1) Tourist Visa Exemptions
Citizens of the following countries do not need a tourist visa to enter Vietnam.
- Thailand, Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Laos for a stay lasting no more than thirty days
- Japan, South Korea, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Sweden for a stay lasting no more than fifteen days
2) Multiple-Entry Business Visas
Even though in Vietnamese this is called thi thuc lam viec (working visa), a business visa is only supposed to be issued to entrepreneurs, investors and businessmen. They are not a legal substitute for a work permit. Foreigners holding this visa get multiple entry options with a validity period lasting anywhere between three months and one year. The present crackdown is limiting many of these visas to three months.
3) Work or Labour Permits
Foreign nationals employed in Vietnam for a duration of three months or more are required to apply for a work permit. To be eligible, the applicant must show a degree of proprietary knowledge, a special skill or a manager/executive-level skill not readily available in the domestic labour market of the country. The applicant also has to have a health check by an approved medical facility, a background police check from their home country (see below for exemptions) and original, notarized copies of all their qualifications or working references.
The work permit application has to be sponsored by a company or entity registered and recognized in Vietnam, and the permits can be renewed up to three times. One you have your work permit you are entitled to obtain a temporary residency permit, which acts as a replacement for the business visa.
Some foreign nationals are exempt from getting the work permit and can work in Vietnam holding only business visas. These individuals are:
- Foreigners who enter Vietnam to work for no more than three months or to resolve emergency cases.
- Members of a limited liability company having two or more members
- Members of the board of directors of a shareholding company
- Owners of a single-member limited liability company
- Employees that promote and market services belonging to foreign service suppliers
- Vietnam’s Ministry of Justice-certified practicing lawyers
Please note that recent changes to applying for a work permit mean that:
a) You now no longer need a police report from your home country if you have been residing in a city or province of Vietnam for six months or more. To prove this, your landlord has to sign you up with the local police when you move into your place of residence. For tax purposes, though, many landlords avoid doing this.
b) If you have been signed up with the local police, instead of a police report from your home country you can apply for a background check from the local So tu phap (Department of Justice).
c) If you can prove you have been working in your field of expertise for over five years, then a university degree is unnecessary. This requires references from previous employers, which then have to be notarized by your consulate or embassy.
4) Permanent Resident Permit
Called the cu tru in Vietnamese, this is different to the temporary resident permit (the tam tru), which is only available to holders of work permits. Having a permanent resident permit avoids the need to have a business visa and, in theory, a work permit. This is available to people who:
a) Have been unjustifiably oppressed while fighting for people’s freedom and independence, socialism, democracy and peace or for a scientific cause.
b) Have made contributions in building and protecting the fatherland of Vietnam.
c) Are the wife, husband, child, father or mother of a Vietnamese citizen residing permanently in Vietnam.
It’s a minefield out there, and making yourself fully legal can be complicated and time-consuming. However, with the present enforcement of the immigration laws, now’s the time to ensure that you’re entitled to be living and working in Vietnam. Just remember, providing you can prove that you should be here, you won’t encounter any problems.