Losing my passport and ID’s in a street robbery in Ho Chi Minh has been a real nightmare for us. Our 2-day trip has been extended till I can get my Travel Document from the Philippine consulate.I got my Travel Document 4 days after the robbery happened. At this point my frustration and hopelessness was at the all time high! Then came the news that after I secured TD, I had to process Vietnam exit visa from immigration. I understand this is their rule, I am in their country so I will follow their rule.
So I proceeded to Vietnam Immigration Office. Address: 254 Nguy?n Trãi street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam. Phone: (+84) 8 9201701
The process usually goes like this:
– Submit your travel document.
– Fill out the form they give you.
– They might ask for a photo so be prepared.
– Wait for the stub/receipt and note the date they will ask you to come back to claim your document.
– On claim date, just pay $10/219,000 Dong.
The process is pretty straight forward. They also work fast and people I’ve met there were generally approachable. Process is easy if you entered Vietnam via airport. They have computerized records of your entries if by airport so process is smooth and fast. The Filipina lady I met there in a similar situation got her Exit Visa in 24 hrs. So if you entered VN by airport and still have your air-tickets and they find your entries on their database, you will have it easy.
BUT here’s the catch and what happened to me.
I entered Vietnam via Cambodia Bavet- VN Moc Bai border. And it so happened their land borders do not have computerized records. This was when I felt the ground plummet below me. The lady at the immigration office counter said, they need to call the border to verify my entry. So I need to return after two days.That meant I was already in Ho Chi Minh for almost a week already! I was running out of money and I was worried about my kids left in Phnom Penh.
Two days passed and when I checked if my exit visa was already available, the officer told me they already endorsed my papers to their supervisor since they were unable to locate my records at the border. And I was asked to return again after 3 days.
Monday came and I showed up at the Immigration Office. I was ushered to an office and an officer questioned me for about an hour. They were taking the word of the border that I do not have any entry record there. He mentioned I might have been staying in VN illegaly and they have to investigate thoroughly.
I was shocked at this suggestion. Why would I do this? My husband and children are in Cambodia. I had been living in Cambodia for the past 8 years with occasional travel. I have a valid passport, and being from an ASEAN country I was entitled to a 21 day free visa to Vietnam, so why would I illegally enter the country for a day trip? Visa is free and easy so why would I risk this and run away at the border without having my passport stamped? I also had copies of our bus tickets (Round Trip) and our hotel booking. Hotel manager also vouched for me. LOL I even asked him to check my social media accounts! All showed that I had been living in Phnom Penh for the past years and only visited Ho Chi Minh, on that weekend.
I understand that the officer was simply being thorough but I felt he needed some common sense. He only relied on the word of the person at the border. I get the feeling since the records were manually done, the one they asked at the border just did not want to bother actually looking for my record. Mind you, when you cross the border, I don’t know how they record entries and passport numbers there. The bus conductor simply collects passports, gives it to the police officer and he stamps it. Then he calls each person to collect passport and another border police will check your entry stamps before you can board the bus.
I asked him if the border have a print out of entries for that day. I was even certain of the time I crossed. I also asked him for a CCTV footage. But he refused. All evidences I presented were ignored. I told him perhaps the border personnel you spoke to, was mistaken? Given that thousands of people cross the border, and you don’t have a computer system? There is always room for error but I really err towards the theory that they did not want to bother manually looking for it.
After about an hour he called his supervisor, a certain Mr. Thang. We talked and rehashed the same thing. He told me he will confer with other officers and asked me to wait for their call at the hotel the following day. He also mentioned I might be fined. I was so numb and shocked at this. What a crazy nightmare. Here I am, a tourist in this country, robbed and now trying to follow your rules and whatnot and I am subjected to this.
I was so frustrated and returned to the hotel crying and hysterical. I talked to my husband and asked him if its possible to connect with Cambodian immigration and check my entry and exit records. I was able to get hold of my entry-exit records from the border. Thank God, Cambodia has an extremely organized computerized record system at the border. They had my records of entry and exit, right down to the exact time I presented my passport for stamping. Fancy that! So I went back to the Immigration Office to present these docs. That’s when the officer in charge of my case, began a bit of head scratching and carefully conceded that there might be some errors at the border. I mean, hello?! Why would I exit Cambodia legally then run like a lunatic illegally to cross VN when I don’t reason to? He told me he will submit the new docs to his boss and will call.
At this point I felt my luck was slowly turning around. A Vietnamese colleague of my husband contacted me and said he was able to arrange a meeting with one of the bosses of Vietnamese Immigration, so I will be able to explain my situation. Several people were able to vouch for me and the meeting with the immigration boss went smoothly.
So finally, after 8 days I managed to secure my exit visa. You cannot imagine my relief at this. I am extremely grateful to people who helped me. I do wonder what would have happened if there weren’t people who helped me?
One thing I can recommend: If you are entering via Land Border, take a copy/photo of your entry stamp. If possible, take a photo while you are processing your entry. It would have helped me immensely if I have done this.
Despite the unreliable border records, I’m still very grateful to Vietnamese Immigration officers I met while processing this. While strict, they also remained professional. And while some cynics might say, they might ask me for money. They NEVER asked me for bribe. They were simply doing their jobs.
- I Lost My Passport in a Street Robbery in Vietnam
- Processing for Travel Document (for Lost Passport)