Covid changed a lot of things in the world and the ability to acquire and maintain visas is, if you have to search for silver linings, one of the few good things that has come out of all of this as far as living as an expat is concerned.
There are of course exceptions such as people who own homes in a foreign country that they can no longer return to without extensive quarantine and great expense but for the people who by happenstance ended up being where they want to live when the border locks began, the current situation is actually a very good thing.
Visas in Vietnam are not terribly difficult to get or maintain compared to other countries and this is especially true if you are an American, which I am. Long-term tourist visas can be extended basically forever if you are willing to do one of two things
- leave the country every 3 months (you can come straight back in) - if you are not American you had to do this every month
- have enough money to pay the extension fee that doesn't really seem to have any limit as to how many times you can use it.
The first option of leaving the country and the coming back in is not an option for anyone right now. For me, on my 1-year tourist visa (again, that is only available to Americans for some reason) required me to leave once every 3 months and normally I would simply find whatever the cheapest round trip flight was, hang out in a foreign airport in a nearby country to grab some Burger King and then fly straight back in. This was something that would cost me around $100 each time and while it is stupid, it isn't the end of the world nor is it outrageously expensive.
At the moment it is almost impossible to fly in and out of Vietnam or any other country for that matter. Therefore, the government here has actually been very kind / empathetic to the global phenomenon and extended amnesty to all visas until things can return to "normal." The only problem with taking advantage of this free visa extension are rumors that if you do take advantage of the free visas, as soon as things open back up, you are going to be required to leave and not be allowed back for some time. I don't know the details on this and neither does anyone else including Vietnam immigration, so don't take this as fact - it is just the case at the moment.
The other option, which is one that I have been taking advantage of for quite some time now, is to renew your visa in-country for something like $70 - $100 / month. This, in my mind, is extremely reasonable especially when you consider the previous situation I was describing where it was necessary to go on a "government enforced vacation" once ever month or 3 months.
Basically, until borders open back up we are being allowed to either extend for free if you truly are trapped here (and I know quite a few people that are) or to pay to extend every month if your intention is to stick around for a long time. I commend Vietnam's leadership for having this sort of policy because it works out very nicely for digital nomads such as myself and I also quite enjoy living here.
Visas are a pain in the butt no matter what country you are trying to live in if you are a digital nomad, and at least for now, I am very pleased with how Vietnam is treating the fact that we don't really have a lot of options right now during Covid.