Getting a Work Permit in Vietnam

obtaining getting a work permit in Vietnam so the adventure begins travel blog living in Vietnam Saigon HCMC Asia

To legally work in Vietnam, and apply for temporary residency, you require a work permit. While you can find work without a permit, good companies will not allow you to work for them without it as they can get fined by the government. The work permit process can be a bit of headache and a costly endeavour. I’ve put this guide together to walk you through the process, so you know what documents to pack and how to prepare them for getting a work permit in Vietnam.

At the end of 2017 the Vietnamese and British government made changes to the process of legalising documents for the work permit in Vietnam. These changes seem to have been specific to UK citizens only (read the full procedure on the Government site here) but changes to the work permit process in Vietnam happen frequently so do check the government recommendations for your nationality before starting the process of moving to Vietnam. While I didn’t have to get my documents legalised this way, I have updated this post to take the new method into account.

How do you apply for a work permit in Vietnam?

To apply for a work permit you must first be sponsored by an employer. Thankfully your employer completes the paperwork and legal aspect for you. This means you will only need to prepare your documents to give to them.

What do you need to get a work permit in Vietnam?

There are a number of things you must have to obtain a work permit in Vietnam:

  • Work contact from employer
  • A legalised copy of your original degree notarised by the Vietnamese embassy in London**
  • A legalised copy of your eaching certificate notarised by the Vietnamese embassy in London**
  • A criminal background check from either your country of residence (no more than 3 months old) or a Vietnamese criminal background check. If it’s from your home country then you will need to get a signature of proof witnessed at the embassy (can be at the embassy in Vietnam)
  • A full health check from a Vietnamese hospital
  • A scan of your passport visa and photo pages
  • Passport style photos. We were asked for 3, but you may be asked for more
  • Business visa for Vietnam (sponsored by your employer)

**This is obviously only specific to UK citizens. For some other nationalities I believe you can still bring your original degree and teaching certificate with you to Vietnam and have them legalised by your countries embassy in Vietnam. I highly recommend confirming this before you travel to Vietnam.

For some nationalities this could mean bringing all those original documents with you, or having them sent at a later date. I was totally uncomfortable with the idea of having to carry my original degrees halfway around the world. But when the alternative was airmailing them, I became much happier about the prospect. Some of my colleagues had to airmail documents and thankfully they all arrived safely.

Tip: Get them sent to your work rather than house as it should be easier for the postal service to find, and send them express via a courier like FedEx. Personally, its a complication I would suggest avoiding if possible.

How to get documents legalised (for UK Citizens):

The three documents you need to get legalised are your TEFL certificate, your university degree and your criminal background check. You will need to arrange an appointment at the Vietnamese embassy in London, and bring the original documents with you to the embassy. The same goes for other nationalities legalising documents, regardless of whether they are doing it in their home country or at the embassy in Vietnam.

Where do you get documents legalised for working in Vietnam?

First, you will need to have your documents legalised by the UK Legalisation Office in the UK. The details for how to do this can be followed on the UK Gov website. After your documents have been returned and legalised you will need to either take or send them to the Vietnamese embassy in London to have them legalised there. Once these steps have been done, your documents are ready to give to your employer to process your work permit.

What does legalising documents involve?

Getting documents legalised involves the embassy printing a special photocopy of the original documents and stamping them with an official seal.

For the criminal background check, you will need to have a signature witnessed. This involves you signing the original and writing a statement along the lines of “the information given here is true to my knowledge…”. This could be done in the UK or in Vietnam but will need to be done in person. For British citizens, having a document witnessed at the British Embassy in Vietnam costs £25 to have witnessed. I paid in GBP using my British bank card, which was actually convenient for me as we didn’t have Vietnamese bank card yet, and this saving me racking up conversion fees. You can pay in VND but I would bring cash as they didn’t have a card machine (our transaction was processed over the internet).

Criminal Background Check

We got criminal background checks done at home before we left the country, and would recommend doing this if possible. If you are Scottish then you can apply for it via here, if you are English via here.

A criminal background check is valid for 3 months, so be sure not to get it so early that its no longer valid by the time you start applying for your work permit. However, you need to find a balance in allowing enough time for it to be posted to you before you leave – mine took around 2 weeks to arrive, literally arriving days before I left the country. Another stress I would happily recommend avoiding.

Getting A Health Check in Vietnam

This needs to be carried out in Vietnam and most hospitals are familiar with the process. I got mine at An Sinh Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City. There was little English spoken in this hospital but it didn’t bother me, and I was able to get the whole check done without any issues. If you are worried about needing someone guide you through the process in English then another hospital would be wise.

When going for you health check you must:

  • Not eat before and only drink water
  • Bring your passport
  • Bring passport style photos
  • Money for the fee (you might be able to pay card, but don’t assume you will be able to).

It isn’t necessary to book an appointment in advance, I just rocked up and the check started immediately. The whole health check took around 3 hours, though there was quiet a lot of hanging around in waiting rooms. I recommend going in the morning, as you are not allowed to eat before and can only drink water (which if you are anything like me will make you all hangry). They took blood first and then gave me time to go and get some food before continuing with the rest of the test which was great! So, I’d recommend going in the morning so you can do the same and avoid starving all day.

The checks and tests that are completed as part of the work permit health check are your eyes, dental, urine, bloods, heart rate, chest x-rays and ears.

Once all the checks have been completed you will pay the fee – at An Sinh Hospital it was 1.500.00₫, ~£50, and they accept card. You will need to return either later that day or the next to collect your health check document. The final document is a folder containing all the details and results of your tests (even the x ray pic which is pretty exciting).

Vietnam Work Permit Costs

Once you have all your documents compiled you can give them to your company to process the work permit, the fee for me was 6 million VND (around £200). All the documents are yours and the government/your company have no reason to keep them if you paid for them out of your own pocket, so be sure to ask for them back. The cost will depend on the agents that your company uses to process the work permit, so it may be higher or lower than what I paid.

The work permit is however linked to your job, which means that you will not get a copy of your work permit to keep. And subsequently, if you leave your job you will also loose your work permit and have to redo the process with any new company you work for.

Temporary Residency Card

Once you have a work permit you can apply for a residency card which superposes any visas. Having temporary residency means you can stay in Vietnam for up-to 2 years, and you can come and go as much as you please without needing to reapply or deal with visas. You don’t need to leave the country to activate your residency card, it just overrides your current visa. So now you can travel to wherever you fancy!

A residency card costs around 5 million VND and your employer should be able to obtain one for you at the same time as the work permit. You need passport style pictures, along with your work permit details and passport (which they should already have from applying for the work permit). My residency card was returned stapled into my passports which keeps it safe and means I don’t have to remember to pack it when travelling.

What are the benefits of having a work permit for Vietnam?

Well, first and foremost is that you require one to legally work in Vietnam. Not all companies make their teachers get one, but most of the reputable ones will require it and it seems that the government is starting to enforce it more. Secondly, you cannot apply for the residency card (which allows you to travel in and out of Vietnam without having to constantly apply for new visas) without first having a work permit. Having a work permit alters your tax code (yeap, as a teacher in Vietnam you must pay Vietnamese taxes) and drops it from 20% to somewhere between 10-15% depending on how much you earn.

The total cost of our work permit for Vietnam

So, this is a breakdown of how much it cost me personally for my work permit. However, I am sure that the cost will vary a bit depending on your nationality, where you get your health check, and what agent your employer uses to file for the work permit. Bare in mind that I did not have my documents legalised through the new process (therefore I have no information on the costs of having them legalised in the UK). For me it cost £25 per document to have them legalised at the embassy in Vietnam.

Note: I obtained my work permit for Vietnam in late-2016 so the prices may vary. Regardless, this should give you a rough guideline of how much to budget.

Degree notarized785 000 VND£25
TEFL notarized785 000 VND£25
Criminal background check statement witnessed 785,000 VND£25
Health Check1.5 million VND£48
Work permit processing fee6 million VND£191
Residency card processing fee5 million VND£160
TOTAL COSTS14 855 000 VND£474

I hope this has been useful in helping you plan for moving to Vietnam. If you have any further questions I would love to help, pop them in the comments or send me a message!

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6 Comment

  1. erica says: Reply

    Thanks for the info! Quick question:

    Do you know if you’re allowed to leave the country while your work permit is being processed in Vietnam?

    For example, my 3-month business visa is going to expire, but my work permit is still processing… can I leave the country and return on another 3-month business visa?

    Appreciate any insight!

    1. francesFR says: Reply

      Hi Erica, I am not legally trained so I cannot say for sure, but I remember similar issues at my company and they were NOT able to leave – instead they had to extend their business visa from within Vietnam. Best to ask your employer/HR department!

  2. Jon says: Reply

    You shouldn’t have to pay anything toward a work permit-any reputable employer here will cover all costs. Remember a work permit is the responsibility of the employer, they need it to employ you.

    If they are charging you any fees or refuse to reimburse you for any incurred costs i’d run a mile and find a better employer.

    The official work permit costs are also very low. It’s quite likely the ‘6 million vnd processing fee’ you paid was pocketed by the school or someone working there.

    1. francesFR says: Reply

      Hi Jon,

      Even some reputable companies require you to pay for the work permits (some reimburse after contract competition and some don’t). 6 mil is the same price as was quoted to my friend working for a different company so it seems to a semi-standard price.

  3. Erica says: Reply

    Following up on this! Turns out you are able to leave Vietnam while your work visa is being processed.
    You can return either on your unexpired multientry business visa or you can renew your business visa (with a proper /legal letter from your employer) at the airport.
    In my case, I traveled to Malaysia and returned to Vietnam, but my multientry business visa was still valid for one more week… BUT it’s cheaper to renew the business visa at the airport instead of extending it whilst in Vietnam… so although I still had one week valid, I renewed the business visa at the airport… and success! So hopefully my work permit will be ready within the next three months. *fingers crossed*

    1. francesFR says: Reply

      Ahh thank you so much Erica for updating me! Really interesting to hear! Hope you’re work permit is ready soon! 🙂

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