Getting a Work Permit in Vietnam
To legally work in Vietnam, and apply for a temporary resident card (TRC), 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. 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.
For a work permit in Vietnam you need:
To apply for a work permit you must first be sponsored by your employer and thankfully they complete the paperwork and legal aspect for you. All you need to do is prepare the documents. To apply for a work permit in Vietnam you need:
• Work contact
• A legalised copy of your original degree notarized by the Vietnamese embassy in London
• A legalised copy of your teaching certificate notarised by the Vietnamese embassy in London
• Criminal background check from either your country of residence or a Vietnamese criminal background check
• Health check from a Vietnamese hospital
• Scan of your passports visa and photo pages
• Passport photos
• Business visa for Vietnam (sponsored by your employer)
For some other nationalities, I believe you can have documents legalised by your countries embassy in Vietnam. You should confirm this for your nationality before travelling to Vietnam.
If you forget to bring documents then you can have them airmailed. While I haven’t ever heard of documents going missing through courier services, like DHL, I do suggest sending them to your office address as it will be easier for the postal service to find.
Criminal background check
I obtained my criminal background check at home and recommend doing this if possible. Scottish nationals can apply here and English nationals here. A criminal background check is valid for 3 months, so be careful not to get get it too early as it might not be valid by the time you apply for your work permit.
If you have been living abroad, you will need to get a criminal background check from your last country of residence. If you have been living in Vietnam then you will need to apply for a Vietnamese criminal background check. You have to have been living in Vietnam for 6 months to apply for the Vietnamese criminal background check.
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. There are 3 steps to legalising documents for working in Vietnam. All steps NEED TO BE COMPLETED IN THE UK, so either before you leave for Vietnam or remotely by family/friends. Here is a breakdown of how to obtain each document that you need for the work permit process.
1️⃣ Have documents certified by a solicitor (lawyer)
First, you will need to have your documents legally confirmed by a notary – this can either be done by a lawyer or a UK public official. If you are Scottish then you can have your documents signed by a Justice of the Peace at your local court (for free).
The person certifying your documents must have a valid practising license. They probably already know what to do – they must sign a copy of the document, write their name, date, company and state what action they have observed. For your degree and TEFL certification, they need to “certify it is a copy” and for your criminal background check they need to “witness a signature”.
I have a family friend who is a lawyer who did this step for me for free, so I’m unfortunately unsure how much a lawyer would charge to sign documents like this.
2️⃣ Send documents to the Commonwealth Office for legalisation
Next, you will need to send your documents to be legalised by the Commonwealth office in the UK, which involves the documents being stamped with an ‘apostille’. The details for how to do this can be followed on the UK Gov website. You will need to complete the online form and pay for the services using a card. This costs £30 per document and there is a two-day turnaround, plus shipping.
💰 £90 total
3️⃣ Send documents to the Embassy of Vietnam in London
After your documents have returned from the Commonwealth office, you will need to send them to the Vietnamese embassy in London. where they will legalise your documents. This costs £35 per document.
Conveniently the Embassy can send the documents directly to your employer in Vietnam when they are ready. To do this you will need to include an envelope (I recommend structured and waterproof) pre-addressed to your employer, along with £40 for DHL shipping (this can be a postal order). You can find the pricing details for legalising and shipping from the Vietnamese Embassy in London here.
💰 £105 total + £40 shipping to Vietnam
Getting a health check in Vietnam
The work permit health check needs to be done in Vietnam and most hospitals are familiar with the process. Sometimes your company will book appointments for you or you can do it independently (I did this and no appointment was needed). I did mine at An Sinh Hospital. There was little English spoken in this hospital but it wasn’t an issue. This post gives details of hospitals in both Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi that do health checks for work permits.
For your health check:
• Don’t eat before and only drink water
• Bring your passport
• Bring passport-style photos
My health check took ~3hrs, though a lot of this was waiting to see different doctors and nurses. As part of the work permit health check, they test your eyes, dental, urine, blood, heart rate, chest x-ray and ears. 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. You will need to return either later that day or the next to collect your health check document, or you can pay a small fee to have the completed health check sent directly to your office.
💰 Cost varies by hospital. At An Sinh Hospital, it was 1.5mil / ~£50
Vietnam work permit costs
Once you have all your documents compiled you can give them to your company to process the work permit. All the documents are yours and the government/your company have no reason to keep them if you paid for them out of your pocket, so be sure to ask for them back. 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 lose your work permit and have to redo the process with any new company you work for.
💰 Cost varies depending on the agent. 6mil / ~£200
Temporary resident card (TRC)
Once you have a work permit you can apply for a temporary residency card (TRC). The TRC superposes any visas allowing you to live and travel in-and-out of Vietnam for 2 years without visas*. You don’t need to leave the country to activate your TRC, it simply overrides your current visa. Your employer can apply for your TRC at the same time as the work permit. You need passport photos, your work permit details and your passport.
💰 5.5mil / ~£180
*You need to carry the TRC whenever you are travelling in or out of Vietnam
The total cost of getting a work permit in Vietnam
This is a breakdown of how much it cost me personally for my work permit in 2018. The cost varies depending on your nationality, where you get your health check, and what agent your employer uses to file the paperwork.
Legalise copies of documents by a solicitor: free
Legalise documents at the Commonwealth office: £90 + shipping fee
Legalised documents at the Vietnamese embassy: £105 total + £40 shipping to Vietnam
Criminal background check: £50
Health check: £50
Work permit processing fee: £200
TRC processing fee: £180
Total cost: £715
As you can see, the process adds up. Don’t forget that your legalised documents are yours to keep, so you can reuse these if you change jobs. The health check can be done cheaper at other hospitals and doing a Vietnamese background check is also substantially cheaper. Some employers will also pay for your work permit and TRC, though mine did not.
✍️ Read more on the UK Gov website
✍️ For more information on teaching in Vietnam as an English teacher, check out my Complete Guide to Teaching English in Vietnam.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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*
Ahh thank you so much Erica for updating me! Really interesting to hear! Hope you’re work permit is ready soon! 🙂
Thanks for the great information.
So, the way I read it is that if you are in the UK you have all of your documents legalised etc at the Vietnamese embassy in London, but do the medical and actually get the work permit when you are in Vietnam. Is this correct, or do you get it before you go? Thanks
Hi Ian, yes if you’re in the UK then you should send you documents first to the commonwealth office, then to the Vietnamese embassy (with a postal order to pay for them). If you’re in Vietnam already then the process is still the same – there is no way to do this in country anymore, it must be done in the UK. I did the first part myself and then had to ask family to help send them onto the embassy. If you provide an envelope and money to pay for it, the embassy will send your documents on directly to your employer in Vietnam.
The work permit needs to be processed in Vietnam, you need the local health check and you need to be in the country on a working visa (sponsored by your employer).
This post needs massively updated now that I’ve done the new process myself. Thanks for reminding me! Feel free to email any more Qs!
Thanks Frances, I really appreciate your help.
So, if you are in the UK and have the documents legalised etc. by the UK and Vietnamese authorities in the UK, but have to have the medical and apply for the work visa in Vietnam, what visa do you have in your passport to fly to Vietnam? If you don’t have a work visa before you get there, how do you go through immigration as a worker and not a tourist?
I’m in the process of moving and a little panicky
To come into Vietnam on a work visa you must already have a job lined up (they will provide the visa details for you – some companies will need you to send your passport to the embassy at home and others might just give you a visa letter that allows you to get the work visa at the airport). If you don’t have a job lined up you will need to come in on a tourist visa. Once you get a job you will have to leave and re-entre on the correct work visa. Hope this clarifies.
(all these steps are for obtaining a work PERMIT, not a work VISA)
Oh, I understand now. I have a job offer and everything is being completed legally here in the UK. I was just a bit hazy about what you present to Vietnamese immigration when you arrive. I’ve lived in China for several years and been to Vietnam three times recently, but under the 14 day visa waver for UK nationals. I just want to make sure I do everything to the letter of the law.
Again, thanks for your help. I love the blog 🙂
Great! No problem, good luck with the move 🙂 thanks for your support! Frances
Is it possible to go out of Vietnam if you have a work permit? And if so, do I have to bring the original with me in order to enter Vietnam again?
If your visa is multi entry it should be okay to leave Vietnam. I’m not sure I understand the second question though? Original what?
As far I understand once having the work permit I do not longer require a Visa. The hard work permit’s hard copy (original).
Hey, I think you maybe misunderstood. The work permit doesn’t replace anything. It’s a legal requirement for you to work in Vietnam.
The temporary residence card is what replaces the business visa. This can only be obtained when you have a work permit. So you would take the hard copy of the temporary residence card. As an employee you never get a copy of the work permit because it is tied to your job. Hope this clears that up for you.
Hi! Thanks for this article, it’s really informative. I was wondering if you needed to supply any letters from previous employers regarding work experience with them? I’m going through this process now and am required to consularize and legalize a letter proving past experience. Did you have to go through this as well? Thanks for your input.
I have never heard of anyone having to do that to work as an ESL teacher, but I can imagine some international schools might ask for that. I am unfamiliar with the process for this unfortunately. Good luck with the move
it is easier and cheaper to just buy a tourist visa. Also you can change jobs or have two jobs and better hours and pay.
Hi Sarah, it is illegal to work on a tourist visa. Sure you can come in on a tourist visa but you will need to convert it to business when you start working. You can have multiple jobs on a business visa and work permit. I guarantee you will have much higher pay, standards and be treated more fairly if you follow the legal procedure and work for an above board company 🙂
Hi, thanks for the article. I feel more confused than ever though. At the top of your post you outline that you need:
‘A legalised copy of your original degree notarised by the Vietnamese embassy in London**
A legalised copy of your teaching certificate notarised by the Vietnamese embassy in London**’
If the Vietnamese Embassy in London notarise these 2 documents, then why is Step 1 (notarise by a lawyer) required?
I have emailed the Vietnamese Embassy in London, regarding notarisation, who have stated they ‘only legalise documents’. The reason I pursued this line of enquiry with the embassy, is that my future employer stated that my documents need to be notarised and legalised by the Vietnamese Embassy in the UK, and that no other suppliers are acceptable.
Looking forward to your reply. Thanks.
Hi Mark, first I just want to reiterate that I am not a legal professional and this is just the steps that I was advised to do by my employer. As far as I can gather step 1 is because you cannot notarise original documents and you need to make copies of all documents. So the lawyer or public official needs to confirm they are true copies. You then send these documents onto the Vietnamese Embassy in the UK 🙂 Does that help at all?
Not sure if this will help, but I was in the same position back in March this year.
Notarising by a notary (usually a solicitor) is to prove the documents are authentic originals/copies; the UK foreign office legalisation is to prove the notary seal and declaration are authentic; the Vietnamese legalisation is to prove that the Vietnamese government believe everything is authentic. All documents end up with three stamps and pieces of paper attached to the back
I emailed the embassy in London and they sent me the link below, which states they do legalise copies. The ACRO certificate (police clearance) has to be original and dated in the last 6 months, but degree and TEFL are copies. This is because if you legalised your degree & TEFL originals they would be useless if you tried to use them in any other country due to the Vietnamese legalisation stamp on the back. I had my ACRO original and degree and CELTA copies notarised by a solicitor, legalised by the UK foreign office and then took them to the Vietnamese embassy. They were really friendly and did it in 45 minutes. £40 per document. They’re only open 09:30-12:30 every day though. You can send them in too. Here are the two links they sent me. Hope that helps.
– Address of the Consular Section, Embassy of Vietnam:
12-14 Victoria Road, London W8 5RD
Tel: 020 7937 1912, Fax: 020 7937 6108
Hi Ian! Thanks for your input. You worded it perfectly 🙂
Thanks a lot Ian and Frances! I really appreciate all your help. Best wishes.
Hi Frances. Thanks for your reply.
I think what’s thrown me into confusion, is when I emailed the Vietnamese Embassy in London, to confirm if they legalise and notarise my documents. They replied that they legalise only. There seems to be a disconnect here. Can you confirm that the Vietnamese Embassy do also notarise your documents, as part of their legalisation process?
The different terminology is confusing. But I can comfirm that following these steps generates documents that are ready to process the work permit for Vietnam 🙂 1) have a lawyer certify your copy is true 2) send to the Commonwealth office 3) send to the Vietnamese embassy in London.
I guess my concern is whether a Justice of the Peace signing (Step 1) is acceptable to the Vietnamese authorities (as opposed to being signed by a solicitor).
Regarding JP signing, the Scots court gov website states;
‘…if the document requires a Notary Public’s signature… it cannot be signed by a Justice of the Peace and you must make an appointment to see a solicitor who is a Notary Public.’
Regarding JP certification, the Legalisation Office of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office stated in their email reply to me; ‘…not all overseas authorities will accept this [JP] certification.’
I have contacted a solicitor, who cannot confirm if a JP signature would be acceptable to the Vietnamese authorities.
My question is; how did you come by this information regarding Justice of the Peace signing being acceptable for getting a work permit for Vietnam? And do you, or anyone else on this blog know if this is acceptable?
If I cannot confirm if a JP signature is acceptable, I will obtain the services of a solicitor.
My friend did it that way. Honestly, I would not expect a solicitor to know the ins and outs of what the Vietnamese will accept. If you are not confident in having JP signing, then just have a solicitor do it. This blog was created from my own personal experience and, as mentioned many times, I am not a legal professional, just a teacher sharing insight on what I know.