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 a temporary resident card (TRC), you require a work permit. While you can find work without needing a permit, good companies will not allow you to work for them without one 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.

NOTE: This post is specific to how British citizens have to prepare documents, as I am from the UK (read the full procedure on the Government site here). The process for certifying documents will be different for different nationalities, but the documents required for a work permit and the process once in Vietnam is the same.

How do you apply for a work permit in Vietnam?

To apply for a work permit you must first be sponsored by your employer. Thankfully your company completes the paperwork and legal aspect for you, meaning you only need to prepare your documents for them.

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

For a work permit in Vietnam you need:

  • Work contact
  • 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**
  • 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)

**Specific to UK citizens.

For some other nationalities I believe you can have your original degree and teaching certificate legalised by your countries embassy in Vietnam. You should confirm this for your nationality before travelling to Vietnam. Therefore other nationalities might need to bringing the original documents to Vietnam, or have them sent over later (this is the way the UK used to process documents). If you neglect to bring the right documents, you can airmail them. I have colleagues that have airmailed documents and I’ve never heard of anything going missing. Tip: Get them sent to your work as it should be easier for the postal service to find, and use a courier like FedEx or DHL.

Criminal Background Check

I did my criminal background check at home before I left, 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 don’t get it so early that its not valid by the time you start applying 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.

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 will need completed remotely by family/friends.

Step 1: 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 practicing 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.

Step 2: 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 card. This costs £30 per document (so total will be £90) and there is a two day turnaround, plus shipping.

Step 3: 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. The Vietnamese Embassy in London need to legalise your documents which costs £35 per document (£105 total).

Conveniently the Embassy can send the documents directly onto 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.

Getting A Health Check in Vietnam

The work permit health check needs to be done in Vietnam and as such, most hospitals are familiar with the process. I did mine at An Sinh Hospital. 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.

When going for your health check:

  • Don’t 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, you can just rocked up and start the check. The whole health check took around 3 hours, though this was mostly time spent in waiting rooms (you have to see different Drs). 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 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!

As part of the work permit health check they test your eyes, dental, urine, blood, heart rate, chest x-ray and ears. At An Sinh Hospital it was 1.500.00₫, ~£50, and they accepted card (other hospitals I’ve been too are cash only though). You will need to return either later that day or the next to collect your health check document.

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 (£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 Resident Card

Once you have a work permit you can apply for a residency card. A temporary resident card (TRC) superposes any visas, means you can live, and travel in and out of Vietnam for 2 years. You don’t need to leave the country to activate your TRC, it simply overrides your current visa. It costs 5.5 million VND (£180) and your employer can apply for one at the same time as the work permit. You need passport photos, your work permit details and passport.

Remember: you will 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 (2018). The cost will vary depending on your nationality, where you get your health check, and what agent your employer uses to file the paperwork.

Step 1: Legalise copies of documents by solicitor[free]
Step 2: Legalise documents at Commonwealth office£90 (£30 per document) + shipping within the UK
Step 3: Legalise documents at the Vietnamese embassy£105 (£35 per document) + £40 DHL shipping to Vietnam
Health Check1.5 million VND£50
Work permit processing fee6 million VND£200
Residency card processing fee5.5 million VND£180
TOTAL COSTS£625

I hope this has been useful in helping you plan for moving to Vietnam.

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18 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! 🙂

  4. Ian says: Reply

    Hi

    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

    1. francesFR says: Reply

      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!

  5. Ian says: Reply

    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

    Thanks

    Ian

    1. francesFR says: Reply

      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)

  6. Ian says: Reply

    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 🙂

    Ian

    1. francesFR says: Reply

      Great! No problem, good luck with the move 🙂 thanks for your support! Frances

  7. Edgar says: Reply

    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?

    1. francesFR says: Reply

      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?

  8. Edgar says: Reply

    As far I understand once having the work permit I do not longer require a Visa. The hard work permit’s hard copy (original).

    1. francesFR says: Reply

      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.

  9. Ethan says: Reply

    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.

    1. francesFR says: Reply

      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

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