Vietnam’s Visas and Work Permit Procedures
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.
The number of foreign skilled workers coming to Vietnam has steadily increased in recent years, surging to over 80,000 at the end of 2018. 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.
To demonstrate the necessity of a foreign employee, 30 days prior to recruiting the foreign employee, the entity must publicly announce recruitment for this position to Vietnamese job seekers in a Vietnamese newspaper or online portal.
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-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 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 visa.
Relevant visa types include:
Work permit procedures and requirements
A work permit is required when working in Vietnam for more than three months. This should ideally be applied 15 days by the employer with the provincial Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs (MoLISA) before the foreign worker commences their employment. Work permit processing times take up to 10 business days.
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 three years and are not renewable. A new application must be made if the company wishes to continue employing the foreign worker.
To be eligible for a work permit, the applicant must comply with the following conditions:
- At least 18 years of age;
- In good enough health to satisfy job requirements;
- A manager, executive director or expert with technical skills and knowledge necessary for the job; and
- Not currently subject to criminal prosecution or any criminal sentence in Vietnam or overseas or have a criminal record.
A work permit may be terminated in the following circumstances:
- Expiration of work permit;
- Termination of labor contract;
- The content of the labor contract is not consistent with the work permit granted;
- If the foreign employee is fired by the foreign employer;
- Withdrawal of work permit by authorized state agencies;
- Termination of operation of the company, organization, and partners in Vietnam; and
- The foreigner is sentenced to prison, dies or is proclaimed missing by court.
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 Temporary Residence Card, 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.