Spectacular landscapes, diverse cuisines, and friendly locals are some of Vietnam’s greatest tourism charms. The country has been voted top travel destination by international organizations and publications in recent years, and was even considered a haven for retiring expatriates.
In 2019, Vietnam welcomed 18 million foreign tourists — the highest number recorded — and earned VND 755 trillion ($32.6 billion) from tourism services, contributing 9.2% of the GDP.
The situation during the COVID-19 pandemic is already a given.
Vietnam is now striving to attract eight million international visitors this year, about 4.5 million more than in 2022 and ten million less than the 2019 figure. The number seems modest compared to tourism targets set by Vietnam’s regional peers. Thailand forecasts 25 million foreign arrivals; South Korea projects a foreign tourist headcount of 30 million; Japan, meanwhile, expects to see at least 22.5 million international arrivals this year.
There’s more than a glimmer of hope these tourism projections would be fulfilled, except for that of Vietnam.
Tourism experts and travel agencies voiced out that Vietnam’s visa policies make travelers think twice about booking a holiday in the country. Even pre-pandemic, Vietnam’s visa regulations were already less friendly compared to other tourism-dependent economies in Asia.
Despite removing all COVID-related travel restrictions, the country is still adamant about offering longer visa-free options. Vietnam currently provides a maximum of 30 visa-free stays for only 24 countries and a one-month single-entry e-visa to visitors from 80 countries. There’s no news about when the country will grant three-month multi-entry visas again.
Many countries have already resumed pre-pandemic visa schemes; others are even offering new visa types to revitalize their tourism industries.
From South Korea’s “K-Culture Visa” to Indonesia’s “Second-Home Visa,” here are some visa schemes implemented by Asian countries that Vietnam could take inspiration from as it sets its sights on a stronger tourism recovery in 2023.
Thailand: 60-day Tourist Visa
Thailand, a heavily tourism-dependent country, has always been praised for its relaxed visa policies. During the pandemic, it introduced several visa options for foreigners who plan short or long-term stays.
Aside from visa-free stays of up to 45 days for dozens of countries, Thailand’s single-entry 60-day tourist visa propelled the travel industry’s recovery following its border reopening. Easy to process with minimal requirements, the tourist visa allows travelers to take their time exploring historical and natural attractions around the country. It can be extended for another 30 days at any local Immigration Office.
Thailand also recently launched its Long Term Resident visa program, which will be valid for ten years and allow holders multiple entries to the country. This has already attracted more than 1,500 applications, mostly from American and Chinese investors.
Applicants must hold at least $1 million in assets, have a validated annual personal income of a minimum of $80,000 for the past two years, and have an investment of at least $500,000 in Thai government bonds, foreign direct investment, or Thai property.
The visa will be available to four categories of foreign applicants: “Wealthy Global Citizens” holding at least $1 million in assets; “Wealthy Pensioners” aged 50 years and above who have an annual or stable income; “Work-from-Thailand Professionals” employed by well-established overseas companies; and “Highly skilled Professionals” from targeted industries such as digital, biotechnology, smart electronics and robotics, human resource development, and research and development for the targeted industry.
South Korea: Workcation and K-Culture Visa
Taking advantage of the global K-pop phenomenon, the country is introducing K-Culture Visa to young foreigners interested in Korean culture and willing to learn about the country’s entertainment industry and content creation system, a report by The Korea Times reads. The visa will be approved under the premise that the applicant will go through an education or training program in the K-content industry, such as a K-pop entertainment agency.
The Workcation Visa, meanwhile, is intended to lure in digital nomads to stay in Korea for up to two years while performing their jobs from their home country. With the pandemic highlighting the importance of the right balance between work and leisure, the concept of workcation is foreseen to become a long-lasting lifestyle trend.
South Korea’s culture ministry said the K-Culture visa would be introduced during the first half of 2023, while the Workcation visa is set for implementation by the second half of the year.
Indonesia: Second Home Visa
Indonesia, home to the famous Bali island, launched the Second Home Visa scheme for “high value” foreigners and their families who want to live permanently in Indonesia for five or ten years.
Second Home Visa applicants must either deposit Rp 2 billion (US$128,361) to Indonesia state-owned banks, which cannot be touched in any way during their stay in the country or own a local property of equivalent value, explains an article from The Jakarta Post. Applicants are also required to pay a non-tax state revenue charge of Rp 3 million, which can be paid outside the territory of Indonesia through the non-tax state revenue online payment portal.
While the financial requirements sparked concerns, the Indonesian government said this new visa scheme — a replacement for the existing retirement visas — will serve as a “freeway for global investors and businesspeople.” The visa will include services like issuing investment permits, real estate permits, and corporate permits. Exclusive incentives will also be given to visa holders.
Unlike the retirement visa, which required applicants to be at least 55 years old, the Second Home Visa is open to all ages.
Cambodia: Golden Visa
Cambodia’s Golden Visa program, also referred to as Cambodia My 2nd Home (CM2H), is intended to encourage foreign investment in the Kingdom of Wonder. It was officially implemented in July 2022.
Applicants must invest a minimum of $100,000 into real estate for a renewable visa with a ten-year validity period. After five years of residency, it is possible to apply for a Cambodian passport. There is no minimum stay requirement to maintain the visa.
Those granted the Golden Visa will reap several benefits, including unlimited entry and exit to Cambodia and professional assistance in relocating, opening a bank account, getting a driver’s license, and registering businesses.
Cambodia also offers a direct Citizenship by Investment program, which requires investors to make a Government Donation of $245,000, plus fees, or invest a minimum of $305,000 into a Government approved project.
Japan: Working Holiday Visa
Japan’s Working Holiday Visa is a special visa for foreigners between the age of 18 and 30 (25 in the case of some countries) to stay in Japan for up to one year. Visa holders are allowed to work part-time while experiencing the grandeur of Japan.
Since the Working Holiday Visa is based on bilateral agreements, it’s only applicable to Japan’s specific partner countries, with requirements depending on the applicant’s nationality. It’s intended for the youth of Japan and its partner countries to enter each country primarily for leisure while allowing them to engage in employment to supplement their travel funds.
The program provides the youth with broader opportunities to appreciate the culture and general way of life in the partner countries/regions and promote mutual understanding between Japan and its partner countries/regions.
Japan started the working holiday programs first with Australia in 1980. As of 2020, Japan has introduced the program in 26 countries. Nearly 15,000 Working Holiday Visas have been granted so far.