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Error on my visa stamp noticed 10 months later -- huge overstay?

  • gumby

    Joined Travelfish
    17th October, 2009
    Posts: 4

    I got a 12 month B3 visa at the Vietnam consulate in Sihanoukville in November 2010 and only noticed today that the VN immigration guy stamped it wrong. Instead of being permitted to stay 12 months his stamp only gave me 15 days, or 35 days (the guy who stamped it apparently first wrote a date in the "permitted to stay until" space and then wrote a different date over it, so I am not sure what the date actually is, it's pretty illegible. But the year is clearly legible and it says "10" as in 2010.

    I can't believe I didn't notice this at the time, but it may have been that the bus guy collected all the passports and gave them back to us after we departed Moc Bai for Saigon. Or it may have been that I was being rushed to get back on the bus and didn't have time to examine the stamp. Or maybe I was just exhausted at the time and didn't know which of the many VN stamps in my passport was the latest one. I don't recall clearly.

    The visa clearly states it is valid until Nov 19 2011. But the stamp says I'm permitted to stay only until December 24 or December 04 2010, I can't tell which. I think that the stamping official was confused, maybe because he hadn't seen any 1 year VN visas and didn't know that foreigners can get them in Cambodia.

    I didn't realize there was any problem as my passport and visa have been examined since by many hotels and banks in VN and nobody told me there was a problem.

    I also just noticed today that the visa says "Length of stay is subject to permission by immigration authority."

    What should I do now? Am I going to be charged with 11-1/2 months of overstay when I leave VN to go to Cambodia again (to get a new visa) in November? Should I go to a VN immigration office and explain? Should I just try to leave VN in November and see what happens?

    I'm afraid if I go to the immigration office they'll take advantage of the situation to the hilt.

    I am very worried and upset with myself for not noticing this earlier. What do you think I should do? Very grateful for your suggestions.

    #1 Posted: 8/9/2011 - 02:08

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    arah

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    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Where are you at the moment?

    #2 Posted: 8/9/2011 - 10:08

  • eastwest

    Joined Travelfish
    17th December, 2009
    Posts: 772

    Find an expat who's been living in Vietnam for some time. If they've been in Vietnam for a few years they must know an immigration official personally and explain to that guy. It wouldn't let it wait until you leave the country because those people will really take advantage of the situation.

    Where to find an expat? Don't know where you're staying but it would be good to check out the bars where they hang out, strike up a conversation and if you think the he/she is ok tell him/her about your issue.

    I also had some visa issues a few years ago and got it sorted through some expat friends in the Underground bar in HCMC. The place doesn't exist anymore however.

    #3 Posted: 8/9/2011 - 10:09

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6341
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    "Find an expat who's been living in Vietnam for some time. If they've been in Vietnam for a few years they must know an immigration official personally and explain to that guy. It wouldn't let it wait until you leave the country because those people will really take advantage of the situation."

    This is great advice. My experience in SEA is, it's not what you know, but who you know. Find a guy who knows someone who works at immigration who can help you out. When he does, give him something for the effort and tell him (or her) it's a thank you and to take the family out to dinner or something on your behalf in gratitude for the assistance. Not a bribe - just a thank you.

    #4 Posted: 8/9/2011 - 10:33

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    arah

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    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Love that distinction between bribes and thank yous!! gumby, if you're in Hanoi get in touch. I don't know anyone in Immigration but I know a couple of people who might be able to advise / help.

    #5 Posted: 8/9/2011 - 10:47

  • eastwest

    Joined Travelfish
    17th December, 2009
    Posts: 772

    Bribes? There are no bribes in SE asia. Just a lot of grateful people!

    #6 Posted: 8/9/2011 - 10:55

  • somtam2000

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    Option of last resort: lose your passport.

    Hopefully then you can explain the visa you had and just pretend the wrong stamps didn't happen.

    This would be a last resort after trying all else first.

    #7 Posted: 8/9/2011 - 13:20

  • Marget_love

    Joined Travelfish
    8th September, 2011
    Posts: 6

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Dear Gumby,
    I hope that you have solved yr problem related visa.
    But for something like visa or passport or everything which seems like office, pls take care and research thoroughly before going anywhere.

    Good days,

    #8 Posted: 8/9/2011 - 15:38

  • gumby

    Joined Travelfish
    17th October, 2009
    Posts: 4

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Thanks for the replies. I'm in Vietnam now, in the south. I am an expat who has been here for 5 years. I don't know anyone in immigration but I will ask my landlord if she knows someone.

    One thought that occurs to me is that if I were to deal with the local immig department, I am sort of at their mercy because I'm here in town, there are lots of ATMs around, and they know that I could easily access money for a fine. But if I wait until I get to the border, I can legitimately say I don't have much money with me.

    I haven't researched yet whether there's any limit to the overstay charges they can hit you with. But you know, this is THEIR mistake, my problem is I didn't notice it. There was no reason whatsoever to give me 15 or 25 days even if they didn't know about the existence of 1 year visas, they could have given me 3 months. I mean, it's obviously a MISTAKE.

    I thought about losing my passport, but haven't researched what happens then in VN. I lost one once in Cambo and had to pay for a Cambo exit visa, I think it was less than $100. Is there something similar in VN?

    I assume my visa is in their computer system somewhere. I do have a photograph of it so I could show them the visa number even if I lost the passport. But is the "permitted to stay until" date also in their computer system?.

    Any chance that if I go to Moc Bai, they would just let me pass, if I pointed at the visa and showed them the Nov 2011 validity date?

    Also I don't want to leave now, I'm in the middle of a lot of stuff and have prepaid my apartment for several months.

    I remember now that the bus guy who handled the passports asked me about my visa when he handed the stamped passport back to me on the bus to HCMC. When I told him it was 1 year, he looked surprised, but didn't notify me that there was a mistake. I didn't put two and two together. I think he and the immig guy must have thought that my visa had a typo on the validity date.

    Very grateful for all your replies. I couldn't sleep at all last night.

    #9 Posted: 8/9/2011 - 16:25

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    arah

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    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Where are you from? I know that us Brits have to get new visas via Hong Kong now but that they ultimately come from the UK. It'll cost you a few hundred dollars though, what with all the postage as well. Not sure what the case is for other nationalities. Also, regarding the visa - if it's a replacement you can get it transferred but that's not your problem! As far as I have found out, you would have to go to Immigration with your new passport and get a new visa. I'm sure there will be a travel agent in HCMC who could sort this out for you. But this is a costly way to do it all in.

    As for having your stamped date in computer systems - what computer systems? I'm sure they have your visa details in the system but I'm not sure at what point they would register your stamp.

    #10 Posted: 8/9/2011 - 16:44

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  • oasisbarhat-
    ien

    Joined Travelfish
    12th August, 2010
    Posts: 105
    Total reviews: 4

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    I agree with the last poster,it's unlikely that your permission to stay stamp is registered anywhere in the system.I have a 5 year visa exemption for Vietnam.I came back yesterday from Cambodia,and watched the Immigration guy check and stamp my passport.Firstly they scan your passport,by running it through a code reader,which I assume then comes up with your details on their computer screen(I couldn't see the screen though).Then they check the various pages,and finally put in the stamp,handwrite the permission to stay period,and immediately hand the passport back,without any further scanning or entering anything on the computer.There is one thing that occurs to me though.With my visa exemption,although it lasts for 5 years,I have to either leave Vietnam after 90 days(and immediately return if I wish) or alternatively apply for a 90 days extension of stay at local Immigration if I don't want to leave Vietnam.Is this not also the case with a 12 month visa,is there not a requirement to do the same thing,i.e report every 90 days?

    #11 Posted: 9/9/2011 - 09:25

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6341
    Total reviews: 10

    Let us know how it works out for you hombre. Hopefully the communist bastards running Vietnam (whom one of my Vietnamese dancing friends has a great many negative things to say about) will be reasonable on this one. Good luck.

    #12 Posted: 9/9/2011 - 19:04

  • gumby

    Joined Travelfish
    17th October, 2009
    Posts: 4

    Sorry to not reply for so long, I've been busy. Oasis, if there's a requirement that I have to report every 90 days, I'm not aware of it. I've had 6 month visas in the past and didn't report every 90 days, just kept extending them with no problem.

    As for this problem, I talked to someone I do business with who has relatives in the govt, and they said they could get me a new visa in vn, so I wouldn't have to try to leave VN with this stamp, I'd have a new stamp. They also said they could extend my current visa, but I wonder how they can extend it from today if the old stamp says 2010? Can they put a new stamp that extends it from 2010, now that it's Oct 2011? Or would they just cross out the old stamp? I am about to take this option, and we'll see if they can really do it. I am a bit nervous that, if they decide they can't do it, I've put myself in a position where the authorities know about my situation and can take advantage of it.

    Someone also suggested to me that I might just take a blue pen and change the 2010 to 2011. This would not look that unusual because the stamp already has been written over-- i.e., the guy who filled it in first wrote one date, then changed it to a different one. Do you think simply writing a "1" over the 0 would be too risky? Then I would have a validity date that isn't logical, as it would be 1 year and 15 days, while the visa was only for 1 year. But maybe the border guards don't look at it that closely.

    Thanks for the good luck, Madmac.

    #13 Posted: 2/10/2011 - 11:13

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