This makes the present clampdown difficult to comprehend. Hundreds of people have had their applications rejected, many have found their visa charges tripling, and those renewals which are given, are only for three months. Even resident permits have been restricted to one year rather than five, and many people, who due to the problems have now overstayed their visa, are facing fines.
It’s a worrying situation, one that has induced a local website to vent their irritation on their homepage.
“Vietnamese officialdom is at the ‘rip-off-the-foreigners’ game again,” they write. “(Because of it) many expats and longer term tourists may seriously reconsider whether its worthwhile staying in this country compared to other options. Or are we just being too pessimistic and paranoid in thinking that that's what the Vietnamese authorities want to happen?”
This viewpoint is shortsighted. It assumes that the authorities are only interested in ripping off foreigners (they aren’t), and it also fails to examine the reasons for such a clampdown.
Undesirables and Independence
Different stories are flying round as to why this is happening, but the following are the most likely. The first is that the authorities are concerned about the large number of illegal Chinese and Africans living in Vietnam. So, they’re tightening the reins, not only to weed out the undesirables, but also to keep tighter control on who should or should not be in the country.
The other, and most likely story, is the classic run-up to Independence Day (Sep. 2) scenario. As has happened in the past with clampdowns on bars and late-night drinking in the weeks before national holidays, so this time the culprit is visas. As one travel agent advised a foreigner who had had his renewal rejected, “Wait until after the holiday. Then it won’t be a problem.”
The clampdown does raise some other questions. Compared to most countries, the implementation of Vietnam’s working visa laws is extremely lax. The fact you don’t even need to fill in an application form says it all. And with well-paid work so readily available for native English speakers, the country attracts a caste of foreigners who would be quickly rejected elsewhere.
In reality, applying for a working visa should be more difficult, and few would complain about the need to go through the ‘proper’ process, as long as it’s not overly complicated. However, to implement the laws requires time and advance warning. Doing it on the spur of the moment will only exacerbate emotions.
And, if there’s one thing we can take from this scenario, it’s this. Foreigners here are being sent a message. You don’t have a god-given right to be in Vietnam.