Following rumors that the relaxed visa policy of South Korea, which took effect on December 3 last year, could change any time, thousands have been thronging the Charmvit Tower on Tran Duy Hung Street in downtown Hanoi, where the Consular Department of the South Korean Embassy in Vietnam is located.
Many of them are queuing up from 2-3 a.m. to get a token number and await their turn.
The crowd outside the South Korean Embassy office at 8 a.m. on Tuesday.
From last December, the South Korean government had started granting C-3 visas to permanent residents of the three Vietnam’s biggest cities Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang without any occupational priority as part of South Korea's "New Southern Policy."
C-3 visa holders can stay in South Korea for up to 30 days, with no restrictions on number of visits for five years.
Most of the visa seekers come from outlying districts in Hanoi and north-central provinces such as Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Thanh Hoa. The provinces are traditionally a big source of labor to South Korea.
A person carries an application package that includes the passport and residence book. Those who do not have a permanent residence in the three major cities are required to show temporary residence papers.
A consular officer issues token numbers. Every day, the Korean consul department only gives out 300 numbers, but the number of people coming every day now is estimated at around 3,000.
The number of Vietnamese applicants for visas to South Korea has boomed since last month.
Nguyen Thi Lan (pictured) from Hanoi’s Quoc Oai District, showed up from 6 a.m. She said she wanted to apply for the visa to visit her relatives in South Korea.
"In the next few months, South Korea may tighten the visa policy; therefore, I have to submit visa application right now though the waiting game is very tiring," she said.
A man smiles when he is about to get his turn for submission.
Another takes a nap on the sidewalk while waiting.
With the current visa policy, applicants have to pay VND1.8 million ($80) as fees and wait for a week to be considered for a five-year visa, while Vietnamese professionals like doctors, lawyers or professors, graduates who enrolled in four-year-plus programs in South Korean universities and those with masters’ degrees or above from overseas will be eligible for the 10-year multi-entry visas.
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