Vietnam is more liberal at present, so foreign nationals who wish to visit the country can apply directly at the Vietnam Embassy or Consulates located in their countries of residence. The entire application process will take about 4 to 10 days. Visitors may also obtain the visa upon arrival at the airport with certain special requirements. Governing bodies ensure that foreign nationals have their passports and other travel documents in check. Purposes of visits among individuals can vary from business, leisure, study, mass media, and permanent residency. Foreigners should know and follow the stipulations and rules concerning temporary stays and immigration.
Vietnam Immigration Laws
There are immigration laws governing foreign employment and investment in Vietnam. The Labor Department is responsible for ensuring that all foreign nationals working in the country are staying within the indicated limits of their permits and contracts. There are also legislations concerning admissions into, via, and out of Vietnam.
The Foreign Affairs Representatives of Vietnam and the General Consulate Office of Vietnam are two agencies that mainly handle immigration issues. These are located in several countries. However, special provisions may be provided to borderline countries depending on each situation.
There are also laws legalizing the acquisition of visas only upon arrival in Vietnam. Immigration law allows individuals from most ASEAN countries as well as those involved in a bilateral or unilateral treaty with Vietnam to enter without the need of a visa, but only up to a maximum of thirty (30) days.
Visa Immigration Services
Business individuals should limit activities in Vietnam to:
• Attending business discussions, transactions, and meetings
• Attending seminars and other educational meetings
• Making sales calls and negotiations with Vietnamese clients and companies provided that the visitor legally represents a business entity outside Vietnam
Most visitors of Vietnam are required visas. Citizens of countries that signed a bilateral or unilateral visa exemption agreement with Vietnam are exempt from having to obtain a visa. Some of the exemptions include:
• Citizens of Thailand, Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Laos for a stay lasting no more than thirty (30) days
• Citizens of Japan, South Korea, Norway, Denmark, Finland, and Sweden for a stay lasting no more than fifteen (15) days
• Citizens of France who hold valid diplomatic passports for a single entry pass lasting no more than three (3) months or multiple entry passes within six (months) from the initial entry dates.
• Citizens of Chile who hold valid diplomatic or official passports for a stay lasting no more than sixty (60) days on every visit.
Visas can be issued at the border gates if the applicant:
• Is attending a family or relative funeral or visiting a sick relative
• Is traveling to Vietnam together with a Vietnamese International Tourism company
• Comes from countries without officially existing Foreign Affairs Representatives of Vietnam or a General Consulate Office of Vietnam.
• Is providing first aid to seriously injured or sick persons during natural calamities, emergency situations, and times of epidemics in Vietnam.
In addition, a single thirty day valid tourist visa costs a little over US$65 or Eur44.50. The process takes from four working days to a week. There is an express visa option at half the time but at twice the price.
Types of Visas
This is issued only for single entry and a validity period lasting no more than one (1) month. Applicants can extend it after entering Vietnam. Diplomatic, business, official and other types of visas should be acquired from the official agencies or government or business sponsor.
This is issued to entrepreneurs, investors, and businessmen. These foreigners get multiple entry options with a validity period lasting anywhere between three (3) and six (6) months. In some cases, the acquisition of business visas may be exempt for individuals under treaties or other reciprocity agreements.
Multiple Entry Business Visa (MEBV)
This is issued to individuals conducting business in Vietnam with other Vietnamese companies or with foreign companies based in Vietnam. Holders will be allowed multiple entry with validation depending on the contract or duration of the business transaction.
Some of the requirements for the application of MEBV include:
• Application form
• Application fee
• Valid passport (minimum of 6 months) with two or more blank visa pages
• Four passport-size photos
• Fax copy of the pre-authorization approval notification
The pre-authorization application lasts anywhere from 5 to 7 business days, while the consular process lasts about 2 to 5 business days. The costs for document requirements, procedures and processing schedules may vary depending on the Consulate location and type of visa applied for. The approval letter will be sent by the Vietnam Immigration Department in Hanoi via fax or email. At present, visa applications can also be done online.
This is issued to individuals who wish to study in universities, academies, colleges, schools, and other educational institutions in Vietnam. Foreign nationals can also obtain a student visa after entering Vietnam via a tourist visa. They can ask the institution the places they need to go to attend seminars about the student visa application process, the fees required and the minimum class attendance requirements.
Visa on Arrival
This is ideal for individuals coming from countries with no Vietnamese foreign affairs representatives or a General Consulate office. Foreigners will only be asked for a passport and the purpose of their visit. They may also be asked to present some travel documents. Their passports will be stamped upon approval as they pass through the immigration checkpoint. Foreigners can enter Vietnam by air with a validity period of thirty (30) days.
Types of Permits
Foreign nationals assigned to work in Vietnam are required to show a degree of proprietary knowledge, a special skill or a manager/executive-level skill not readily available in the domestic labor market of the country. You may convert from visitor status to work status while staying in Vietnam or as the work permit application is in process.
However, foreign nationals cannot begin work until the application is approved and considered legal. Foreign nationals who enter Vietnam for employment for a duration of three (3) months or more are required an MEBV (Multiple Entry Business Visa and Work Permit). The Work Permit application has to be sponsored by a company or entity registered and recognized in Vietnam. 20% of managers, executives and specialists of foreign companies with intra-company transferees from outside the country, according to Vietnamese law, should be composed of Vietnamese nationals.
The inclusion of managers and executives is described as:
• Foreigners who directly control a foreign enterprise located in Vietnam
• Foreigners subject to general guidance only by shareholders and the board of directors of the enterprise
• Foreigners who do not participate directly in the provision of services
Specialists are described as foreign nationals with adequate experience in management, business administration, or product development. They should also be highly qualified or experienced in research, equipment management and technical knowledge.
To obtain a Work Permit in Vietnam, applicants should satisfy the following requirements:
• Be at least 18 years of age
• Health in good condition to satisfy the specific demands and requirements of the job
• Free of any criminal record or a national security offence, not currently facing criminal prosecution, or not serving a criminal sentence during assignment.
• Must be a specialist, manager, or executive.
Some foreign nationals are exempt from getting the Work Permit and can work in Vietnam holding only business visas. These individuals are:
• Foreigners entering Vietnam to work for less than three (3) months or to resolve emergency cases are exempt. Emergency cases are described as complex technical or technological incidents that affect or threaten to affect business activities and production to the gravity cannot be managed adequately by Vietnam-based personnel. Foreign employees are required to submit their full name, passport number, nationality, job description and an employment contract copy indicating a period of no more than ninety (90) days to the Labor Department
• 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
Employees of foreign-based contractors and heads of foreign representative and branch offices were recently required the Work Permit. The Work Permit validity period lasts depending on the duration of assignment indicated in the employment contract, but no more than three (3) years. Renewals are also dependent on the employment contract, with a maximum of three (3) years for every renewal. Individuals can renew up to a maximum of three (3) times.
This permit is required after arrival in Vietnam. The MEBV can be continually renewed every six (6) months or when the employee has stayed in the country for a minimum of six (6) months. Employees may also choose to apply for a Permit Card for Temporary Residence, which is usually issued for the duration of the Work Permit. If issued a Residence Permit, this replaces the MEBV for the employee and other dependents, if present.
Before leaving Vietnam, the Work Permit of employees needs to be cancelled with the assistance of the Labor Department. Foreign employees should return the permit to their employer within fifteen (15) days from the date their employment ends. It is the employer’s responsibility to submit the permit with a notification letter to the Labor Department’s local office.