Under Vietnamese labour law, it’s a requirement for foreigners to have a work permit to work legally in Vietnam on a Business visa.
Although many foreigners have worked in Vietnam for years without a work permit, the Vietnamese government is starting to crack down on this and are putting pressure on employers. If caught working in Vietnam without a work permit, employees could face deportation along with a hefty fine, whereas employers will be faced with an even bigger fine and the possibility of having their business operations suspended.
Applying for a Vietnam work permit can be a tedious process and does involve some upfront costs, however, having a work permit comes with many benefits that will make your life in Vietnam much easier such as being able to send money out of the country and qualifying for a Temporary Residence Card.
Having gone through the process of getting a work permit in Vietnam for both teaching and non-teaching roles, I am aware of how confusing the process can be, especially as it can vary slightly depending on your nationality. After struggling to find helpful information online myself, I have tried to make this guide as detailed as possible and I hope it clarifies everything you need to know to get your work permit.
ALSO READ: Guide on how to move to Vietnam
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CAN I WORK IN VIETNAM ON A BUSINESS VISA
You are legally allowed to apply for a job, stay in Vietnam, and work on business visa. However, you should be able to prove that your work permit is currently being processed by your employer.
In simple words, you CANNOT work on a business visa in a long run, you MUST hold a work permit which your employer can assist you to get one.
VIETNAM WORK PERMIT REQUIREMENTS
The requirements for being granted a Vietnam work permit vary depending on the specific role but the general requirements are as follows:
- The foreign citizen is at least 18 years of age;
- The foreign citizen has qualifications and occupational skills which are suitable to the work requirements;
- The foreign citizen is in good enough health to satisfy the job requirements;
- The foreign citizen is not a criminal or has been prosecuted for criminal liability in accordance with the law of Vietnam and foreign laws
Requirements for English Teachers
English Teachers do not need to have prior teaching experience to be eligible for a work permit as long as they have at least a Bachelor’s degree in any discipline as well as a teaching certificate (TEFL, CELTA, etc.). Teachers who do not possess a degree can still be eligible for a work permit provided they have 3 years of documented teaching experience as well as a teaching certificate.
We are aware that many expats was able to get a work permit without a Bachelor’s degree. The fee is about 3x higher than usual, since you are basically bribing your way around it. We don’t recommend this but if you take this path, remember that you and your employer are taking the risk.
Requirements for Non-Teaching Jobs
Non-teaching jobs for foreigners are harder to come by in Vietnam and the work permit requirements are more stringent. Like most countries, the government of Vietnam prefers companies operating in Vietnam to hire Vietnamese citizens unless there is a clear skills shortage for a specific role/industry. If you have found a role that is advertised for foreigners then it is likely that the employer has already been granted permission to do so.
As well as the general requirements previously stated, a foreign citizen must have a university degree or higher qualification and at least 3 years of documented work experience related to the position they are hired for.
Do You Need a Work Permit
Foreigners who plan to work in Vietnam for longer than 3 months are required by law to apply for a Vietnam work permit. Those who plan to work in Vietnam for less than 3 months can do so whilst on a Business visa. Please note, that working on a Business visa without a work permit is limited to 90 days per year, so extending or getting a new visa every 3 months whilst working in Vietnam does not mean you are working legally.
Most foreigners working in Vietnam are employed as English teachers and are required to obtain a work permit. The majority of foreigners working in other roles are also required to obtain a work permit, however, there are some exemptions.
Work Permit Exemptions
Below is a list of the typical work permit exemptions for foreigners in Vietnam:
- Those working for less than 3 months (within 1 year)
- Shareholders or members of Limited Liability Companies
- Members of the Board of Directors of a joint-stock company
- Students and trainees undertaking internships
- Internal transfers within enterprises that already have an established presence in Vietnam
There are more exemptions for cases of foreigners not needing a work permit as declared under the Vietnam Labor Code.
DOCUMENTS FOR VIETNAM WORK PERMIT
When applying for a work permit, the employer will need to submit an application form along with some other documents such as the labour contract. Your employer will take care of those documents, however, the supporting documents required for the application will need to be gathered by yourself as the employee.
Below is a list of the documents that are required to be submitted along with the work permit application:
1 x Criminal Record Check (legalized/notarized + translated + certified)
- Issued within the last 6 months
- From home country OR a Vietnamese one if you have been in Vietnam for 6+ months
1 x Degree (legalized/notarized + translated + certified)
1 x Health Check Certificate
- Issued within the last 6 months
2 x Coloured photocopies of your passport (including your Business Visa)
2 x Photographs (4x6cm) taken on a white background without glasses
- Only for teaching jobs
1 x Letter(s) confirming 3 years of relevant work experience issued by former employer(s) (legalized/notarized + translated + certified)
- Not needed for teaching jobs if you have a degree
- Needed for non-teaching jobs
- If your 3 years of experience was with more than 1 company then you will need letters from each previous employer
Now at this point, you may be a bit confused about what legalization and certification mean. The exact process and terms used vary depending on your nationality, so I have clarified the exact process for legalizing documents for UK, USA, Canadian, Australian, and South African citizens later in the post.
Your employer will most likely take care of having your documents translated and certified in Vietnam so you do not don’t worry about this. Your job is to gather your original documents and have them legalised/notarised.
WORK PERMIT APPLICATION PROCESS
The whole process of gathering your documents and applying for a work permit can take up to a few months. The good news is that you can begin working before you have your work permit, as long as you are on a business visa sponsored by your new employer.
The most time-consuming part of the work permit application process is gathering and preparing your documents. If you are reading this whilst you are still in your home country, then I highly recommend organising your criminal record check and legalizing/notarizing all of your documents before you head to Vietnam.
Your work permit application process will vary depending on how much assistance you receive from your employer and your nationality. Some employers will ask you to submit all of your original documents to them and they will arrange everything, whereas other employers will guide you on what you need to do but expect you to arrange things by yourself.
Company Sponsored Business Visa
You must be on a Business visa that is sponsored by your employer when you submit your work permit application. If you are hired before you arrive in Vietnam by one of the large language centres or international schools, then they will arrange a Business visa for you. If you plan to find a job once you are in Vietnam then you can arrive on a Tourist visa instead. Once you have found a job your company sponsor your Business visa so you can start the work permit application.
There is no benefit to getting a health check before arriving in Vietnam as it is likely to be more expensive and you would need to get the certificate legalized.
Many people are told that they need to obtain a health check from this list of pre-approved hospitals. The labour code does not state this however and I have personally obtained my health checks from 2 different hospitals that are not included in the list without any issues.
I got my first health check from Columbia Asia International Clinic. As it’s an international hospital, all of the staff spoke English, the process went smoothly without the need for any assistance. It took around 2 hours in total and cost 2,500,000 VND / $109. My company paid for this so the price wasn’t an issue for me.
For my second health check, I went to Gia Định People’s Hospital. As this is a local hospital the staff do not speak much English and the place is very crowded and hectic. I really don’t think I could have done it if I wasn’t accompanied by a Vietnamese colleague. This time it cost just 600,000 VND / $29.
If you company is paying, then they will probably choose the hospital for you. If you are paying for yourself however then I would recommend using a local hospital as they are considerably cheaper compared to international hospitals. Of course, you will probably need a Vietnamese speaker to go with you but your employer should be able to arrange this.
Criminal Record / Police / Background Check
Here is a guide for pooling for your requirements together depending on your nationality.
Vietnamese Police Check for Foreigners
If you have been living in Vietnam for at least 6 months, then you can get a Vietnamese police check (Phieu Ly Lich Tu Phap) instead of one from your home country. I would advise doing this as it’s cheaper, quicker and means you have one less foreign document that needs to be legalized.
I have been informed by numerous people that the rules have recently changed so that foreigners can now get a Vietnamese police check after being in Vietnam for at least 1 month instead of 6. I’m unable to find any official confirmation of this, my advice would be to get one from your home country before arriving in Vietnam if possible.
Before you can apply for the Criminal Record Check, you will first need proof of your address in Vietnam. Your landlord should have a Household Registration Book, also known as a ‘Pink Book’ which records every tenant who has stayed at the address. You can use a copy of this or alternatively your landlord can go to the local ward police station to get a statement of residence. This is usually free and will take a day or two.
Documents needed for the Vietnamese Police Record Check:
- Completed application form
- Proof of address/residence (copy of Household Registration OR Statement of Residence)
- Original passport
- 2x photocopies of your passport page and valid visa or residence card
I have provided copies of both the English and Vietnamese application forms below. Please note that you cannot submit the English version, I have only provided it as a reference to use when completing the Vietnamese application form.
Once you have the documents ready, you will need to go to the Department of Justice office.
- Department of Justice Of Hanoi City, 221 Trần Phú, P. Văn Quán, Hà Đông, Hà Nội (map)
- Department of Justice Ho Chi Minh City, 141 – 143 Pasteur, Ward 6, District 3, Ho Chi Minh (map)
You cannot make an appointment in advance so just show up (the earlier the better) and expect the process to take around 30 minutes. It’s best to take a Vietnamese friend or someone from your company to help with any language barrier. The Police Record Check costs between 200K – 300K ($9 – $13) depending on if you choose to have the certificate sent to you by post or to collect it in person.
It can take between 10 – 20 days for the certificate to arrive. You can now apply for a Vietnamese Criminal Record Check online from the Ministry of Justice website. This is a new system and I do not have any experience using it or know of anyone who has but the process seems very straightforward and there is an English version.
United States Background Check
Many US citizens in Vietnam go through the long and costly process of obtaining an FBI background check which requires you to send in your fingerprints (if you decide to go this route then you can get fingerprints at the IOM (International Organization for Migration) offices in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh). If you are still in the US then this process would be easier and cheaper of course, but is still unnecessary.
You can get a background check from your local State Police Department instead. The process and cost will vary depending on your state so it’s best to check with the Police Department directly.
Canadian Background Check
Most Canadians I have spoken to used the same service, Back Check, to get their police / background check which costs around CAD$60 ($45). You will receive the results via PDF within 1 business day but will also receive an official certificate by post within 2 weeks. It can only be sent to an address in Canada if you are in Vietnam already then you will need to ask a friend or family member to receive it and forward it to you.
United Kingdom Background Check
You can find a list of organisations that are authorised to carry out UK police checks here.
I personally applied for a basic disclosure from Disclosure Scotland before I came to Vietnam which costs £25 and takes up to 14 days. This is the most basic and cheapest police check but is all that is required for the Vietnam work permit.
Please note that your certificate can only be sent to a UK address. If you are already in Vietnam when you apply then you will need to have your certificate sent to a friend or family member so they can forward it to you. You’ll need to get your police check legalized in the UK which I have explained later in this post.
Australian Police Check
Australian citizens can apply for a National Police Check from the Australian Federal Police (AFP). The basic check takes 48 hours to process once the application has been submitted and costs AU$42 ($28) without postal charges. The National Police Check FAQs indicate that the Police Check can be sent overseas.
South African Police Clearance
Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be an easy or time-efficient way for South Africans to obtain a Police Clearance. Whether you are in South Africa or living overseas, you must submit your fingerprints as part of the Police Clearance application which can take up to 8 weeks. The Police Clearance is issued by the Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management (CR & CSM) and costs R114 ($7.42).
You can get your fingerprints taken at the International Organization for Migration offices in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City for R998 ($65).
Applicants living abroad can submit their completed application form and fingerprints by post but once processed, the Police Clearance certificate can only be collected in person. For security purposes, the certificate can only be given to the person or courier service nominated on the initial application form.
You can find detailed information on the Police Clearance process from the South African Police Service website along with the application form and payment details.
Legalizing / Authenticating Your Documents (Degree, TEFL, Background Check, Letter of Experience)
Legalization, authentication, and notarization are often used interchangeably. Whilst they are slightly different they serve a similar purpose and which one you need depends on your documents’ country of origin. Almost all of your documents apart from your passport will need to be legalized AND/OR notarized if they do not originate from Vietnam.
This needs to be done by the appropriate agency in the country that the documents originate from or the relevant embassy. If you are an Australian, a South African or a martian and your degree is from the UK, then your degree will need to be legalized by a UK authority.
Instead of legalizing your original documents you can have photocopies legalized instead to keep the original in-tact. For most of the steps, you will still need to produce your original document along with the copy but only the copy will be stamped/signed. A quick note on a middle name(s): Check that all of your documents include your middle name(s).
My degree does not show my middle name, hence, in the eyes of the Vietnamese government, it’s not clear that the person named on my degree is the same person named in my passport. This meant that I had to get an Affirmation (similar to an affidavit) from the British Embassy stating that both names are aliases associated with myself. Almost all embassies can provide an affirmation/affidavit for this.
If your documents are from the US then you can bypass the process of notarizing their documents and then having them attested by the Vietnamese Embassy in the US.
Instead you can sign an affidavit at the USA Embassy in Vietnam stating that your documents are legitimate.
Once you have your original documents, book an appointment online and take your original documents and photocopies with you. The cost for an affidavit is $50.
- USA Embassy Hanoi, 7 Láng Hạ, Chợ Dừa, Ba Đình, Hà Nội (map)
- USA Consulate General Ho Chi Minh City, 4 Lê Duẩn, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh (map)
The process for Canadians is very similar to US citizens. You can get your documents notarised by the appropriate Canadian authority in Canada and then legalized by a Vietnamese Embassy in Canada, or you get them certified at a Canadian Embassy in Vietnam. Each document costs CAD$20 / $15 to be certified. You can view a list of the Canadian services and fees here. Book your appointment through the Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh Embassy website.
- Consulate General of Canada Ho Chi Minh City, 10th Floor, The Metropolitan, 235 Dong Khoi, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City (map)
- Canadian Embassy Hanoi, 31 Hùng Vương, Điện Bàn, Ba Đình, Hà Nội (map)
Shortly after I arrived in Vietnam in 2017, the British Embassy and Consulate stopped providing document legalization services. If you are still in the UK, then you should arrange your documents before coming to Vietnam as it can be a logistical nightmare and is much more expensive to send your documents back to the UK and then returned to Vietnam.
Your documents will need to go through the following 3 steps in the exact order:
- Certified by a UK solicitor or Notary public: If you are still in the UK then its best to visit your nearest solicitor or notary public to have your documents certified. The price varies depending on the solicitor but expect to pay anywhere from £15 – £40 per document. If you are Vietnam then you can search for a solicitor online and make sure to notify them that you will be unable to attend in person. They should be able to forward your documents to FCO once they have finished certifying them.
- Legalized/Apostille by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO): The Foreign and Commonwealth Office charges £30 per document and you can choose to have your original, photocopy or electronic copy legalized taking only 2 days. If you are in Vietnam, then you can ask the FCO to forward your documents directly to the Vietnamese Embassy in London (Vietnamese Embassy, 12-14 Victoria Road, London, W8 5RD, UK.)
Legalized/Attestation by the Vietnamese embassy London: Next step is to get you documents legalized/Attestation by the Vietnamese Embassy in London. The total price for legalization and DHL postage to Vietnam is £50 per document and takes 5 days (not including delivery times). For collection of postage within the UK the cost is £35 per document.
Disclosure Scotland can stamp and sign your DBS certificate free of charge meaning it does not need to be certified by a solicitor. Visit this link for more information.
If you want to Authenticate/Notarize (legalize) you documents in Australia then you can do so via mail or by visiting your nearest passport office. Check this link from the Australian Government website for more information on how to do so.
You can Authenticate/Notarize (legalize) your documents just as easily if you are in Vietnam at the Australian Embassy in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. Visit the websites below for either Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh and book an appointment online.
The price for Authenticating a document both in Australia and overseas is AU$83. View the full list of Australian embassy service fees including affirmations/affidavits here.
- Australian Consulate-General Ho Chi Minh City, Lầu 20, Tòa nhà Vincom, 47 Lý Tự Trọng, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh (map)
- Australian Embassy Vietnam (Hanoi), 8 Đào Tấn, Cống Vị, Ba Đình, Hà Nội (map)
The process for South Africans is very similar to the process for UK citizens but unfortunately, there is very little information available on how to do it yourself.
The official process is as below:
- Certified by a South African Solicitor or Notary Public: The first step is to find a solicitor or Notary Public such as SchoemanLiw Inc. The price will vary depending on the solicitor but for reference, ShoemanLaw charge R900 / $60 as listed on their website (If you have multiple documents then the price may be less per document). Once you document has been certified/notarized you will need to be sent to DIRCO allow with your application form.
- Authenticated/Apostille by DIRCO (Department of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa): You can read the process for authenticating documents at this link. It appears to be a free service which takes only 1 working day. If you are unable to pick up your documents in person then you will need to include a cover letter stating which courier service will be collecting the documents on your behalf.
Legalized by the Embassy of Vietnam in South Africa: Once your documents have been authenticated by DIRCO they then need to be legalized by the Embassy of Vietnam in South Africa. The process takes 5 working days and costs R300 / $20 per document not including postage to Vietnam. You will have to arrange for a courier to collect the documents if you need them to be sent to Vietnam as the embassy will not arrange this for you.
Translating and Certifying Documents in Vietnam
If you have managed to legalize/authenticate your documents from the issuing country then buy yourself a drink and relax, you’ve made it through the hard part!
The next step is to get your documents translated into Vietnamese and certified/notarized in Vietnam. Don’t worry, this part of the process is very easy and almost all employers will take care of this for you.
You can use any translation company to translate your documents. I’ve provided a list of translation companies in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi below:
Once you have the translated copies they will need to be certified/legalized in Vietnam. This can be done at the Foreign Affair Office or by a Notary Public. Simply search for văn phòng công chứng (Notary Office) to find a Notary Office near you.
- Foreign Affair Office in Hanoi, 40 Trần Phú, Điện Bàn, Ba Đình, Hà Nội (map)
- Department Of External Relations Ho Chi Minh City, 184 bis Pasteur street, Quận 1, Bến Nghé, Hồ Chí Minh (map)
The translation fee will vary depending on the company you go with but it shouldn’t cost more than a few dollars. The Legalization fee is 30,000 VND / $1.5 per document.
Submit Your Documents
Once you’ve gathered all of your documents and have had the required ones legalized, translated, certified, exorcised and whatever else, give them to your employer who will submit them along with the work permit application form and a copy of your labor contract.
Officially, the process should take 15 days once the application has been submitted, providing that all of the documents are in order.
TEMPORARY RESIDENCE CARD
Once you have your Vietnam work permit, you can apply for a TRC (Temporary Residence Card). Having a TRC means you no longer need a visa and you can exit and enter Vietnam as you please.
To apply for a TRC you need to submit the following:
- Application form
- A copy of your valid work permit
- A copy of your passport and valid Business visa
The application process should take no more than 10 days and costs around $100. The TRC is usually valid for 2 years, however, if your passport has less than 2 years validity left then the TRC will only be valid for as long as your passport is. Renewing your TRC is very simple as long as you still hold a work permit.
Your employer should be able to arrange your TRC application for you. If for some reason they do not assist you then there are many agents and lawyers that can assist you for a fee.
VIETNAM WORK PERMIT FEES
The most expensive part of the work permit application is legalizing/authenticating your documents. As you can tell, these costs vary depending on your nationality and how much of the process needs to be done in your home country. For British and South Africans the process can be pretty expensive costing up to $500 whereas for US citizens it could cost as little as $150.
Make a note of the documents you have and where you need to send them based on the information in this article. You can then use the costs provided to get a good estimate of how much it will cost you in total.
The most frustrating thing about the Vietnam work permit is the lack of information from official sources. The official information can be very hard to find but I have tried to verify as much information as possible by talking directly with embassies and lawyers in Vietnam. If any of the information is outdated or you believe it to be incorrect then please let us know so we can investigate it and correct it if required.
If you have any questions then please leave a comment or email us and we will do our best to assist you.