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In order to enter Vietnam, a foreigner needs a visa issued by the Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate. A Vietnamese visa can be granted while in a third-party country or from within Vietnam. Citizens of ASEAN countries receive a free entry visa to Vietnam that lasts between 15 and 30 days, while Vietnam also has an e-visa policy for 80 nationalities lasting until 30 days. However, to work in Vietnam and remain for an extended period, foreigners need to apply for a longer-term three-month single or multiple entry visas.

Relevant visa types include:

Vietnam Visa Types

Visa Type

Description

Validity

DL

Tourist visa

3 months

HN

Meetings/Conferences

3 months

LD

Foreign workers/Working visas

2 years

LV1-LV2

Working with Vietnamese authorities

12 months

DT

Investor Visas

5 years

DN

Working with Vietnam businesses

12 months

NN1-NN2

Chief Representative Office in Vietnam, Head of Project Office of foreign NGO

12 months

NN3

NGO Staff, Represenative Office

12 months

DH

Student/Internship

12 months

NG1-NG4

Diplomatic visas

12 months

Work Permit Procedures and Requirements

Employers that require hiring a foreign employee must submit a written request to the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs (MoLISA), 30 days before the commencement of employment. A response is typically received within 10 days after submission.

The employer should then request a work permit from the MoLISA. This should ideally be applied 15 days before the foreign worker commences their employment. Work permit processing times take up to 10 business days. A work permit cannot be applied directly by the workers/foreigners, but with the assistance of their employers from Vietnam.

Where a work permit is not compulsory, a notice must be submitted seven days in advance to the provincial MoLISA prior to working in Vietnam. Currently, work permits for foreigners are valid for a maximum of two years and can be extended one time for a further two year term. A new application must be made if the company wishes to continue employing the foreign worker.

Stricter criteria for foreign workers

Decree 152 requires foreigners to have a practicing certificate with at least five years of work experience in the job that they will be hired for in Vietnam. The Decree also does not specify what the practicing certificate should entail leaving largely the local MoLISA to decide. Alternatively, an expert needs to have a relevant bachelor’s degree or higher relevant to their job position in Vietnam and a minimum of three years of work experience. In addition, the practicing certificate must be confirmed by an overseas company or organization.

Decree 152 requires several documents required for a work permit application. These include:

  • Application form;
  • Health certificate issued in the past year as per guidelines by the Ministry of Health;
  • Police or criminal clearance certificate, no less than six months old;
  • Proof as a manager or executive;
  • Proof as an expert or technical worker; and
  • Acceptance from MoLISA for the demand for foreign employees.

 

The following situations exempt the foreigner from needing a work permit:

  • Working in Vietnam for less than three months;
  • A member of a limited liability company with two or more members;
  • The owner of a limited liability company with only one member;
  • A member of the board of a joint-stock company;
  • Coming to Vietnam to market products and services;
  • Coming to Vietnam for less than three months in order to resolve an emergency or technologically complex situation that could affect production, which Vietnamese experts or foreign experts currently in Vietnam are unable to resolve;
  • Lawyers granted a professional permit in Vietnam;
  • Heads of representative offices, chiefs of project offices, or someone working for foreign non-government organization in Vietnam;
  • Internally transferred within an enterprise, which has a commercial presence in the committed service list of Vietnam with the World Trade Organization, including: business service, information service, construction services, distribution service, education service, environment service, financial service, health service, tourism service, cultural and recreational services and transportation service; and
  • Coming to Vietnam to supply consulting services on tasks serving to research, build, appraise, monitor and evaluate, manage, and process programs and projects that use Official Development Assistance (ODA) in accordance with regulations or agreements in an international treaty on ODA signed between an authorized Vietnam agency and foreign agency. 

Vietnamese authorities are becoming stricter regarding work permits. Those who violate the regulations by working in Vietnam without a work permit may be penalized or, if unable to meet work permit requirements, deported back to their home countries within 15 days. In addition, the employer’s operations may be suspended for three months with a possible penalty of up to US$3,300.

Temporary Residence Cards

Foreigners who hold work permits valid for one year or more, as well as senior management, can be granted a Temporary Residence Card (TRC). A TRC is issued by the immigration agency under the Ministry of Public Security and is valid from one to five years depending on the visa type.

People granted a TRC can enter and exit Vietnam without a visa within the valid terms of their TRC. The processing time typically takes five working days while the fee varies between US$60 to US$100 depending on the duration of the card.

Holders of work visas are eligible for a TRCs, as well as members of management boards, members of councils and boards of directors, heads of company branches and Chief Representatives of representative offices of foreign enterprises in Vietnam.

Permanent Residence Cards

An expatriate who has a legal residence while earning a living in Vietnam may also apply for a Permanent Residence Card (PRC); however, they are subject to the following conditions: 

  • The expat works for the development of Vietnam and is awarded a medal or title by the government;
  • The expat resides temporarily in Vietnam for three or more consecutive years and is sponsored by his parent, spouse, or child who is a Vietnamese citizen and has a permanent residence in Vietnam; and
  • Foreign scientists or experts recommended by the head of a ministerial or government agency.  

The processing time typically takes five working days with a fee of US$100. A PRC holder can stay in Vietnam without a visa however, a PRC must be re-issued every 10 years.

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