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How do I get a tourist visa?
Most people use this website for their basic visa needs. You will find all necessary information on their website.
How long do tourist visas last?
This one is difficult to answer as the rules are constantly changing, however the shortest amount of time is usually three months and the longest usually one year.
How do I get a work permit in Vietnam?
If you are hired while living outside of Vietnam, the organization that hires will usually assist you with the permit and provide all information that you need in order to submit your application to the government. Usually, you will need:
- A notarized copy of letters of recommendation/proof of previous employment authenticated by the Vietnamese embassy or consulate in your home country.
- A federal criminal background check from your home country.
- Any relevant college/university degrees or certificates to be notarized and authenticated by the Vietnamese embassy or consulate in your home country.
- A health check conducted at an approved hospital after arrival in Vietnam.
- If the name on your passport differs in any way from the name on any of your other documents (if one of your documents uses the short form of your name..."Tom" instead of "Thomas" for instance), you will need to get a "name affidavit" where you swear before a notary that both names are one and the same person. This document will need to be authenticated with the Vietnamese embassy or consulate in your home country.
- Any document requested by your new employer generally will need to be notarized and then authenticated by the Vietnamese embassy or consulate in your home country
- Usually, your employer will reimburse you for all fees related to work permit paperwork after you have started work in Vietnam.
How long does a work permit last in Vietnam?
Usually, you have to renew it every year, but you can use the same paperwork as before. However, you usually need to get a new health check and local police background check every year. Renewal is very easy as your employer will usually help out with everything.
How do I renew my tourist visa?
This is another one that varies because the rules are always changing. However, there are generally two ways. The first is to leave the country, usually to Cambodia because it's the closest border, and then get a new visa upon re-entry. The second is to pay for a service (there are many advertised on Facebook and elsewhere) where they will take your passport and go get a new visa for you. Whether or not you can do the latter will depend on the rules that are in place at the time.
What if I want to work in Vietnam but don't have a work permit?
Many expats in Vietnam end up working without a valid work permit. This is possible in most cases because your employer will tell anyone checking that your work permit is "in process" and will be done shortly (whether that's true or not). In the meantime, a little bit of wheel greasing usually takes care of the problem. In our experience, most expats teaching English or doing other part time work do not have a work permit and have no problems.
Can I start a company as a foreigner in Vietnam?
Yes, many expats start businesses here. However, the current law is that there has to be some Vietnamese person on the ownership documents, so you will need to find someone that you can trust to give some shares of the company to. In many cases, it can be only 5% of the company, but you'll need to trust that person to give those shares back to you at some point in the future. Alternatively, there are services that you can pay for where a Vietnamese person will do this for you for a fee. While it may seem scary to trust someone with something like this, it is a common practice and seems to work well for the majority.
Can I buy real estate as a foreigner in Vietnam?
This is another one that varies because the rules are always changing. However, the current rules are that foreigners are allowed to own apartments on a 100 year lease. So it's not exactly the same as total ownership legally speaking, but for all intents and purposes it is. However, if you are married to a Vietnamese citizen then you can own any real estate without limitation, including land and houses. Being married to a Vietnamese citizen also solves the problem of complicated paperwork when starting a company.
Is it difficult to find a job teaching English in Vietnam?
No. If you are interested in teaching English in Vietnam the demand for teachers is extremely high. You can usually walk into almost any English school and be hired on the spot. The pay usually varies from $15-$25 per hour depending on experience, credentials and the school. But if you are a certified teacher with experience and perhaps a master's degree you can make quite a bit more.
Is it difficult to find a job teaching at an International School in Vietnam?
Teaching at a proper international school, where the standards are roughly equivalent to private schools in the west, requires proper teaching credentials in the vast majority of cases. That means you'll need to at least have a teaching certificate, if not a master's degree as well for the top schools that pay the best. However, the pay at international schools in Vietnam is quite high considering the low cost of living and generally ranges from $2,000 to $4,000 per month plus benefits. Benefits may include airfare, a housing stipend, health insurance, a pension allowance, new contract signing bonuses, and reimbursement of work permit expenses.
In addition, in order to get a good contract that includes the above benefits, you will usually need to be hired through a service such as Search Associates, which is a head hunter company that focuses on hiring qualified teachers for international schools. Generally, a head of school will attend one of several job fairs that Search Associates hosts around the world and will make hiring decisions on the spot in most cases.
If you are hired from within the country, you are considered a "local hire" and will usually have few or no benefits at all as well as a much lower salary (see the blog for more background on the reasons for this and other related details). Another newer and less well-known organization similar to Search Associates is Teacher Horizons. They are gaining a reputation as an alternative to Search Associates due to the lower cost, although I cannot speak to their results. Perhaps some teachers who have used these services can comment in the blog section.
Is it difficult to communicate with locals if I can't speak the language?
It depends on where you live. But in general, Vietnamese people can usually speak at least some English and are very eager to improve, which is why there is such a high demand for English teachers here. If you live in a major city, like Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon), or Hanoi, then you will generally not have a problem with basic communication, which is probably why most expats can get by without learning a lot of Vietnamese.
On the other hand, it is our experience that being able to speak Vietnamese fluently greatly enhances the experience of living here and provides many benefits that other expats will never experience such as:
- Easily making friends wherever you go
- Being able to easily find your way if you get lost (this is important!)
- Easily meet and communicate with the opposite sex
- Save money when haggling at the market
- Save money when negotiating the price of pretty much anything, including renting a house, buying a motorbike etc.
- Generally feeling confident that you can communicate with everyone in virtually any situation that you may find yourself in
- It's really fun!
To get a jump start learning the language CLICK HERE for a discount coupon for our best-selling online Vietnamese language course
Do I need to have a driver's license in Vietnam?
Legally speaking, yes. However, most expats don't. The reason for this is that it's a huge pain in the rear to go take the necessary tests to get one, and if you do happen to get pulled over, a little "wheel grease" is all it takes to go on your way, usually for somewhere in the range of $10-$20 (200,000vnd-400,000vnd)
Do I need to know how to drive a motorcycle to get around in Vietnam?
No. However, most people end up renting or buying a scooter because they are very easy to learn how to drive and once you get used to the traffic patterns, it is much less dangerous than it appears when you first arrive in the country and bare witness to the crazy traffic, especially in the major cities. On the other hand, some expats choose to either take a taxi everywhere, as they are quite cheap, or use a motorbike taxi, known as a "xe ôm", which are even less expensive than a car taxi or Uber.
Uber is getting more popular in Vietnam and is slightly less expensive than a traditional taxi. Uber is convenient when you are being picked up at home as they will come directly to you and are usually quite quick. On the other hand, when you are out and about in the city, it may be faster to simply step outside and hail a taxi, as they are everywhere in the major cities.
When it comes to taxis, you may want to stick with the two largest companies, Vinasun and Mai Linh, in order to avoid getting ripped off, especially when coming from the airport as the taxis that wait at the airport are well-known for their graft. Vinasun and Mai Linh are well run and if you have any issues with a driver or accidentally leave something in the taxi, you can simply call the company and have it resolved (it helps if you remember the taxi number, which is posted on each vehicle).
Can I open a bank account in Vietnam as a foreigner?
Yes, however you will need to either do it through your employer or your spouse if you are married to a Vietnamese citizen. Otherwise, the bank will not let you open a bank account. But even if you just work part time for an English school or some other organization, you will usually be able to open a bank account through them, and then once it's open you can continue to use it forever even if you are no longer employed there.
In addition, Americans should know that the IRS now requires all foreign banks to report American bank accounts to them via a W-9 form as Americans are required by law to report all foreign bank accounts, income and assets. However, a few banks choose to simply reject Americans as customers now so that they do not have to take on this extra reporting burden. Other nationalities do not have this problem.
While it may seem crazy that an American institution can force foreign banks to do this, the reason is that America has so much influence and control within the general international banking system (via the World Bank, International Monetary Fund etc.) that there would be major costs for any bank choosing not to comply with this rule. As far as we know, you only have to report the accounts if they have more than $10,000 in them at any time during the year, but please seek professional tax advice about this issue, we are only speaking from our personal experience and our own reading of the rules.
Do businesses in Vietnam accept U.S. dollars, Euros or other foreign currency?
Technically, no they do not. According to Vietnamese law the Vietnamese Dong is the official currency, and businesses are not even allowed to advertise in U.S. dollars (although some do anyway). However, many businesses accept foreign credit cards, especially large hotel chains and international corporations and hospitals. Some of these businesses will also take U.S. dollars, but in general you should exchange your money for Vietnamese Dong and be prepared to pay cash for everything. Vietnam is still very much a cash based economy, and while local banks continue to offer more online payment services and credit cards than in the past, this is a process that is developing slowly, and due to various reasons that I may get into in a separate blog post, this will probably not change drastically anytime soon.
Is Vietnam Safe?
Generally speaking, yes. After living here for many years, I have never been attacked, robbed or threatened. In addition, guns are totally banned so you never have to worry about this issue. However, you should always be careful where you go and watch your things as theft is a constant issue in most places due to continued poverty, despite the rapidly growing economy and expanding middle class. A good general rule is to never drive a motorbike with a backpack, handbag or purse attached to your body as they can be ripped off of you and cause an accident or worse. In addition, it's usually smart not to use your phone out on the sidewalk or street where it can be swiped, especially near the Tet holiday when theft spikes significantly.
I would like to get a visa for my Vietnamese fiance/spouse to come to my home country. Where do I start?
The process will be very different depending on what country you are from. Generally, a good place to get information about this is to contact your embassy or consulate. For Americans, the process is rather lengthy, but you can find everything you need to know at Visa Journey. This website was a life-saver for my wife and I when we began the paperwork as it has information related to all aspects of the process from other people who have gone through it including timelines, which give you an idea of how long each step will take.
You can ask questions, search through thousands of threads on various topics related to your situation, and generally find out everything you need without having to hire a lawyer to do the paperwork for you, which will save you thousands of dollars. On the other hand, if you want to spend a few thousand dollars and don't want to have to worry about the headache of doing so much paperwork and having to figure everything out on your own, you can simply hire an immigration lawyer in the U.S. to do everything for you.
What is the cost of living in Vietnam?
This will vary quite a lot depending on your spending habits and what city you live in. But generally speaking, an individual can live quite comfortably on about $1,000 per month, especially outside of the major cities (Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Danang). Vietnam consistently ranks as an expat destination with one of the lowest costs of living in the world.
Are there any job prospects for expats other than teaching?
Yes, there are plenty of job opportunities for people with business degrees, a background in the food and beverage industry or a generally entrepreneurial attitude. It is very easy to get a small business up and running due to the lax nature of regulation enforcement and the ease with which you can get around certain requirements when starting your company (legal fees are also very inexpensive relative to western countries). It is also much cheaper, in general, to start a business here than in the west, which makes it a very attractive place for entrepreneurs, in addition to the fact that the economy is booming as the country races toward "developed country" status.
There are a lot of jobs for expats as bartenders and business managers. The pay will vary a great deal depending on the situation, but generally speaking, you may expect a monthly salary from $1,000 to $3,000 for business management/marketing type jobs and a little less for jobs in the F & B industry. Please comment in the blog section if your experience has been different.
I have a situation where I need legal assistance or help from the police, what should I do?
If your situation is serious, it is usually a good idea to contact your consulate or embassy. However, if it is a more common matter, like a dispute with a landlord or neighbor, you can usually resolve it through a local attorney or deal directly with the police. Generally speaking, legal fees are very inexpensive here compared to the west and due to the very low salaries of the police, they are very open to working with you on various matters in exchange for some free coffee funds and the like... A good starting point would be to ask your Vietnamese or expat friends for a referral to a good lawyer or have a Vietnamese friend contact the police to deal with your issue directly. They will know what to say.
If I move to Vietnam, will I have access to international quality healthcare?
Yes, there are some very good hospitals and clinics in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and Danang. The smaller cities have a more spotty network of good clinics and it really depends on where you live. In some cases, you may need to travel to one of the major cities if you need a major operation or other serious treatment.
There are many good options in Ho Chi Minh City including, but not limited to the following:
- FV Hospital
- City International Hospital
- Family Medical Practice
- Victoria Healthcare Vietnam
- Hanh Phuc Hospital
Good options in Hanoi:
- Family Medical Practice (same company as above)
- Vinmech International Hospital
- Hanoi French Hospital
- Bumrungrad International Hospital
- International SOS Hanoi