Foreign individuals living in Vietnam are often unaware of the restrictions and processes for repatriating funds that they earn and hold whilst in country. When following the regulations set by Vietnamese authorities, including the State Bank of Vietnam (which implements and enforces currency controls with commercial banks in Vietnam) foreign individuals are able to move funds in and out of Vietnam as needed.
1. Remitting funds abroad via bank transfer
Foreign individuals are permitted to transfer funds abroad using their Vietnamese banking facilities, as long as the funds come from a tax-paid source and/or have no tax liabilities outstanding related to these funds. If these criteria are satisfied, then funds can be transferred abroad to:
- the individual’s own foreign bank account, or
- pay expenses abroad (which will usually require an invoice or other commercial documentation where a payment is being made to someone that is not the account holder).
The sources of funds that can generally be remitted abroad via bank transfer include:
- Salaries earned in Vietnam and held in a Vietnamese bank account (where it can be shown tax has been paid, and the income is from a formal employment relationship),
- Funds from other tax-paid sources in Vietnam held in a Vietnamese bank account (ie, rental income from a property owned by the individual and where tax has been declared/paid), and
- Personal funds held in a Vietnamese bank account, where the funds were originally transferred into that account from abroad.
If a personal bank account in Vietnam has received funds from sources not in the above list (ie, a bank has permitted a foreign individual to make cash deposits into their Vietnamese bank account without sufficient evidence of the source of funds), then it is likely that the Vietnamese bank account is “tainted” and the holder will face difficulties in satisfying these criteria to enable funds to be repatriated from Vietnam. The co-mingling of tax paid and other domestically deposited funds make it difficult for a bank to provide sufficient evidence that an individual is only transferring funds that meet the detailed source criteria. In recent times, most banks no longer permit (or strictly limit) the cash depositing of funds by foreign individuals, per State Bank regulations.
When foreign individuals are legally employed in Vietnam, have a labour contract and receive their salary in-country, they are permitted to transfer funds abroad – as taxes are to be deducted from gross salaries by their employer before the employee receives the funds in their bank account. Foreign payments can be made at a bank in person or via internet banking transfer, although it should be noted that many banks do not currently offer the ability to conduct foreign transfers via internet banking.
Individuals are able to transfer funds abroad in any available foreign currency, including converting VND to the requested foreign currency, subject to bank availability.
2. Transferring funds abroad in cash
Individuals are permitted to carry foreign currency or Vietnamese Dong in cash from Vietnam through international border gates up to the following limits. Any amounts in excess of these values require declaration and approval from Customs, which will generally include written approvals from a credit institution or the State Bank:
- USD 5,000 (Five thousand United States Dollars) or other foreign currencies of the same value;
- VND 15,000,000 (Fifteen million Vietnamese Dong).
If an individual brings funds into Vietnam through a border gate on arrival, and declares the funds, then subject to banking regulations and time limits, the funds can be deposited into a Vietnamese bank account, and remitted back out of Vietnam later or carried back out through an international border gate.
3. Remitting funds abroad through other options
The use of a Vietnamese-issued credit card allows for foreign expenditure to be made (generally without restriction, subject to credit limits), and often permits limited cash withdrawals whilst abroad. Although credit cards can be somewhat difficult for some foreign individuals to obtain, they are generally available for those with Work Permits and Temporary Residence Cards, and/or for those willing to deposit funds as security against their credit limit.
Individuals also report some success through certain Vietnamese banks with PayPal for sending (and receiving) money abroad, and depending on the bank and individual’s setup, this may be an option for those prepared to spend time to get their accounts in order, keeping in mind the transaction costs that can arise
4. Using third party payment services
Third party payment providers, such as Western Union or Transferwise, are not functionally available for sending funds from Vietnam in most cases. Even if they could be used, the same documentation/regulations that apply to banks would apply, therefore removing the benefits often expected from using these services.
The use of “black market” money services to repatriate money should also be avoided, for a range of reasons. The risks at both the Vietnamese and foreign sides can be significant – both legal and financial, and not something that can be recommended.