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Saigon AP Bureau Handbook

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Vietnamese visas involve a gigantic amount of red tape, only small portions of which can be cut through private channels.

If you are coming to Viet Nam, try to get a 30-day visa in advance. If you are in a great rush and you hold an American passport (or a passport of any of the anti-communist nations) you can come without a visa for up to 48 hours. This normally can be extended once you get here.

Short-term visas are extended only by application as far in advance as possible. Long-term or resident visas require application at least XX days in advance of expiration for renewals.

If you have ever been thrown out of Viet Nam you probably cannot get back in. If you have visited North Viet Nam since 1954, you probably won't get a visa for South Viet Nam (unless you are on official of the International Control Commission.)

To leave Viet Nam you must have an exit visa, wherever you are going. If you are going to one of the former Indochina states (Cambodia or Laos) and plan to return here, apply for a re-entry visa along with your exit visa. If you're going to any other country, you'll have to start from scratch returning here. If you hold a Vietnamese resident visa, you automatically lose it.

You can and must normally get a resident visa after you've been in the country three months. Once you hold a resident visa you must start paying income taxes to Viet Nam.

Taxes for a bachelor amount to about 15% of his declared salary, taxes for family men are slightly less. Taxes on income, cars, property and a half dozen other items must be paid up and certified before you will be issued an exit visa. All this gets extremely involved and time-consuming, but there's no way around it, and you should be psychologically prepared before deciding to leave the country unless you are expelled, in which case taxes generally are waived.

Assistance on visa matters is available from the government Press Liaison Office on Blvd. Le Loi near the Caravelle Hotel.

Courtesy Malcolm W. Browne.

Photo: Horst Faas, Mal Browne and Peter Arnett in the Saigon AP office. Photo credit: Peter Arnett collection Reporter's Notebook