The Golden Years

Visa requirements to retire in Vietnam

Dear Antoine, I’m a French retiree who had recently visited Vietnam as a tourist for three weeks and I’d really love to go back. I heard that in Thailand there is a special long-stay visa for retired foreigners; is there a same arrangement in Vietnam? If not, how can I get a visa to stay for a longer period than a usual tourist visa?

As far as I know, you are right about Thai regulations: In 2016, the Thai government allowed issuance of 10-year retirement visas for foreign seniors with several conditions that include age, monthly income and health insurance. Unfortunately, Vietnamese regulations do not have a similar kind of visa for foreign seniors. According to the current law, there are 20 different visa types that are available but these do not include a “retirement visa,” therefore, you must have a specific reason if you want to stay in Vietnam for more than the length of a tourist visa. Here are some things to consider if you want to enjoy a peaceful retirement in the country you love:

Is there another kind of visa that is more suitable than the tourist visa?

If you wish to have a longer visa than three months, you may look at obtaining a visa as a family member coming to Vietnam to visit his relatives. Foreigners may obtain a visa for up to 12 months if they are the parents, spouse or children under 18 years old of a Vietnamese citizen residing in Vietnam or of a foreigner having a temporary residence or permanent residence card in Vietnam. Your relation residing in Vietnam will have to ‘invite’ you to Vietnam and you will need to prove familial ties with proper documents.

If you do not have a family member in Vietnam, you may look at another kind of visa, which is said to be for “personal affairs.” The duration will be up to six months only. This type of visa may be used for other kinds of family relationship than the ones mentioned above. You will also have to submit proper documents to evidence such familial ties.

Well, I am not sure that the two above visas may allow you to achieve your objective, which is to enjoy a peaceful retirement in this beautiful country. As you can see, these visas have a relatively short duration (12 months is the best case if you have a family member in Vietnam).

Is acquiring real estate in Vietnam the right option?

It might be, but in the future…

As you may know, Vietnamese law has come through an important change in 2014: The law has finally allowed foreigners to acquire real estate in the country. Not all kinds of real estate: only certain apartments or villas in socalled “housing construction projects.” Basically, this refers to apartments or villas in new housing projects, such as new serviced apartments. Unfortunately, you can forget about charming colonial-style houses in the center of Hanoi or Saigon. However, some new real estate projects in these cities, although modern, are not without any charm. I am sure you may find the perfect place for your retirement.

The important point is that acquiring real estate should (this is common sense) allow you to enter Vietnam as much as you wish to enjoy the place you have acquired. However, the abovementioned 2014 law reform has not provided for a specific kind of visa allowing foreigners having acquired real estate to enter and stay in Vietnam. This is unfortunate and I heard that some proposals for such a type of visa are being made with the competent Vietnamese lawmakers. If the law should change on that point, I will not forget to keep you updated in a future column.

Investing some of my assets in the Vietnamese economy?

This sounds like a win-win option: you invest in Vietnam and in exchange you have the chance to enjoy your retirement in this beguiling country.

As you know, Vietnam’s economy is continuing to develop at a fast rate and needs capital and investments to push its economic growth. It, therefore, welcomes foreign investors very warmly. As an investor in Vietnam, you may obtain a specific investor visa that has a maximum duration of up to five years. Moreover, this visa is renewable and after 10 years of residence, you may have the chance to apply for a permanent visa.

So, how to become an investor in Vietnam? Investor means that you invest to create a business or acquire shares (or make a capital contribution) of a company in Vietnam. Buying shares might be the right option for you because you may choose to invest in a company that already has a successful track record: you avoid the first year of activity, which are often the most stressful.

Of course, you should consult with a local advisor to confirm all the obligations and rights that will apply to you before going ahead.

I hope that the above could be helpful. I know that Vietnam is a wonderful country and I hope that you will be able to enjoy it during your retirement!

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