In black and white terms, a retiree who plans to live in Vietnam does confront a visa problem.  Vietnam does not issue retirement visas. The government issues tourist visas and long-term stay visas. But these long-term stay visas are only issued to diplomats and officials or for business and employment.

Tourist visas are available for a one-month stay and can be single entry or multiple entry.

What retirees to Vietnam normally do is to extend these tourist visas. The initial visa is for 30 days. Then this visa is extended for an additional three months. This process, although not officially recognised, is then repeated every three months.

Long-term foreign visitors are constantly concerned, however, that one day their renewal request will be refused. This would then require them to leave the country and reapply for a fresh tourist visa.

A business visa requires the sponsorship of a Vietnamese employer or business partner. This visa allows for multiple entries and a stay of up to one year. If you do not have a business partner, employer or other sponsor who can provide you with an entry clearance, you can also apply for a personal business visa for a stay of up to 90 days.

Immigration agents in Vietnam can be used and this does make the process much easier although more expensive. Extensions can be obtained via an agent within Vietnam.

Visas presented no issues to Sam and Rose, the English teachers in Vietnam for a year’s sabbatical from life in Australia. They had three-month visas and had them regularly renewed. They used an agent. Rose advised that it is important not to use photocopies, always bring along original documents.

Howard, who returned to Vietnam in his later years, faced a different situation.  “I am married to a Vietnamese so I am on a ‘no visa’.  I just have to go over to the Provincial capital every three months and get an extension.  I could get permanent residency here if I wanted.  And, I have to report to the police.  But everyone has to report to the police.  Everyone in Vietnam is registered.

“My dealings with the Vietnamese authorities have been very good.  When I go the capital, the officials all know me, they are very friendly, they don’t ask for a bribe and they do the thing for $10, the right price.”

There is no 12-month multiple entry visa available.  Always three or six months.  The only long term visas (12 months plus) are for diplomats and business people with company sponsorship.