The Viet Kieu Treatment – Perks of having dual citizenship

Dear Marijn,

I recently started working in Ho Chi Minh City as an architect. I have heard the term “Viet Kieus” used a lot but I don’t really know what it means exactly. I’ve also heard that they enjoy many benefits, for example with investment. Is that true?

Even though the Vietnamese term is widely used in practice, you won’t be able to find it anywhere in Vietnamese laws. From a legal perspective, a more accurate definition would therefore be “Vietnamese residing overseas.” According to the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there are roughly 4 million Vietnamese people living overseas, and the biggest communities can be found in the US, Cambodia and France.

There are various reasons why Vietnamese people live overseas. It probably goes without saying that many moved to the US after the liberation of Saigon in 1975, but others had already moved to France during the colonial period. In more recent times, immigrants have moved to countries such as Australia, Japan, South Korea and countries in the European Union for family, economic or educational purposes. Around the world you can find Vietnamese communities with names such as, “Little Saigon” and “Little Hanoi.”

The role of the Viet Kieu in society, and the attitude of the Vietnamese government towards them have evolved positively over time. Since 2013, the Constitution of Vietnam explicitly mentions that Viet Kieus form an integral part of the Vietnamese community. It also mentions that the State shall encourage and provide favorable conditions for them to preserve the identity of the Vietnamese national culture, to keep close contacts with their families and their home country, and to contribute to the construction of Vietnam.

Now what does this special status mean in practice? You rightfully asked me whether Viet Kieus enjoy any preferential treatment in terms of doing business in Vietnam. In order to answer that question, we need to know how Vietnamese law defines this group of people. There is not a single, unified definition, but the one under the Law on Vietnamese Nationality is helpful in this regard: “Vietnamese residing overseas are Vietnamese citizens, and persons of Vietnamese origin, who permanently reside in foreign countries.” This means that the following groups are covered: a) people holding Vietnamese nationality, b) people who used to hold Vietnamese nationality at the time of their birth, and c) the children and grandchildren of group a.

Note that neither the Vietnamese Law on Enterprises, nor the Vietnamese Law on Investment contains any provision that specifically favors Viet Kieus. Instead, these two fundamental laws make a distinction on the basis of nationality. Under the law, there are “domestic” investors (any individual with Vietnamese nationality, or any company without a foreign investor being a member or shareholder), and there are “foreign” investors (any individual with a foreign nationality, or any company established in accordance with foreign law). Domestic investors are exempt from the sometime burdensome rules and procedures that would apply to their foreign counterparts.

This means that Viet Kieus who have lost or given up their Vietnamese nationality may want to consider restoring their Vietnamese nationality in order to benefit from a preferential treatment under the Law on Investment. Also, Vietnamese nationals who concurrently have another nationality may choose whether to invest as a domestic or foreign investor.

One sector in which Viet Kieus do enjoy special treatment is real estate. Under the Law on Residential Housing, for example, Viet Kieus who own a residential house enjoy the same rights as Vietnamese individuals and companies who actually reside in the country. For example, the housing quota and the 50-year ownership limit that apply to foreign owners of residential houses do not apply to Viet Kieus who hold Vietnamese nationality. Furthermore, the Law on Real Estate Business states that Viet Kieus can invest in the construction of houses and buildings on land leased from Vietnamese individuals, family households and companies for the purpose of leasing it out. This is something that foreigners and foreign companies are not allowed to do.

Another way in which the government tries to encourage Viet Kieus to return to their home country and/or to invest in Vietnam’s economy is by granting tax incentives. For example, Vietnamese tax law states that income in the form of foreign currency remitted by Viet Kieus shall be exempt from personal income tax. This incentive is apparently working quite well as the World Bank has estimated that the total amount of so-called “inward remittance” for Vietnam in 2015 was more than USD13 billion. In addition, Viet Kieus without Vietnamese nationality receive favorable conditions when obtaining residence permits and visas.

Finally, subject to certain conditions, Viet Kieus who decide to resettle in Vietnam do not need to pay import duties and value added tax on their first imported car and motorbike. As if there weren’t enough motorbikes in Vietnam, already!

Every month, Marijn Sprokkereef answers legal questions from Oi readers. If you have any legal questions you want answered, send them to legal@oivietnam.com.

BIO: Marijn Sprokkereef is an associate of Audier & Partners, an international law firm with offices in Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi), Myanmar and Mongolia. Audier & Partners provides advice to foreign investors on a broad range of legal issues.

Share this story, choose your platform!

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on tumblr
Share on google
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on vk
Share on email
About the author:

2 thoughts on “The Viet Kieu Treatment – Perks of having dual citizenship”

  1. Hi,

    My name is Jackie (first name changed legally in Australia and surname changed by marriage) and I am an Australia citizen however I was born in Vietnam.

    I want to open a business and buy property with the same rights as a Vietnamese resident / citizen (read your article – without any restraints. Your article is very helpful however I want to know how can I be legally recognised as a Vietnamese citizen residing overseas (aka Viet Kieu)? I heard that you need legal documents to prove this. Your assistance and direction is kindly appreciated.

    Reply
  2. “I want to open a business and buy property with the same rights as a Vietnamese resident / citizen (read your article – without any restraints. Your article is very helpful however I want to know how can I be legally recognised as a Vietnamese citizen residing overseas (aka Viet Kieu)? I heard that you need legal documents to prove this. Your assistance and direction is kindly appreciated.”
    I share the same question
    I am a norwegian citizen, and when I got this citizen, I never resigned my citizenship to vietnam as I was underaged, 8 years old at the time. How can I find out if I can restore my citizenship confirming.
    Best regards, Thy Ngo

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Importance of Cyber Security for small businesses

Introduction Be it a small-sized, medium-sized, or large-sized company, all share a common threat of cyber-attack. While large companies and corporates are the most popular target for hackers, small businesses are not immune and are off late the more desired target. In fact, small businesses are marked as easy targets for they often have no

Read More »

Top 10 Interesting Jobs in Vietnam

The sign of a growing economy is the increase in employment opportunities. In the world today, Vietnam is among the countries whose economy is growing at a fast rate. So, it is no surprise that some of the top jobs in the world are in Vietnam. Keep reading to find out some of the exciting

Read More »

Chinese Insurtech Company Insnail Launches Their First Solution to Solve the Difficulties of Claim Settlement for Policyholders

Promoting the development of insurance networks brings the insurance industry enter a new historical phase in many emerging countries, but at the same time this also causes the emergence of a series of new problems, such as difficulties in understanding the claim settlement scope, choosing suitable insurance products, and most of all, getting a fair claim settlement. On August 26th, Insnail, a Chinese growing Insurtech company, announced the launch of their first solution to solve the

Read More »

Go Long

Markets are tanking. Should I cash out? It is almost impossible to read about anything other than COVID-19 and we are no different. As a wealth manager, I can only pass on my ideas on what to do given the turmoil in the markets. There are many losers in these markets, but with every loser,

Read More »

Which Trading Bots Really Work and Are Profitable?

How can you make money with cryptocurrencies? You can buy coins and hold onto these for the long-term or you could sell the coins when their value has risen. To do this, you can either rely on yourself or get crypto trading bots to do your work. Trading bots can be profitable provided you have

Read More »

How to sell bitcoins? Successful tips and strategies

When you are the owner of Bitcoins you have to know exactly how to go about selling these if the need arises. There are various ways to sell Bitcoins depending on if you wish to sell these directly or on a crypto exchange website. Here are some steps to sell off your Bitcoins in the

Read More »