The Ministry of Public Security started issuing the new version of Vietnamese passport on July 1. The change in color — from green to dark blue — and features of various Vietnam attractions in the passport has excited Vietnamese to register for a new passport, even flocking into Immigration offices early in the morning.
However, the excitement didn’t last long. On July 27, the Embassy of Germany announced that it would not provide visas for the new passports due to a lack of birthplace information. In an interview with VnExpress, the embassy said it’s “impossible to identify the passport holder without a place of birth,” especially because Vietnamese have similar names.
“German authorities cannot find information about the place of birth through the personal identification number in the passport,” the embassy added, referring to the 12-digit ID number on the passport.
Four days later, Spain also announced it was denying visas for the new passport holders. In its announcement, the Spanish Embassy said current regulations do not allow providing Schengen visas for Vietnamese citizens because of a lack of birthplace information, leading to a failure to identify visa holders.
The Czech Republic became the third country — and the latest so far — to issue the same statement. The country said it doesn't acknowledge the validity of the new passport for the reason that it doesn’t follow ICAO standards.
Amidst the unfortunate situation, France, part of the Schengen area, announced that it will keep providing visas for the new Vietnamese passport until further notice. England also confirmed its visa policies for Vietnamese citizens are not affected by the issues with the new passport.
Place of birth is optional
Although the Czech Republic said that Vietnam’s new passports didn't meet ICAO standards, it is not exactly correct. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) sets common standards for passports and according to this organization, place of birth information on passports is optional.
ICAO has set a standard when choosing to include or omit the Place of Birth, the travel document issuing State or organization should take into consideration any current political sensitivities linked to the State or territory and whether it is a State or territory recognized by visa-issuing authorities in other countries.
Canada is a country that legally allows the omission or deletion of the place of birth information in passports and travel documents, but the country warns its travelers that they might encounter some issues such as problems getting a visa, delays at border crossings, and refusal of entry.
What Vietnam is doing to resolve the issue
On July 29, The Vietnamese Embassy in Germany announced that they would issue free birthplace verifications in German to show with their passports so Vietnamese citizens can apply for residence permits and other administrative procedures with the host country's authorities.
On the same day the Czech Republic released the announcement, the Vietnamese Embassy in Czech also said it would add an annotation on the place of birth on Page 4 of the new passports to facilitate the Vietnamese holders to apply for visa extensions or other public administrative services in the country. Holders of passports issued before August 2 can visit the embassy to get the annotations added.
Vietnamese authorities are actively working with the embassies of Germany, Spain, and the Czech Republic to resolve the issue. The Immigration department has not halted applications for the new passport nor revised its content as of this writing.