The number of foreign laborers coming to Vietnam to work has steadily increased in recent years, surging to almost 80,000 workers by the end of 2011. The large majority of foreign workers that come to Vietnam are employees of foreign contractors, working for or establishing foreign direct investment (FDI) projects.
When hiring foreign staff in Vietnam, there are a number of procedures and legal frameworks that must be understood. In this article, we discuss hiring foreign staff to work in Vietnam with regards to:
- 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 by a third-party country or in 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 visa.
D visas (for persons who enter Vietnam without invitation or reception by any agencies, organizations or individuals) are valid for 15 days. Other visa types are valid for 30 days or can allow either a single entry and exit or multiple entries and exits. See the below table for the full list of visa types.
In most cases, a work permit is required to legally work in Vietnam.
Exceptions to this rule are listed below. 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 be 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 the need for 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; or
- Those with a license for management of the press from the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
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.
Senior management for the purposes of TRC distribution includes:
- 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.
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