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.
✍️ For more information on teaching in Vietnam as an English teacher, check out my Complete Guide to Teaching English in Vietnam.