The lack of opacity along with the bureaucratic red tape and hurdles needed to obtain a Vietnam work permit has long been one of the primary complaints of foreign companies operating in the country, as well a favourite gripe among expatriates working there.
Multiple documents from an employees home country need to be translated, notorised, authenticated and stamped. Even once these are obtained, the amount of time it will take to actually receive a Vietnam work permit is often a mystery.
However, the notoriously convoluted regulations regarding obtaining a Vietnam work permit for foreign workers appear to be gaining some clarity, thanks to a new decree issued by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung
Foreign Experts no Longer Need a Vietnam Work Permit
According to the decree, which will become effective on April 1, foreigners with a bachelor’s degree and at lease three years of experience working in their respective field will no longer be required to obtain a Vietnam work permit to be employed in the country.
Additionally, foreigners who have proven to be an expert, manager, executive director or technician for a foreign enterprise can also work without a permit, though what exactly counts as an ‘expert’ isn’t clear.
Foreign employees who transfer to Vietnam from abroad while working for the same enterprise will also be able to work without a permit as well.
The decree also covers foreign teachers and researchers at educational institutions such as high schools and universities. They will only need to obtain approval from the Vietnam Ministry of Education and Training (VMET) before they can start work, though what exactly that approval entails isn’t specified.
Teachers in the booming language centres of Vietnam’s cities will, however, still need to obtain a Vietnam work permit.
Unskilled Workers to Benefit as Well
Perhaps the most noteworthy stipulation of this decree is the changes to rules regarding unskilled foreign workers.
Foreigners have been banned from positions which Vietnamese workers can fill since 2003, meaning most expat jobs in the country require strong, or even native, English language and advanced education.
Once the new Vietnam work permit rule comes into effect government agencies are supposed to help employers find a Vietnamese candidate for an open position. If their search is unsuccessful after 30 days the employer can then look for overseas workers. If more than 500 workers are needed the required search period for local candidates is extended to 60 days.
This mandatory search period reveals the fears of some Vietnamese officials; that local workers will not be able to compete with workers from countries with better education and training systems.
The Asian Economic Community (AEC) allows for the free flow of labourers within the region, and Vietnam lags far behind the likes of Thailand and Malaysia in terms of skill development.
Thai Phuc Thanh, deputy general head of the Vietnam Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs’ (MoLISA) Social Insurance programme, has even called for a regulation stating that foreign employees must speak Vietnamese in order to be allowed to work in the country.
There has been so sign that such a rule will actually be put in place, but such a requirement would make the vast majority of potential foreign workers ineligible.
Vietnam Most Attractive Destination in Asia For Expats
Despite its byzantine work permit regulations, Vietnam is a prominent destination for expats, a position that only stands to strengthen once the new regulations discussed above come online.
According to MoLISA, in 2014 there were 76,000 foreign employees of 74 nationalities working in Vietnam. A survey by HSBC carried out in December 2015 found that Vietnam is considered the most attractive country in Asia for expatriates.
Loosened Vietnam work permit regulations will make it even more attractive, and likely make things easier for foreign companies already operating in the country, or those looking to enter it. Though regulations in Vietnam don’t always turn out in reality the way they look on paper. However, at the moment the future looks considerably brighter for foreign workers needing a Vietnam work permit.
- Expats with degrees forego work permits (Viet Nam News)
- Vietnam to ease employment rules for foreigners in all lines of work (Thanh Nien News)
- Vietnam Work Permit Regulations to Ease From April 1Vietnam Eases The Way For Foreign Workers (Forbes Asia)
He is a former contributing editor for AsiaLIFE Magazine and a former English-language editor for Tuoi Tre News Online
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