GBS - Expats unfamiliar with the work permit process in Vietnam need only speak to a fellow foreigner working in the country to learn that applying for and obtaining this crucial document comes with more mysteries than a Sherlock Holmes adventure.
The Vietnamese government has passed legislation that vows to deport expats working in Vietnam who have not applied for a work permit and who do not hold a work permit. On the other hand, the application process itself seems disproportionately confusing, bogged down by superfluous formalities and inconsistencies.
Furthermore, many expats have complained that the application process is different in other cities in Vietnam, and that there is simply no clear guideline about what to do and what to submit.
Thus, what follows is information that may be subject to change, but that is reportedly in line with the policy on work permits in Vietnam issued by the government’s immigration department.
Applying for a work permit for Vietnam
Expats can either apply for a work permit from within Vietnam, or from abroad with the help of their employer or a contracted visa agency. Those applying from within Vietnam will need to do so within 90 days of arrival, as the government only grants a three month period during which expats can live and search for job opportunities in the country without a permit.
Criteria to be eligible for a work permit for Vietnam
- Expats must be 18 years of age or older
- Expats must be physically fit to work
- Expats applying to local companies must be either managers or executives, or must have an area of technical expertise not present in the Vietnam labour market
Expats must not have a previous conviction for infringement of national security, must not be facing examination of penal liability and must not be serving a criminal penalty as prescribed by Vietnamese or foreign law.
Those who meet the listed eligibility requirements must then gather a number of documents, have them translated into Vietnamese, and have them notarised in their home country (where applicable). There has been much debate regarding whether the notarisation must be done in Vietnam or in an expat’s home country, but the best rule of thumb seems to be, better safe than sorry. So, if it is possible to get them notarised in an expat’s home country, applicants are advised to do so. Furthermore, expats are advised to have at least two notarised copies of each required document.
There is a fee for submitting a work permit application and, depending on the contract, work permits can be valid for up to three years.
Once submitted, applications are supposed to only take ten working days to process. However, many expats have reported that this is a fairly optimistic period of time, and that instead foreigners should expect to wait at least a month for their work permit to be granted.
Extending a work permit in Vietnam
It is fairly easy to extend a work permit in Vietnam, as long as the applicant is continuing the job for which they were initially granted the permit. If this is the case then the employer must apply for this extension at least 30 days before the existing permit expires. Furthermore, certain conditions must be met in order for an expat to be eligible for extension.
Conditions required to apply for work permit extension in Vietnam
The employer must show that they are planning to or are conducting training of Vietnamese employees to perform the jobs currently performed by foreigners; however, because these Vietnamese employees are still unable to perform the jobs – the expat can continue to hold their position if there have been no breaches of labour discipline as stipulated at points B and C, Clause 1, Article 84 of the amended and supplemented Labour Code
Expats must prove they are foreign workers who hold a job in the economic, commercial, financial, banking, insurance, scientific and technical, cultural, sports, education or healthcare sectors, and their contract requires more than 36 months of working time
If applicants meet these conditions, and the employer can submit an application on the employee’s behalf, within 15 days, the Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs Service should grant an extension to the work permit.
*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.