Vietnam’s visa and work permit procedures

HANOI – The number of foreign laborers coming to Vietnam has steadily increased in recent years, surging to over 88,000 workers at the end of 2012. The large majority of foreign workers that come to Vietnam are employees of foreign contractors, working for, or establishing, foreign direct investment (FDI) projects.

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, thirty 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. In this article, we discuss the documents necessary for a foreign worker in Vietnam, including:

Visas;Work Permits;Temporary Residence Cards.


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 Asian Pacific countries receive a free entry visa to Vietnam that lasts between 15 and 30 days. However, to work in Vietnam and remain for an extended period, foreigners need to apply for a longer-term three-month multiple entry visa.

RELATED: Vietnam, Myanmar Ease Visa Restrictions

Relevant visa types include:

B2- For execution of investment projects already licensed by Vietnamese state agencies;B3- For work with Vietnamese enterprises;B4- For work at representative offices or branches of economic, culture, or other professional organizations of foreign countries, or work with a Vietnam-based non-governmental organizations.

Work Permits

In most cases, a work permit is required when working in Vietnam for more than three months. Where a work permit is not compulsory, a notice must be submitted seven days in advance to the provincial Department of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs (DoLISA) prior to working in Vietnam. Currently, work permits for foreigners are valid for a maximum of three years.

Authorities are becoming more strict 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.

In order 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;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;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;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.

Temporary Residence Cards

Foreigners who hold work permits valid for one year or more, as well as senior management, can be granted a Temporary Residential Card (TRC). A TRC is issued by the immigration agency under the Ministry of Public Security, and will be valid from 1 to 5 years. People granted a TRC can enter and exit Vietnam without a visa within the valid terms of their TRC.

Holders of a B2, B3, or B4 visa 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.

This article is an excerpt the September 2013 edition of Asia Briefing Magazine, titled “Work Visa and Permit Procedures Across Asia.” In this edition of Asia Briefing Magazine, we outline the specific documents required for foreign nationals working in across Asia, as well as highlight the relevant application processes in each country. Attention is also given to the role of the sponsoring company and the regulations they must adhere to. Accompanying each country’s visa and permit structure, you will find a complete list of the essential documents required when filing for permission to work abroad.

Dezan Shira & Associates is a specialist foreign direct investment practice, providing corporate establishment, business advisory, tax advisory and compliance, accounting, payroll, due diligence and financial review services to multinationals investing in emerging Asia. Since its establishment in 1992, the firm has grown into one of Asia’s most versatile full-service consultancies with operational offices across China, Hong Kong, India, Singapore and Vietnam as well as liaison offices in Italy and the United States.

For further details or to contact the firm, please email, visit, or download the company brochure.

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