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After restricting the entry of foreigners during COVID-19, since March 2022, Vietnam reopened the border to foreign tourists as well as foreign workers. Vietnam’s immigration and entry are entry procedures are governed by Law on Entry, Exit, Transit, and Residence of Foreigners in Vietnam (the Immigration Law) which came into force in July 2020.

Vietnam’s visa and work permit procedures can be confusing for first-time visitors. Vietnam Briefing explains the steps and what foreigners should pay attention to when planning a long-term visit.

In April 2022, Vietnam welcomed 89,193 foreigners, up by 104 percent compared to March. Most foreign workers that come to Vietnam are employees of foreign contractors, working for, or establishing, foreign direct investment (FDI) projects, coming from over 100 countries.

A Vietnamese entity is permitted to recruit foreign workers in order to work as managers, executive directors, and experts where local hires are not yet able to meet production and business requirements. Unlike in certain other Asian countries, Vietnamese representative offices are also able to hire staff directly.

Evidence of this announcement must be presented in the application for a work permit for a foreign employee. The other option is to recruit foreigners through a government-owned employment service center.

When hiring foreign staff in Vietnam, there are a number of procedures and legal frameworks that must be understood.

Types of visas

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 country or from within Vietnam. Citizens of the following countries can receive a free entry visa to Vietnam for the duration listed below:

  • ASEAN countries: from 14 to 30 days;
  • Chile: 90 days; and
  • Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and the UK (British citizens only): 15 days (the gap of at least 30 days in between two visa-free entries has been removed as per the new immigration law.)

In addition, Vietnam also updated the processes and procedures for the e-visa system, allowing a single-entry visit with a duration of up to 30 days, for 80 nationalities. As per the Immigration Law, the prescribed processing time for e-visa is three working days after completing registration and fee payment.

Vietnam recently added Van Don International Airport, which serves Ha Long Bay, to the list of airports that allow e-visa entry.

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. Please be advised that at the moment, tourists can only come on the e-visa system valid for 30 days. Foreigners entering on business visas must pick up the business visa at a Vietnamese embassy or consulate; this type of visa has to be sponsored by the employer.

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

With a DT1 visa, investors can apply for a temporary residence card initially for two years.

Visa type conversion

The Immigration Law also allows the conversion of visa types for another purpose without having to leave Vietnam as required by the old regulation. The following cases are eligible for visa type change:

  • Investors and representatives of a foreign organization investing in Vietnam;
  • Dependents of Vietnamese citizens; and
  • Being invited or guaranteed by agencies or organizations, and having a work permit or work permit exemption certificate.

A new visa will be granted following a converting visa application.

Additional case for visa exemption

The Immigration Law adds to the list one more case of visa exemption for foreigners entering border-gate or coastal economic zones, under the decision of the government. The coastal zone needs to meet the following conditions:

  • Having an international airport and a separate space (definite boundaries and separated from the mainland);
  • In accordance with the socio-economic development policy; and
  • Does not pose a threat to national security, defense, social order, and safety.

This type of visa exemption is valid for 30 days.

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. 

[tips title="Did you Know"]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.[/tips]

Temporary Residence Cards

Foreigners who hold work permits valid for one year or more, as well as a holder of work visas, members of management boards of directors, heads of company branches, and Chief Representatives of representative offices of foreign enterprises in Vietnam, 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 ten years, depending on the visa type. As per the Immigration Law, the duration of each investor visa type of TRC is based on the amount of contributed capital, as follows:

  • TRC – DT1 visas: up to 10 years;
  • TRC – NG3, LV1-2, LS, DT2 and DH visas: up to 5 years;
  • TRC – NN1-2, DT3, and TT visas: up to 3 years; and
  • TRC – LD1-2, and PV1 visas: up to 2 years.

Investors using a DT4 visa (with a capital investment of less than VND 3 billion, or US$128,800) are not eligible for a TRC.

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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