Obtaining Foreign Work Permits

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By Hoang Thu Huyen

Sept. 22 – Work permits for foreigners in Vietnam are valid for a maximum of three years. There are currently around 60,000 foreign employees in the country with valid work permits and around 20,000 illegally employed foreigners using tourist visas.

Authorities are now becoming stricter when it comes to foreigners working in the country without obtaining a proper work permit. Persons who violate the regulations will be penalized or even deported back to their home countries if they cannot meet the work permit requirements.

Foreign nationals working in the country for companies, organizations, or individuals must comply with certain conditions to qualify for a work permit. These include the following:

  • Must be at least 18 years of age
  • Must be in good health as necessary to satisfy the job requirements
  • Must be a manager, executive director or expert with technical skills and knowledge applicable to the job
  • Must not have a criminal record and currently not subject to criminal prosecution or any criminal sentence in Vietnam or overseas

An employer is permitted to recruit foreign workers who fully satisfy the above conditions in order to work as managers, executive directors and experts where local hires are not yet able to meet production and business requirements. Foreign employees in the country are required to present their work permit during immigration procedures and when required by authorized state agencies. Illegally employed foreign employees will be automatically deported from the country and the hiring company penalized.

Foreign nationals are exempted from obtaining a work permit in cases wherein:

  • The foreign national is working in Vietnam for less than three months
  • The foreign national is a member of limited liability company with two members and above
  • The foreign national is the owner of a limited liability company with only one member
  • The foreign national is a member of the board of a joint stock company
  • The foreign national is coming to Vietnam to market products and services
  • The foreign national is coming to Vietnam within three months to resolve an emergency situation or technologically complex situation that risks affecting production business which Vietnamese experts or foreign experts currently in Vietnam are unable to solve
  • Foreign lawyers granted a professional permit in Vietnam

Referring to the list above, one should be aware that the following would still be required to obtain a work permit in Vietnam:

  • Chief representative of ROs
  • Director of branches
  • General director or director of foreign-invested companies in Vietnam, regardless if companies are LLCs or JSCs

As mentioned above, a foreigner who is member of a company in Vietnam is exempted from a work permit. Under the Enterprise Law of Vietnam, a member of a company can be either an individual or a corporate.

As for Decree 34/2008/ND–CP, it is unclear whether a foreigner who is appointed by a foreign corporate member of a LLC in Vietnam will still be exempted from obtaining a work permit or not. From practical experience, a work permit is still required from such foreigners as cited by the Department of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs (DoLISA) Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

A work permit is not necessary when the foreigner comes to Vietnam to offer services. However, in this case, the person must submit a seven day advance notice to the provincial Department of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs prior to working in Vietnam.

Hoang Thu Huyen is the country manager for Dezan Shira & Associates in Vietnam. For professional advice on doing business in Vietnam e-mail vietnam@dezshira.com.

This article was excerpted from the August issue of Vietnam Briefing. To purchase a PDF version of the magazine online, please visit the Asia Briefing Bookstore.