as currently required when applying for standard visas. The almost complete elimination of the fundamental bottlenecks during the visa-granting process will increase expectations for the Vietnamese tourism sector as it attracts foreign visitors, particularly from countries which have not yet received visa exemptions and those who have no contact with Vietnamese agencies, organisations and individuals to ask for letters of guarantee or invitation letters.

General Director of the General Department of Tourism Nguyen Van Tuan said that the simplification of visa policy, including issuance of e-visas, is a popular trend in the world; therefore, the e-visa application is the right direction for promoting Vietnam’s international integration.

A transparent management system will contribute to reducing the downsides, attracting more tourists and boosting investment and economic cooperation opportunities in Vietnam. In addition, e-visas will create favourable conditions for relevant agencies to manage foreigners in Vietnam in cases of need.

In the coming time, the General Department of Tourism will utilise all opportunities to communicate the issuance of e-visas to international tourist markets around the world. General Director of APT Travel Company Nguyen Hong Dai said that the e-visa application would certainly stimulate the tourism industry and attract international tourists, as the complicated procedures with many stages have annoyed visitors for many years.

Visa policy not yet clear

Vietnam is stepping up efforts to carefully prepare for the trial period for issuing e-visas; however, so far only 31 out of 60 international border gates and sea ports can connect to electronic transmission lines. Therefore, communication and training for staff as well as ensuring the requisite infrastructure and technical system for e-visas should be implemented synchronously. In addition, security at border gates needs to be carefully maintained.

According to Le Cong Nang, a representative from Viettrantour Company, in order to improve the quality and efficiency of e-visa applications, relevant agencies should open more “doors” at international border gates to speed up the customs clearance process for visitors. National and international airlines should thoroughly grasp e-visa issuance procedures so that they can provide guidance to passengers and reduce the time needed for entry procedures.

Australia became the first nation to allow e-visa applications in 1996, and since then numerous other countries around the world have successfully applied e-visas, such as Saudi Arabia, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Turkey. According to a report released by the World Travel and Tourism Council in 2014, the number of tourists to Vietnam can be increased by between 8% and 18% if e-visa applications are successfully implemented; therefore, with e-visa policy, Vietnamese tourism is likely to see breakthroughs in the near future.

However, many experts have said that in order to create good conditions for tourism development, e-visa applications cannot replace the visa exemption policy for visitors from key markets. Vice Chairman of Vietnam Tourism Association Vu The Binh emphasised that many visitors to Vietnam are not proficient in using computers or prefer paper visas. Moreover, even if Vietnam applies e-visas, the competitiveness of the Vietnamese tourism industry is lower than regional peers in terms of visa exemptions, such as Indonesia (granting visa exemptions to the residents of 169 countries), the Philippines (168 countries), Malaysia (158 countries) and Thailand (58 countries). Vietnam’s visa policy needs to be extended and made clearer to help Vietnamese tourism develop further.

E-visas are for citizens of countries that have diplomatic relations with Vietnam. The criteria will be aligned with Vietnam’s socio-economic and diplomatic policies at the time of issuance and recipients must pose no threat to the nation’s security and social order. The Government will establish a list of countries eligible for Vietnamese e-visa registration. The applicant also must not be included on a list of people not allowed to enter Vietnam as defined in Article 21 of the law on the entry, exit, transit and residence of expatriates in Vietnam.

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