Visa Chronicles: Wary Travellers

TH’s (The Husband) love for all things communist took us to Vietnam in 2017. The visa process was just as confusing as the Russian one. And we for sure need to appease the Visa Gods to straighten out our visa luck!

Vietnamese visa process for Indians is crooked. One has to find an agency in Vietnam who gets clearance from Ministry of Immigration and is sent to you by email. You take that letter to Vietnam and get your passport stamped on arrival. The Pre-approval letter mentions the port of entry as well so you cannot change your destination. Our friendly travel agent proceeded with the application for approval letter and it came within few days! TH being ever so vigilant; he figured that his passport number is wrongly mentioned in his pre-approval letter; as soon as the email was received! (I don’t even remember my passport number. 🙂

Now you remember how we had to process a new passport for him just because French Embassy thought it was torn? The Vietnamese Consulate referred to that very torn passport ignoring the latest valid one! As soon as TH figured it out we contacted the agent who had helped through the process. The agent nonchalantly informed it’s not a big deal and we should continue on that pre-approval letter. With due respect to all the travel agents, it is really not a good idea to dismiss such visa concerns like a fly on the wall. With our agent thinking that we are complete idiots to demand a fresh pre-approval letter, we were compelled to get in touch with our hotel in HCMC (Saigon). The hotel desk was very helpful and directed us to its travel agent who got TH a new pre-approval letter with correct passport details.

So I had a visa pre-approval letter which was combined for me and TH with wrong passport details for TH. And TH had another independent pre-approval letter on which we travelled to Vietnam. The story of these letters was recounted at immigration counter in India and the officials just nodded and I could almost hear them sigh in disapproval for our choice of destination.

Once in HCMC (Saigon), the queues in visa stamping area were as haphazard as the process. As Indians, we are experts in maneuvering through such crowds and chaos. So we managed to submit our passports, letters, photos and cash (official amount) to the officer who did not bother to look up at us. While we waited apprehensively in the front row, we witnessed a classic scene. Another fellow traveler from the USA had same problem with his pre-approval letter. The letter mentioned his old passport number and he entered on another passport. To top the confusion, he wasn’t even carrying the old passport with him!

The Vietnamese visa officer shouted at the top of his voice, made sure the poor fellow was embarrassed in front of all the travelers and then five minutes later, took him in a corner and settled the whole matter for some ridiculous amount of cash. Again as Indians we had seen through the whole drama of that officer and were waiting for the matter to be settled “amicably”.

We mentally high-fived each other for being smarter than our agent and for applying for a fresh pre-approval letter. We would have been in the same awkward soup had it not been for a correct letter!

It’s a mystery how so many pre-approval letters get wrong passport numbers mentioned on them 😉

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