I fired off the express envelope containing my application for a visa exemption to the Embassy of Vietnam on Monday. Express mail guarantees that it arrives the next day. When I received the envelope back today, only 3 business days after it was sent, (I included a self-addressed, stamped Express Mail return envelope) I was both excited and nervous. The good news is that they didn’t take the full “7 business days” (the turnaround time they indicate on the website) to look at my application. However, they didn’t accept my application either.
The application was rejected for the following reasons:
1) The barcode number at the bottom of the form was cut off from the page – I think the form must be for the A4 paper size and doesn’t automatically fit on an 8.5″ x 11″ page. My second assumption is that nobody at the Embassy actually uses a barcode scanner and that they must rely on the printed number.
2) Incorrect name/passport/date of birth – They requested that I supply a name change document or US citizenship certificate with my “correct name” and proof of original Vietnamese citizenship. I think their assumption is that most Vietnamese have a Vietnamese name, become a US citizen and somewhere around that time they choose to legally change their name from “Binh Nguyen” to “Bob Newhart”. Of course, I was 10 months old when I was adopted and since I was found as an abandoned baby, nobody knows my Vietnamese name or my actual date of birth. Needless to say I was never issued a Vietnamese passport or any other formal proof of Vietnamese citizenship prior to being airlifted out of Saigon in April 1975.
So, what was I able to send them this time around? Not much more. However, I did send the following documents:
1) A copy of my US Naturalization certificate from 1979 which includes my “country of former nationality, Vietnam”.
2) A copy of my adoption certificate, dated August 1976, which doesn’t say much other than that I was adopted (doesn’t say from where)
3) A note for “#23, Nguyen Ai Quoc” (that’s me, SP-23! and my temporary Vietnamese name) that says:
4) I also sent this additional photo as further, indisputable proof of how cute I was.
I rushed to the post office for a repeat of the Express Mail ceremony. It costs $16 to send the application, including my passport, each way and since I’m running out of time I need to include the self-addressed, stamped envelope and pay for that too. So, what started out as a $20 visa exemption is now up to $84 ($20 + $16 x 4). It’s a bit of a gamble in terms of time and money but if my application is accepted then I’ll save a lot of both over the next 5 years, especially without needing to worry about multi-entry in and out of Vietnam as I travel to other countries in the region. The embassy worker I spoke to over the phone sounded very nice even though I think I totally confused her with my “I don’t know my name or my birth date”. I’m keeping my fingers crossed and I should probably be ready to rush in a regular visa application if I get rejected for the visa exemption a second time. I’m supposed to leave in exactly 2 weeks and I still don’t have a visa! That reminds me, I still need to confirm my airline ticket too!
For information regarding the new 5-year visa exemption for Vietnamese-born people, click here!