I forgive you.
Here’s something you should keep in mind while perusing this blog.
I once trusted something I’d read on the internet. Something pretty important. Without really questioning it, or inquiring further.
How’s that for slashing and burning whatever trace elements of authority have been blown in my general direction?
If you search for information on obtaining a student visa in Vietnam, you’re likely to come across some variation of this from Lonely Planet:
A student visa is usually arranged after your arrival. It’s acceptable to enter Vietnam on a tourist visa, enrol in a Vietnamese language course, and then apply at the immigration police for a change in status. In reality, the easiest way to do this is to contact a travel company and have them help you make the application.”
I can’t quite call that total bullshit. Maybe things are different in Ho Chi Minh City, or at other universities. But at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Hanoi, if you’d like to avoid a stressful three weeks trapped in limbo—part of which is technically illegal—with no guarantee of success, I’d strongly advise organising your student visa before entering Vietnam. The official in charge of foreign students at the university was initially very pessimistic about my application. He warned the change in status from tourist to student visa had been rejected by government representatives in the past. My teacher, who handles administration for the Faculty of Linguistics, echoed his sentiments. She believed I might be forced to exit Vietnam and reenter for the alteration to be possible.
Thank christ none of that was necessary. I was made to understand how lucky I am. And for those as cynical as me, no, it wasn’t just to drive up the price. The whole application cost much less than I was expecting.
For those wanting to study here, maybe try relying on chance a little less. Got access to a tertiary institution of some kind? Ask them for help. A little bit of academic officialdom goes a long way—fight bureaucratic fire with bureaucratic fire.
It might take more effort pre-travel. That’s still preferable to leaving your fate in the hands of the Vietnamese Immigration Department. Believe me.