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New Law on Entry, Exit, Transit and Residence Foreigners – a closer step for Vietnam’s integration into the world

From 1 January 2015, the first-ever-adopted Law on Entry, Exit, Transit and Residence of Foreigners in Vietnam (“Immigration Law”) came into effect. Many consider with adoption of the Immigration Law, Vietnam is taking a further step to integrate into the world. Bellows are some points that may be of interest to foreigners.

Visa types

There are as many as 20 types of visa specified under the Immigration Law. Before entering Vietnam, foreigners shall decide which kind of visa they wish to pursue and apply for. This is particularly in line with the current trend in the world, whereby most developed countries specify different types of visa and associated applicable procedures. Of note, foreigners wishing to enter Vietnam to “invest” shall need to submit “proof” for such investment. It shall be interesting to see how such proof issue shall be implemented in practice. Foreign lawyers wishing to practice in Vietnam shall be required to submit their practicing certificate in their jurisdiction. For other professions, a work permit must be included in the visa application dossiers. The period of validity of different types of visa also varies. Lawyer visa and investor visa shall be ones with the longest period of validity being up to 5 years.

Another notable point is that once obtaining a visa for a specific purpose, foreigners cannot “change” its purpose during their stay in Vietnam. This would trigger another issue. A rigid understanding of this regulation shall be that in order to apply for a different type of visa, the foreigners must depart from Vietnam as if they continue to remain in Vietnam, they cannot “change” the purpose of their current visa. This in turn leads to an undesirable event when foreigners shall incur additional costs to depart from Vietnam and reapply for a different type of visa, especially when they happen to desire to change the purpose of stay in Vietnam i.e. from travel to working. However, as official guidance has yet to be made clear, we shall need to observe and may have to seek relevant opinions from the authority when needed. 

Other provisions

Foreigners who have not fulfilled their tax obligations or complied with the decisions of administrative sanctions shall not be allowed to exit Vietnam. The extent of violation, however, is not clarified further. It is arguable that if the violation is trivial i.e. a minor traffic law violation or small outstanding tax, of which immigration authorities unaware then the foreigners may still depart. In case foreigners overstay their visa, they shall be forced to exit Vietnam and may be refused entry into Vietnam in the future.

·          An administrative fine up to US$2,000 may be imposed on those in violation of regulations on entry, exit and residence of foreigners.

·        A sponsor of foreigners in Vietnam shall cooperate with relevant authority to manage such foreigners’ conduct during their stay in Vietnam. This may include stating the schedule of stay of foreigners during their period of stay upon request by the authorities or sending notice to immigration authorities in case the foreigner is no longer sponsored by such sponsor. 

Some considerations

·        Labor usage plan involving foreigners in Vietnam must be carefully crafted in line with the implementation of the Immigration Law. For example, specific position in need of foreigners (and relevant visa codes for them) should be clearly prepared in advance, taking into account that it shall take a certain amount of time to apply for relevant visas. 

·       Visas and temporary residence cards issued before the effective date of the Immigration Law are still valid. However, holders of such visa/cards must still comply with the new Immigration Law, including procedures for changing or applying a new types of visa.