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Visas, permits and how to find work

A poor country with a tragic past, Vietnam’s prospects are now most definitely on the rise.

With one of the world’s lowest unemployment rates in Asia (2.02%), its GDP has climbed sharply and its poverty rates have fallen.

A visa may be required to enter Vietnam. Generally available from the home country’s Vietnamese embassy, there are different regulations for different countries. For example, from the UK a valid passport and return ticket are enough to get you through border control, but from the US a visa will be required. Processing time varies, but the stated time is between five and seven business days, although it is advisable to start the process early in case there are delays. Valid for 30 or 90 days, the visa can be extended. There is also a visa on arrival scheme for those with a tight schedule or who would rather not send their passport away. This can be organised through a number of private online companies.

Temporary and permanent residency permits are available, according to the industry you are working in and your status. Vietnamese Work Permits are issued by the Department of Labour, Invalid and Society; they are valid for 3 years and after they have expired, they must be renewed.

In order to obtain a work permit, an expatriate must be: over 18; have a degree and a high level of expertise and experience in their field; must meet Vietnamese requirements if working in health care or education; and have no criminal record either in Vietnam or at home.

The application must be submitted at least two weeks before employment is due to commence, but it is recommended to begin the process months in advance in order to counter delays. The types of documents you will need include proof of your employment, a copy of your passport, a written request for a permit from your employer, a medical certificate and proof of qualifications, skills, and experience if applicable. You will also need evidence of a clean criminal record. Regulations may be subject to change so it is worth checking out the current situation.

There are circumstances where a person can be exempt from having to obtain a work permit. These include: people working for no more than 30 days at a time, and no more than 90 in a year; people who have been transferred there by their company and working in certain areas such as education, health, finance, IT and tourism; teachers in international schools and Vietnamese schools (for the latter, provided they have permission from the Ministry of Education); and interns, volunteers working for NGOs and experts working on official development projects in the country.

Ensure that passports for all members of the family are up to date and valid for your entire stay plus an additional six months. Be sure that the title, address, and other details given on your visa match the information on your business card and other official documentation.

There are some obvious paths to finding employment in Vietnam, such as starting work for a multinational employer in your home country and then seeking an intra-company transfer to Vietnam. This path has the benefit of possibly securing you a (potentially negotiable) relocation package with some corporate assistance, as well as the often-helpful structure of a large organisation in case of any difficulties.

There are international job forums that include Vietnam, as well as international executive search agencies. Looking for work online and posting your CV may bear fruit for some of the larger or more international organisations in Vietnam. However, networking in Vietnam itself may be critical as information can be difficult to find — you can visit potential employers and deliver your CV in person, join professional associations, invite key contacts to lunch, and undertake some voluntary work.

The most buoyant industries for expats are information technology, construction, and tourism, along with manufacturing, mining, the garment industry, and power. Skill gaps mean that professionals with qualifications and experience in these areas are in demand, as are English teachers, with the rise of international tourism in the country and opening world markets. Generally, a Bachelors degree and a TEFL course are recommended. Opportunities include teaching at universities, where English is often a mandatory subject, but the better paid jobs are likely to be in private institutions, language schools, and private tutoring.

The very best prospects are working for an international company in the capital, Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. There may also be employment to be had in the increasingly popular tourism regions. If you come to the country without a job, allow at least three months to find a suitable position. Foreigners are only likely to be employed if there are no locals to do the job and in many places it is standard practice for firms to train local people to fill the positions currently enjoyed by a foreigner.

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