Vietnam visa policy rebuffs foreign retirees' love

By Hoang Phong   August 17, 2022 | 05:09 pm PT
Vietnam visa policy rebuffs foreign retirees' love
Foreigners walk around Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi, February 2019. Photo by AFP
Foreigners see Vietnam as an ideal place for retirement with friendly people, natural landscapes and diverse tourism activities, but strict visa policies are keeping them away.

Peter Zimmermann from Germany said he and his wife have been coming to Vietnam for 5-6 months every winter since 2013 and they always rented a house or a large apartment in the beach town of Nha Trang.

"Vietnam is really an excellent place to live as a retiree as local people are open and very friendly. There are good hotels, resorts, restaurants, cafes and apartments. Great beaches by the sea and lots of culture and history to discover," he told VnExpress International.

However, current visa policies remain a major barrier for pensioners looking to settle down in Vietnam because the country has not resumed its pre-pandemic visa policies.

Apart from granting visa exemption to 24 tourism markets for stays of 15-30 days, Vietnam only issues a one-month single-entry e-visa to visitors from other countries, instead of the three-month multi-entry visas it used to issue.

"It is not reasonable for pensioners like us to leave the country every 30 days and return with a new e-visa," Zimmerman said.

"It would be important for us to have visas for three months with the option of extending them just like in Thailand. We are also happy to provide proof of income and bank statements."


Peter Zimmermann (R) and his wife have dinner with their friends at a restaurant in Nha Trang beach town, May 2022. Photo courtesy of Peter Zimmermann

Last month, American magazine Travel+Leisure listed Vietnam as one of eight most ideal countries for Americans to move to after retirement thanks to cheap cost of living and diverse travel experiences.

There is currently no specific visa policy for foreigners who want to retire in Vietnam. Foreign retirees can only apply for tourist visas.

Peter said millions of retirees with a good income are looking for a second home to spend the winter. If Vietnam does not want them then they will go to other countries and spend their money there.

Michael Perry, a retiree from the U.S., said that though he would love to just live in Vietnam and travel around the country as he’s done many times over the years, the lack of a retirement visa makes it difficult to do that.

"There is no way to retire in Vietnam as there is no retirement visa. Prior to the pandemic one could get one-year tourist visa with a U.S. passport but every 90 days one had to leave and re-enter. Some retired expats I know extended their tourist visas and lived month by month or got three month extensions. This is not retirement," Perry said.

"Retired people like me wish to live our lives in Vietnam because we love the country and culture but we must now use an e-visa and only get 30 days."

With Vietnam's strict visa policy, Perry said he would choose to stay in Cambodia "where I can easily receive a retirement visa."

Mel Potter from the U.S. who has been living in Vietnam for the last 10 years said Vietnam is a great place to spend retirement years.

"I wish that authorities would change the requirements for retirees to own a home."

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