Expats unfamiliar with the work permit process in Vietnam need only speak to a fellow foreigner working in the country to learn that applying for and obtaining this crucial document can be a complicated affair. What’s more, the government changes the regulations surrounding work permits for Vietnam frequently and applies them inconsistently, leading to further confusion.

Applying for a work permit for Vietnam

Expats can either apply for a work permit from within Vietnam or from abroad with the help of their employer or a contracted visa agency. Those applying from within Vietnam will need to do so within 90 days of arrival, as the government only grants a three-month period during which expats can live and search for job opportunities in the country without a permit.

Those who meet the eligibility requirements to apply for a work visa must gather several documents, including a health certificate, criminal records and copies of their ID, passport and qualifications. These must be translated into Vietnamese and notarised in their home country (where applicable). There has been much debate regarding whether the notarisation must be done in Vietnam or in an expat’s home country, but the latter is generally preferred. Expats are also advised to have at least two notarised copies of each required document.

Once submitted, applications are supposed to only take between 10 and 15 working days to process. However, many expats have reported that this is a fairly optimistic estimation and that instead, foreigners should expect to wait at least a month for their work permit to be granted.

Extending a work permit in Vietnam

It is fairly easy to extend a work permit in Vietnam, as long as the applicant is continuing the job for which they were initially granted the permit. If this is the case, then the employer must apply for this extension at least 45 days before the existing permit expires. The process followed and documentation required is similar to that of an initial work permit application. The renewed permit should be ready within 12 to 15 days of application.

In the past, there were no hard restrictions on how many times a work permit could be extended – however, new laws coming into play stipulate that a work permit can only be extended once for a period of two years. After this, should the expat wish to continue working in Vietnam, they will need to submit a new work permit application.

* Visa and work permit regulations are subject to change at short notice, and expats should contact their nearest Vietnamese embassy or consulate for the latest information.

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