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I'm filling out my EVisa application for a short trip to Vietnam and was surprised to encounter this question, and all the more so that it's required.

Why am I being asked this, and does my response matter?

  • 2
    Write "astigmatism". – gdrt Mar 12 '18 at 15:10
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    The same question appears in the paper visa I did last year. It is unusual and I was wondering why. Maybe certain religions are not allowed. I just put None. – Itai Mar 12 '18 at 15:14
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    I also put "None" which I assume is the preferred answer, but it did get me wondering – MichaelChirico Mar 12 '18 at 15:22
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    Vietnam is a semi-totalitarian developing country that has barely started to transition into a democracy... don't expect much logic from their bureaucracy. – JonathanReez Mar 13 '18 at 11:04
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    @JonathanReez there's no such thing as "no reason", only reasons you don't (or are unwilling to) understand. – MichaelChirico Mar 13 '18 at 11:06

According to Smartraveller, Vietnam cracks down on unapproved religious activities:

involvement in non-state sanctioned political or religious activities, including on-line activities – those suspected could be denied entry into Vietnam, detained, deported or prevented from departing Vietnam until authorities have completed investigations

My theory is that Christianity, or certain proselytising denominations, may be treated with suspicion, since some of them have a tendency to target nominally communist countries.

  • 1
    Perhaps other proselytizing religions are viewed with equal suspicion. – phoog Mar 12 '18 at 21:36
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    @phoog in theory yes, but I’m not aware of any concerted efforts by other religions in Vietnam. – Andrew Grimm Mar 12 '18 at 23:50
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    this sounds reasonable to me. would be better to see that from an official source it possible. – MichaelChirico Mar 12 '18 at 23:50
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    I'd be interested to see behind the curtain where I'm sure Vietnam has data on this sort of thing. Are Mormons more commonly rejected than non-missionary inclined denominations? Alas this data is doomed to be hidden away for decades to come at least. – the other one Mar 13 '18 at 13:04
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    It's interesting that it's a free text field rather than a dropdown. I wonder what happens if you give a less common or alternate name for your religion (e.g. Mohammedanism versus Islam, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints versus Mormon) - do they actually look it up and assign you a religion code, or does it remain a free text response that visa officers judge on a case-by-case basis as they are able and motivated to? – Robert Columbia Mar 13 '18 at 15:12

The conventional and probably correct response in backpacker forums is to put "No."

A wrong answer would be religions that at the time of your entry are actively challenging the authority of the Communist government; historically that's most notably been Buddhist and Catholic. From Wikipedia's Freedom of Religion in Vietnam:

The New Ordinance on Religion and Belief, which came into effect in November 2004, serves as the primary document governing religious practice. It reiterates citizens' rights to freedom of belief, freedom of religion, and freedom not to follow a religion, and it states that violations of these freedoms are prohibited. However, it advises that "abuse" of freedom of belief or religion "to undermine the country's peace, independence, and unity" is illegal and warns that religious activities must be suspended if they negatively affect the cultural traditions of the nation.

For instance,

The government requires all Buddhist monks to be approved by and work under the officially recognized Buddhist organization, the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha (VBS)...

Article 35 of Decree 22 requires government approval for foreign missionary groups to proselytize...

Government policy does not permit persons who belong to unofficial religious groups to speak publicly about their beliefs...

Contacts between some unregistered Protestant organizations and their foreign supporters are discouraged but occur regularly...

I'm going to guess this is probably your first visit to a Communist country? I've been to them from the USSR to North Korea, and I'm pretty sure there's never been a visa application that didn't ask for my religion, and when I put "Christian" I routinely get asked if I have any Bibles with me -- that was the only question I got asked entering North Korea last year, in fact!

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