Visas And Work Permits For Expatriates In Vietnam

Russin & Vecchi


Russin & Vecchi was founded in Asia over 60 years ago. We have offices in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. We work with global clients and with international law firms. From entry strategy to operations, we help clients navigate the complex and changing Vietnamese regulatory framework. We deliver creative, compliant, and practical solutions.
This paper outlines regulations governing the entry and immigration of expatriates to work for a foreign or Vietnamese entity in Vietnam.
Vietnam Immigration
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This paper outlines regulations governing the entry and immigration of expatriates to work for a foreign or Vietnamese entity in Vietnam.


The regulations governing immigration and residency for expatriates in Vietnam are provided in the following legal documents:

  • Law No. 47/2014/QH13 on Entry, Exit, Transit and Residence of Expatriates in Vietnam ("Immigration Law") as amended by Law No. 51/2019/QH14 dated November 25, 2019 and Law No. 23/2023/QH15 dated June 24, 2023 (collectively the "Amended Immigration Law");
  • Circular No. 04/2015/TT-BCA of the Ministry of Public Security ("MPS") dated January 5, 2015, providing the forms on Entry, Exit, Transit and Residence of Expatriates in Vietnam as amended by Circular No. 57/2020/TT-BCA dated June 10, 2020 and Circular No. 22/2023/TT-BCA dated June 30, 2023;
  • Circular No. 31/2015/TT-BCA of the MPS dated July 6, 2015 providing guidance for foreigners on visas, temporary residence, exit and entry permits and permanent residence (Article 7.1(b) was annulled by Circular No. 65/2022/TT-BCA dated December 30, 2022 of the MPS on whole or partial annulments of legislative documents promulgated by the MPS, with effect from January 1, 2023); and
  • Resolution No. 127/NQ-CP of the Government dated August 14, 2023 on the grant of electronic visas to citizens of countries and territories; international checkpoints allowing/accepting foreigners using electronic visas to enter and exit ("Resolution 127/NQ-CP").

1. Entry visa

1.1 General background

According to the Immigration Law, an expatriate may enter Vietnam if she is granted an entry visa. To obtain an entry visa, the expatriate must meet the following conditions:

  • have a passport or laissez-passer;
  • be invited or sponsored by an organization or individual in Vietnam, or by the head of the overseas visa-issuing authority of Vietnam;
  • be on a white-list to enter Vietnam; and
  • hold papers evidencing a qualified purpose to enter into Vietnam, such as: a work permit for a foreign employee, an investment certificate with respect to a foreign investor, a practice license with respect to a foreign lawyer, etc.

A visa must be granted to each expatriate who enters Vietnam, except for (i) visas issued to children under the age of 14 who will receive a visa jointly with their parent or guardian, and (ii) visas issued in accordance with a list approving foreigners visiting or transiting by sea and for tourism organized by an international travel agency in Vietnam, or members of certain foreign military ships.

An expatriate will apply for a visa based on her occupation, status, or intended travel purpose. Each visa category has a maximum duration ranging from 30 days to five years, unless otherwise specified in an international agreement. Under the Immigration Law, there are 27 specific visa categories. We focus only on visas with a commercial, tourist or related purpose.

Visa Categories Description Visa Duration
Group 1: Working Visas
Group 1A: Expatriate enters to work with a Vietnamese Authority, a Non-Government Organization ("NGO"), or a Foreign Trader
NN1 Visa for a foreign head of either a Representative Office ("RO") or of a project of an international organization or foreign NGO Up to 1 year
NN2 Visa for a foreign head of an RO/branch of a foreign trader, an RO of other foreign economic, cultural, or professional organization Up to 1 year
NN3 Visa for an expatriate who will work for a foreign NGO, RO/branch of a foreign trader or an RO of other foreign economic, cultural, or professional organizations Up to 1 year
Group 1B: Expatriate enters to work with Vietnamese parties/companies
DN1 Visa for an expatriate who will work with an enterprise or other organization which is a legal entity under Vietnamese law Up to 1 year
DN2 Visa for an expatriate who will offer services, establish a commercial presence or conduct other activities recognized by international treaty Up to 1 year
LD1 Visa for an expatriate working in Vietnam who is exempt from a work permit, except in a case where a treaty of which Vietnam is a member provides otherwise Up to 2 years
LD2 Visa for an expatriate who will work in Vietnam and who requires a work permit Up to 2 years
Group 2: Professional Visas
LS Visa for a foreign lawyer practicing in Vietnam Up to 5 years
DT1 Visa for a foreign investor or a representative of a foreign organization which invests in Vietnam with capital contribution with a value of at least VND 100 billion2 or which invests in a business with incentives or in a region entitled to incentives Up to 5 years
DT2 Visa for a foreign investor or a representative of a foreign organization which invests in Vietnam with a capital contribution from VND 50 billion to less than VND 100 billion or which invests in businesses encouraged for investment Up to 5 years
DT3 Visa for a foreign investor or a representative of a foreign organization which invests in Vietnam with a capital contribution from VND 3 billion to less than VND 50 billion Up to 3 years
DT4 Visa for a foreign investor or a representative of a foreign organization which invests in Vietnam with a capital contribution of less than VND 3 billion Up to 1 year
PV1 Visa for a foreign journalist who has permanent residence in Vietnam Up to 1 year
PV2 Visa for a foreign journalist who will work for a short period of time in Vietnam Up to 1 year
Group 3: Other Visas
DH Visa for an expatriate who will study or for an internship Up to 12 months
HN Visa for an expatriate who will attend a convention or conference Up to 90 days
DL Visa for a foreign tourist Up to 90 days
TT Visa for an expatriate who either is a spouse or is a child under-18-years of an expatriate holding LV1/LV2/LS/DT1/DT2/DT3/NN1/NN2/DH/PV1/LD1/LD2 visa, or is a parent, spouse, or child of a Vietnamese citizen Up to 1 year
VR Visa for an expatriate who visits her relatives or for other purposes Up to 180 days
EV Electronic visa (e-Visa) for an expatriate who holds a valid passport of any country and territory, and does not fall within the categories of NG1, NG2, NG3 and NG4 visas Up to 90 days3

Vietnam made broad commitments as part of its WTO accession4 ("Vietnam's WTO Commitments") with regard to the immigration of expatriates working as managers, executives or experts in a foreign "commercial presence"5 in Vietnam. In particular, Vietnam has made the following commitments:

  • An expatriate recruited by the commercial presence of a foreign entity to take the position of "manager", "executive" or "expert" may obtain an entry visa with a duration of up to three years, renewable subject to her term of employment in Vietnam, in which:
  • A "Manager" or "executive" is a person who manages a foreign invested enterprise ("FIE"), or a branch or the RO of a foreign trader, or a business cooperation contract ("BCC"), and reports only to the board of directors or shareholders. Management responsibilities include directing the FIE, the branch or the RO, or the office of the BCC themselves, or directing a department, division or independent unit. Management responsibilities also consist of supervising the performance of other supervisory, professional, or managerial staff, including recruiting and dismissing staff. Oddly, it appears that a manager or an executive can only manage the "supply" of services or production, but cannot provide the services or be involved in production. This is limiting in certain businesses. For example, a software, architectural, or similar service provider in which a manager both manages the operations and provides services to their clients appears not to qualify.
  • An "Expert" is a person who has qualifications at an advanced level of expertise or who has knowledge of services, research equipment, techniques, or management.
  • An expatriate transferred from abroad to work for the commercial presence of a foreign entity in the position of "manager", "executive", or "expert" may obtain a renewable entry visa with a duration of more than three years.

The difference between the Immigration Law and Vietnam's WTO Commitments is the duration of the visa for an expatriate employed by a Vietnamese company (under visa categories LD1 and LD2 in Group 1B of the table above). Under the Immigration Law, visas can be issued only for a maximum of two years; this term can be three years or more under Vietnam's WTO Commitments. According to the Amended Immigration Law, it appears that the difference has been eliminated, as it provides that the visa term will be issued in accordance with applicable treaties--that is, possibly three years.

1.2 Purpose of Entry

The purpose of a visa cannot be converted to another purpose, except in the four following cases.

The visa holder:

  • is an investor or the representative of a foreign investor which is an organization;
  • has documents proving her relationship as the parent, spouse, or child of the sponsoring person;
  • has been invited or is sponsored by an organization to work and has a work permit or a work permit exemption;
  • entered Vietnam using an electronic visa and has a work permit or a work permit exemption.

In order to convert her visa in such cases, (without the need to exit Vietnam) the visa holder must apply for a visa with a new purpose.

A visa may be renewed provided that conditions on which the original visa was issued continue.

1.3 Visa exemptions

Under Article 12 of the Immigration Law, a visa is not required if the expatriate:

  • is eligible for a visa exemption in accordance with international agreements to which Vietnam is a member;
  • holds a residence permit (see Section A.2 below);
  • enters a border-gate economic zone or special administrative-economic unit;
  • enters a coastal economic zone6;
  • is eligible for a unilateral visa exemption; or
  • is an overseas Vietnamese holding a passport or a laissez-passer issued by a foreign government or agency and is a foreigner who is the spouse or child of such a foreigner; is the spouse or child of a Vietnamese citizen who is granted visa-free entry under Government regulations).

a. Exemption from visas under international agreements, protocols, etc.

As of August 2023, Vietnam had entered into entry visa exemption agreements with 94 countries.7 However, most of these agreements only grant exemptions to persons with diplomatic or public affairs passports.

Entry visa exemptions for persons holding ordinary passports and staying in Vietnam for 30 days or less are granted under agreements with Cambodia, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, and Brunei. Citizens from Chile and Panama are exempt from visas if they enter and stay in Vietnam for less than 90 days. Such exemptions are also granted to citizens of Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Russia, Japan, Republic of Korea (South Korea), Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Belarus if they stay in Vietnam for 45 or fewer days, regardless of the type of their passports. All of this is set out in Resolution No. 32/NQ-CP issued on March 15, 2022 as amended by Resolution No. 128/NQ-CP dated August 14, 2023. This Resolution is scheduled to expire on March 14, 2025 and may be extended.

b. Exemption from visas for expatriates who are overseas Vietnamese

Under Decree No. 82/2015/ND-CP of the Government dated September 24, 2015, an overseas Vietnamese does not need a visa if she has obtained a certificate of visa exemption issued either by a Vietnamese diplomatic office abroad or by the Immigration Department of the MPS. A person with such a certificate may stay in Vietnam for up to six months upon each entry.

In order to be granted a certificate of visa exemption, a person must meet the following conditions:

  • Has a passport or another international travel document that is valid for at least one more year;
  • Has documents proving that he is an overseas Vietnamese or is the spouse/child of an overseas Vietnamese or of a Vietnamese citizen;
  • Not banned or suspended from entry or exit under the Immigration Law. Birth certificate; or
  • Decision to permit renunciation of Vietnamese nationality or certification of loss of Vietnamese nationality;
  • Other documents showing/proving previous Vietnamese nationality.

In order to apply for such a certificate, an overseas Vietnamese must present one of the following documents:

In case there are no papers proving that the applicant is of Vietnamese origin residing overseas, the Vietnamese diplomatic office abroad will examine any documents which applicant can present to show that she is of Vietnamese origin, to decide whether to accept the application.

A visa exemption will also be issued to the spouse and children of an overseas Vietnamese. Evidence of the relationship is required. A certificate of visa exemption for an overseas Vietnamese and her spouse or children is valid for up to five years and must be at least six months shorter than the remaining term of her passport or of her international travel document. Of course, the certificate is renewable.

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1. This book has been written and updated by lawyers from Russin & Vecchi. It is current through November 2023.

2. Approx. US$ 4,065,000. Rate of exchange is about US$ 1 = VND 24,600.

3. An E-visa is valid for multiple entries. As from August 15, 2023, an E-visa is available to passport holders of all countries and territories who will enter Vietnam via one of 42 particular ports (including 13 international airports, 16 landports and 13 seaports) (according to Resolution 127/NQ-CP). The issuance of e-visas must occur in such a way to ensure national defense and security, social order and safety, and conform to Vietnam's foreign policy and socio-economic development.

4. Vietnam committed to the World Trade Organization ("WTO") on November 7, 2006, and the WTO Commitments took effect on January 11, 2007.

5. This is an awkward term, but it is used in Vietnam's WTO commitments and best encompasses both commercial entities and commercial offices that are not juridical entities. From the perspective of foreign employment, Article 3.7 of Decree 152/2020/ND-CP of the Government dated December 30, 2020 on foreign employees working in Vietnam and recruitment and management of Vietnamese employees working for foreign employers in Vietnam now provides for a clearer interpretation of "commercial presence" which includes a foreign-invested entity, representative office, branch of foreign trader in Vietnam, and executive office of a foreign investor in a business cooperation contract.

6. What qualifies as a coastal economic zone is decided by the Government. Generally, the following conditions must exist: having an international airport; having separate air space; having a defined geographical border, and is separate from the mainland.


The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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