Foreigners with degrees forego work permits, however…

Dear Antoine and Caroline, I am a Turkish citizen, planning to move to Vietnam permanently. I heard that a new decree has been issued allowing foreigners with three years work experience and a bachelor’s degree the ability to obtain work in Vietnam without a work permit. Is this correct? What would be the proof of work, and would part-time jobs count? Also would a foreigner on a student or tourist visa in Vietnam be covered in this decree?

Vietnam has recently extended the possibilities for foreign workers to obtain a work permit exemption. Decree 11/2016/ ND-CP was adopted in February 2016 (effective April 1, 2016) and provides the rules and conditions for foreign workers in Vietnam for obtaining a work permit or, as the case may be, an exemption from a work permit. According to the new decree, several groups are exempt from work permits, for example, foreign investors of limited liability companies or foreign workers appointed by foreign agencies or organizations to teach or do research in international schools.

Concerning your specific question, a foreign worker, who has a bachelor’s degree, or equivalent or higher qualifications, and has worked at least three years in his training field corresponding with the job position he is appointed in Vietnam, is considered as an expert and may be granted exemption from a work permit. However, this would be granted only in two cases: 1) The foreign worker has been employed for at least one year in a foreign company engaged in one of the following services: business, communication, construction, distribution, education, environment, finance, health, tourism, culture, entertainment and transportation, and he has been temporarily reassigned within the same company to its commercial presence in Vietnam or 2) He comes to work in Vietnam for no more than 30 days at a time, and no more than 90 days per year. Please note that the new decree does not include any provision requiring a specific kind of labor contract (definite, indefinite, full-time, part-time, etc.) in order to be eligible for a work permit exemption.

If you are one of the above, and therefore eligible, your employer can request the Department of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs (the labor management body at the provincial level) to certify that you are indeed eligible for exemption. Please be advised that this must be addressed to the authority at least seven working days before beginning your job.

The application for the certification of exemption from a work permit would notably include documents proving that you are eligible. In the case of an expert reassigned within the same enterprise, this could be a letter of appointment of the foreign worker at the commercial presence in Vietnam with a specific working duration at the expert position and an attestation from the foreign company that you have worked for them for at least a year. Diplomas, an attestation from a company confirming that you are an expert and an attestation from a company or companies proving that you have worked for at least three years in your training field conforming to the job in Vietnam might also be provided. The duration of the exemption certificate will be maximum two years.

Now let’s go back to your question regarding a foreigner with a tourist or student visa. The new decree applies to foreign citizens moving to or living in Vietnam for employment, without consideration to the visa of the applicant. Nevertheless, be aware that the visa is granted accordingly to the purpose of the entry in Vietnam. A foreigner can be engaged in activities in Vietnam only if it is in accordance with the stated purpose and the purpose of the visa cannot be changed. Moreover, a foreigner working in Vietnam without a work permit (except the case where they are exempted in accordance with the authority’s confirmation) will be expelled from the country. Thus, a foreigner entering Vietnam with a tourist visa is not allowed to work in Vietnam and to convert his visa into a working visa, let alone require a work permit/ exemption from a work permit

The situation is, however, different for students. The new decree allows those who are studying and working in Vietnam, students who are studying in schools, or training institutions in foreign countries and executing their internship in Vietnam upon agreements, to request exemption. This means that a foreigner having a student visa and being one of the above will be covered by the new decree.

Every month, Antoine and Caroline answer legal questions from readers. If you have any legal question you want answered, send them to legal@oivietnam.com. 

BIO: A member of the Paris Bar, Antoine Logeay has been practicing law first in France, mainly in litigation and arbitration, then in Vietnam for three years as an associate of Audier & Partners based at its Hanoi office. Also a member of the Paris Bar, Caroline de Bellescize has been practicing mainly business law and real-estate law for three years in a French law firm and is currently an associate at the HCMC office of Audier & Partners. Audier & Partners is an international law firm with presence in Vietnam, Myanmar and Mongolia, providing advice to foreign investors on a broad range of legal issues.