Visa Rules in Asia: Everything You Need to Know

We know that it can be difficult to understand the visa regulations that apply to different countries. And even though it is a very boring part, it’s important when planning a trip. In this guide, we’ll go through the most important things to consider when it comes to visa rules in Asia, as well as specific regulations for the different countries.

Why do I Need a Visa?

Visa requirements are enforced by most countries as a security to keep track of entries and prevent illegal immigration. They serve as a defensive measure to prevent security threats from gaining entry. Even if it’s usually the most confusing part while planning your trip, it must get done right.

A visa is a travel document permitting entry into a foreign country for a specified duration. Obtaining a visa usually requires an application to be submitted before you arrive, either in person, at an embassy or consulate, or online. In some cases, visas can be obtained upon arrival. Typically, visas are stamped in passports, as they are a necessary document to carry while traveling abroad.

Different Kinds of Visa

Different rules apply in different countries. However, many destinations in Asia have a visa that you obtain at the airport upon arrival. This is because they rely on tourism and want to make it easy for foreigners to stay for a certain period of time. If you have a different purpose for your trip, such as living in the country for a longer time or working, there are other visas that you need to apply for. This is what applies in the most common backpacking countries in Asia.


Visa on Arrival 

The Visa on Arrival allows Citizens of 51 nations (including the USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and most EU nations) to enter Thailand by air or land and receive a 30-day visa-free entry. You will get a stamp on your passport showing that you can stay for 30 days from arrival. This makes it easy for you to enter the country without having to fix a visa before your trip. Perfect if you know you won’t stay longer than one month. 

Tourist Visa

If you wish to stay longer than 30 days in Thailand, you can get a 60-day Tourist Visa. The cost of a Tourist Visa is about $40 and you’ll need to apply for it in person before you travel. Visit a Thai embassy in your home country and they’ll help you to apply for the visa. According to us, this is the best alternative if you already know you will stay in Thailand longer than 1 month. It will save you from having to go to an immigration center after the first 30 days.

Work Visa

If you’re going to Thailand to work, you’ll need a Thailand work visa. This you have to get from an Embassy or Consulate in your home country before leaving. You need to have the following document ready: 


      • Your passport


        • A completed and signed Thailand Work Visa application form. 


          • Passport-sized picture of yourself


            • Proof of sufficient financial means to cover the duration of your stay. You need 20,000 Thai Baht if you are traveling alone and 40,000 Thai Baht if you are traveling as a family.


              • Police clearance certificate


                • A Letter of Approval from the Thailand Ministry of Labour. Your employer in Thailand has to submit an approval request at the Office of Foreign Workers Administration in the Department of Employment of the Thai Ministry of Labour.

              The next step is to get a Thailand Work Permit, which you apply for at the Department of Employment in Thailand. You have to obtain a Thailand Work Visa in order to enter the country and be able to apply for the permit in the first place. 

              Additionally, you must also get an extension of the right to stay in Thailand, if you want to live there long-term. This one you have to get at the Thai Immigration Bureau.


              Visa on Arrival

              If you are a citizen of a member state of the European Union or if you’re from the United States, you don’t need to get a visa if you only intend to stay in Malaysia for a maximum of 90 days. Malaysia calls this type of stay a visa-free journey but since you have to leave the country in a determined time it’s more like an On arrival Visa.

              Tourist Visa

              If you’re not from a member state of the European Union or from the Us, you’ll need to apply for a Tourist Visa before your trip. One thing to keep in mind is that your Tourist Visa only allows you to travel to Malaysia. It does not guarantee that you will actually enter Malaysia. The decision on whether or not you can enter Malaysia or not is up to an Immigration Officer at the point of entry where you arrive. Although these are the rules, it’s very unlikely that they won’t let you in if you’re there as a traveler.

              Work Visa

              When working in Malaysia as a foreign employee, you’re not the one who should apply for an Employment Pass. Instead, your employer will apply on your behalf before your arrival. The process of obtaining a Malaysian Employment Pass involves two stages:


                  • Your employer needs to apply for an Expatriate Post by seeking approval from the Expatriate Committee (EC) or an authorized approval agency.


                    • Once the Expatriate Post application is approved, your employer will then proceed to submit the Employment Pass Malaysia application to the Immigration Department of Malaysia.


                  Visa on Arrival

                  Passport holders from about 80 counties can get a Visa on Arrival when entering Bali. The visa is valid for 30 days and can be extended once for a further 30-day stay. So you can get a total stay of 60 days, although this does involve a pretty long appointment at the Immigration Office. The Visa on Arrival is about $35.

                  Pro Tip: Now you can get your Visa on Arrival before even arriving in Bali, you can apply for it here.

                  Tourist Visa

                  If you want to stay in Bali for a longer time, it’s easiest to apply for the Single Entry Visa which is valid for 60 days and can be renewed twice for a total possible stay of 180 days. After that, you can apply again while still in Bali for a further possible 180 days. This is by far a better alternative if you already know you want to spend more than 30 days in the country. The Single Entry Visa is about $50, but it can vary a bit depending on which country you’re from.

                  Work Visa

                  If you’re going to Bali for work it’s essential to get a work permit. It means you have to be sponsored by the company you are going to work for. The company will have to APPLY for a KITAS (Kartu Izin Tinggal Sementara) = Temporary Stay Permit Card. They’ll also have o prove or argue their case, that they need a foreigner to do the job.

                  The process takes 2-3 months and costs about $900-1400 depending on if you get the 6 or 12-month permit since it includes the work permit tax of $100/month which has to be paid beforehand.

                  Visa stamps in a passport


                  Visa on Arrival

                  Depending on how long you want to stay in Vietnam you may enter visa-free. This applies to citizens of some Southeast Asian countries who can visit Vietnam for up to 30 days without a visa. If you’re from any of the 11 eligible countries in Europe you can stay up to 15 days in Vietnam without a visa. 

                  Tourist visa 

                  The most popular type of visa for Vietnam is a Tourist Visa which is normally valid for 15-30 days. You can apply for a Tourist Visa online or at a Vietnamese embassy or consulate. 

                  In some cases, you can even apply for a 3-month visa for tourism purposes. The procedure will be the same as with a 30-day visa. If you know you want to stay more than one month in Vietnam, it’s recommended to discuss the ability for a 3-month Tourist Visa with the Vietnamese Embassy. 

                  Work visa 

                  To work in Vietnam and stay in the country for an extended period, foreigners need to apply for a long-term visa. There are several options depending on what business or work you intend to engage in.

                  The most common form of work visa is an LD visa. This is for foreign employees of organizations operating in Vietnam. In addition to the LD visa, you’ll also need a work permit. To get a work permit you need to:


                      • Be at least 18 years old


                        • Have good health to be able to satisfy a job


                          • Be a manager, executive director, or expert with the technical skills and knowledge necessary for the job


                            • Not currently subject to criminal prosecution or any criminal sentence in Vietnam and not having a criminal record.


                          Visa on Arrival

                          You’re able to buy a Visa on Arrival in Cambodia for about $30. The visa is called a Tourist Visa even though you get in on arrival. The Visa on Arrival is best for those who know they will be staying 30 days or less in the country. This type of visa is a single entry only and can be renewed once during your stay. 

                          Tourist visa 

                          The 30-day Tourist Visa in Cambodia is the same as the on-arrival, with the only difference being that you have applied before you arrive. The tourist has the same rules with a single entry only and can be renewed once for an additional 30 days for a fee of between $30 and $50. After that, Tourist Visa holders must leave Cambodia and come back to obtain a new visa. 

                          Work visa 

                          All foreign nationals coming to Cambodia for work must obtain an E-class visa, previously known as a business or ordinary visa, valid for 30 days. They must also obtain a work permit and employment card through the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training (MLVT). The most common types of E-class visas are:

                          EB visa: The most used option for foreign nationals working in Cambodia. It applies to anyone working in the country, starting a business, freelancing, and staying in Cambodia for more than a month.

                          EP visa: EP visas are issued to foreign nationals coming to Cambodia to look for a job, start a business, or remain in the country after their initial 30-day stay under the E-class visa expires.

                          EG visa: The general visa that applies to those searching for employment. It can last one, three, or six months.


                          Visa on Arrival

                          Visa regulations in the Philippines let people from 160 countries across the globe enter the country without a visa for short stays. In addition to this, you’re able to get a Visa on Arrival that allows citizens of specified countries to stay in the Philippines for up to 59 days for tourism purposes. Documents such as proof of a return or onward ticket and proof of sufficient funds to cover the trip may also be requested. It is also necessary to pay a fee for the visa to be approved.

                          Tourist visa 

                          You’ll need a Temporary Stay Visa if you’re planning on going to the Philippines and are not a passport holder of one of the countries which can get a Visa On Arrival. Other than the name there’s not much difference between the two visa types. You can stay up 59 days on both and it’s pretty simple to extend further. To get the Temporary Stay Visa you’ll need to apply for it at an Embassy or Consulate of the Philippines abroad.

                          A Philippines Tourist Visa is a short-term visa, which is issued to visa-required foreigners who will enter the Philippines for:


                              • Tourism


                                • Medical treatment


                                  • Conducting business


                                    • Attending a cultural, academic, or sports event


                                      • Visiting family members


                                        • Any other short-term purpose which does not require work

                                      Work visa 

                                      To be able to work in the Philippines you’ll need a working visa. The process of getting one begins with an application for an AEP (Alien Employment Permit) from the Department of Labor and Employment. This application can be filed by the employer in the Philippines or the prospective employee.

                                      The application for a working visa must be sponsored by the employer and can be filed through the Bureau of Immigration. Make sure to start the process in time if you’re planning on working in the Philippines since it usually takes 2-3 months from the AEP application to getting the visa.

                                      How to Extend Your Visa in Different Countries


                                      Everyone who wants to stay in Thailand longer than their visa is issued for has to get a Thai Visa Extension. Depending on the type of  Thailand Visa you have, as well as the purpose of your travel to Thailand, you could get:


                                          • A short-term extension, which is usually a 30-Day Thailand Visa Extension issued to On Arrival Visa holders and Tourist Visa holders. To get this extension it’s easiest to visit an immigration center. After visiting a Thai immigration one time, you’ll have to leave the country if you’re interested in extending your visa one more time. 


                                            • A long-term Thai visa Extension can be from 90 days to one year, depending on which purpose you want to live in Thailand. Long-term extensions are issued to Non-Immigrant Visa holders. This type of Visa is also managed by the immigration center.

                                          Pro Tip: According to us, the absolute best immigration center in Thailand is in Krabi. It usually only takes about 10 minutes for the whole process to be done. 


                                          If you are from a country that is allowed to apply for an eVisa to visit Malaysia, you can do so online for a one-time entry. However, if you need a multiple-entry or long-term visa, or cannot apply online, it’s best to consult with the embassy.

                                          Unfortunately, if you are a foreigner visiting Malaysia on any type of visa, you cannot extend it. You must leave the country before the visa expires and apply for a new visa if you want to return.


                                          When it comes to extending your Visa on Arrival in Bali by another 30 days, you are required to already have your visa. For a Visa on Arrival, it’s easiest to extend it by yourself visiting the immigration office. Remember that It takes up to 14 days to extend your visa in Bali, so do it at least 2 weeks before your visa expires, 

                                          If you want to extend any other Visa type than the On Arrival, it’s easiest to hire a visa agent to do it for you, since there’s a lot of paperwork and rules to follow.


                                          If you want to stay longer than the visa period you’ve gotten in Vietnam, you need to either leave and return to the country or do a visa extension without leaving the country. Most travelers prefer visa extension thanks to the time-saving and cost-saving advantages.

                                          You can extend your visa at the Immigration Management Department located in Hanoi, Danang, and Saigon. When it comes to Vietnam you’re able to get an extension for 15 days, 1 month, 3 months, or 6 months depending on which visa you have. 


                                          If you have a 30-day Visa on Arrival or a Tourist Visa, you can extend it once at the Department of Immigration for an additional 30 days, the fee for an extension is between $30 and $50.

                                          If you have an E-class visa you can extend it for 1, 3, 6, or 12 months for between $30 and $300 depending on the length of the extension. You do it at the Department of Immigration. 


                                          If you arrive in the Philippines with a Visa on Arrival or a Tourist Visa but want to stay past 30 days, then you must extend your visa. You can initially only extend for 29 days (technically a visa waiver).

                                          A 29-day extension can be done online or in person by you or by an authorized representative at a Bureau of Immigration office.

                                          After your first 59 days, you can apply for another 2-month extension, either in-person or by an authorized representative at a Bureau of Immigration office.

                                          The Philippines are one of the easiest countries in Asia to get a further Visa extension. After four months (59 days + 2 months), you can extend with another 1, 2, or 6 months extension. Most nationalities can legally live in the Philippines for a total of 36 months on a Tourist Visa with proper extensions. 

                                          Nomadic Notes has a great article about his thoughts on the best and worst border crossings in Southeast Asia. Check it out! 

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