Vietnam Moves Closer to Implementing Single Visa Policy with Southeast Asian Countries

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HCMC – At the most recent meeting of the Ayeyawadi – Chao Phraya – Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS) organization, tourism officials from Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar agreed on the need to urge their respective governments to ease travel restrictions and push forward the implementation of a single visa policy for all of the countries.  The meeting was held at this year’s International Travel Expo in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC).

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The original idea of a single visa policy for all of the countries originated in 2013, but progress has been slow. One positive sign has been the start of a pilot visa program between Thailand and Cambodia.  Under this new policy, international tourists who have been issued a visa for either country will be allowed to visit the other country without applying for a new visa.

As the Thai Embassy describes it, the new visa “allows nationals of 35 countries to enter both Thailand and Cambodia for the purpose of tourism, under the same visa, with single validity for each country.”

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All of ACMECS’s recent activities have been aimed at achieving its goal of attracting fifty million international tourists by 2015.

ACMECS was formed in April 2003 at the urging of Thailand’s Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.  The organization seeks to “utilize member countries’ diverse strengths and to promote balanced development in the sub-region.”  Key areas of cooperation include trade and investment facilitation and transportation. The group is made up of Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Vietnam is seeing strong growth in its own tourism industry and has much to gain from implementing the one visa policy for the region. For many tourists, one of the key impediments to travel between countries in Southeast Asia has been the need to negotiate a variety of visa regulations and the associated costs.  In 2013, Vietnam attracted 7.57 million international visitors, a rise of 10.6 percent over the previous year. For 2014, Vietnam has the goal of drawing over eight million international visitors.

In recent months, Vietnam has been seeking to reform the regulations surrounding its visa and work permit applications in order to streamline the system and make its simpler and easier for foreigners to navigate.  The addition of a single visa policy for Southeast Asia would be another step in the right direction for Vietnam’s visa regulations.

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