Obtaining visas for Vietnam

Nationals of countries on Vietnam’s visa-waiver list are granted visa-free visits for up to one month. Citizens from most other countries will need to apply for a visa to enter Vietnam. A tourist visa is normally valid for one month, although it is also possible to apply for a three-month multiple-entry visa for Vietnam.

Those who wish to live in Vietnam for longer periods of time, and potentially take up employment, will need to apply for a long-term visa or work permit. While the process seems straightforward on the surface, it can often be stressful and involve lots of paperwork. Furthermore, visa regulations aren’t always clear and the success of an application is often subject to the whims of local immigration officials.

Visitors who need a visa prior to arrival in Vietnam can apply for one at their nearest Vietnamese embassy or consulate. In some countries, it may also be possible to submit an application online.

In addition to the completed application form, embassies may request additional documentation such as a letter from an employer, letter of invitation and residence permits, depending on the type of visa one is applying for. For example, if a person is applying for a business visa they will be asked to provide additional documentation to prove the nature of their business activities in Vietnam.

Foreign nationals who wish to live and work in Vietnam beyond the maximum length of stay granted by their entry visa will need to apply from within Vietnam for an extension of stay and a change of their visa status.

Expats will need to apply for a Temporary Residence Card (TRC), which is valid for one to three years. This can be applied for within the country and requires a business visa or valid work permit, which is only issued if an expat has a Vietnamese company as a sponsor. 

Expats can download the relevant forms from the Vietnam Immigration Department’s website and submit their application at an Immigration Department office in Vietnam. 

Applying for a residence permit for Vietnam is fairly complicated, with the government changing regulations regularly. Furthermore, the adjudication of applications can be inconsistent at times, which causes further frustration.

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.

Those who meet the eligibility requirements to apply for a work visa must gather a number of documents, have them translated into Vietnamese, and have notarised copies made in their home country.

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 take between ten days and one month to be granted.

Work permit extensions are fairly straightforward, especially if an expat continues to be employed at the same company and should be submitted 30 days prior to the expiration of the current permit. To be eligible for an extension, the expat’s employer must demonstrate that certain conditions are being met. For example, companies are expected to show how they are conducting training of Vietnamese locals to perform jobs currently performed by foreigners.

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