In recent weeks, in combination with the effective closure of Vietnam’s borders for foreign individuals, there has been concern and confusion with how Work Permits, Temporary Resident Cards and Visas are being processed for foreign individuals in Vietnam. Those with expiring documents have been most concerned and frustrated with the current situation in Vietnam.
What is the situation for applying for or renewing work permits, TRCs and visas in Vietnam at present?
Put simply, the situation is fluid and changing each day.
The issuance of new visas for Vietnam has been suspended, and that is not likely to change in the near future. Those in Vietnam with existing Visas are able to extend these, although the process and extension period (1 to 3 months) does depend on the Visa type and the original sponsoring party. We did see a period last week where extensions were being denied to some, but as at the date of writing we believe that everyone can get an extension.
Recently the Labour Authorities issued notices stating that no Work Permit applications would be accepted from recent arrivals from countries effected by Covid-19, without elaborating significantly on which countries this impacted. In practice, the authorities ceased to accept new applications and only a limited number of renewal applications were accepted.
We understand that applications will start to be accepted in the near future for those in country and eligible, and that the current hold is only temporary.
Temporary Resident Cards (TRC)
Where individuals have expiring TRCs, we have seen cases of temporary extensions (via a replacement visa) recently, but we understand that the authorities will now issue TRCs for valid cases again.
Keep in mind that the above may change, but is our current understanding.
Why is this happening?
The uncertainty with the Covid-19 impact and movement of people have certainly diverted the focus of the Vietnamese Authorities to tackling the pandemic, and the resulting focus on protecting and fortifying borders. In that context, there has been a reluctance to deal with the foreign (Visa, etc) issues until the borders/pandemic situation is more certain.
However, it is in the Vietnamese Government’s best interest to have all foreign individuals here compliantly and legally. This is also an opportunity for the authorities to take control of a system that allowed many foreign individuals to be in country for questionable purposes (ie, working without a Work Permit using Tourist Visas and border runs), and ensure that the foreign individuals in Vietnam are contributing legally to society. Essentially, a win-win.
We are also aware of foreign Embassies and missions making representations to the Vietnamese Authorities to sort out the situation, and they have received positive responses that everything will (for those inside Vietnam) return to “normal” in the near term.
What should I do?
If you have valid documents that are expiring soon, ensure that you are getting everything together required for the extension or new application, in accordance with normal practice. The chances are that your lodgement etc will proceed as it did before. But, be prepared for some disruption, just in case.
For employers, if you have foreign individuals inside Vietnam, then follow the instructions as above – just follow normal process. If you have foreign individuals “locked” outside Vietnam, you will need to assume for now that there will be very limited opportunities for them to enter Vietnam for an extended period, and to work around that.
For individuals who have historically spent extended periods on Visas or even Visa Exemption Certificates (ie, those married to a Vietnamese or with Vietnamese heritage), then now is the time to move to a more secure basis of tenure in Vietnam.
- If working in Vietnam, ensure you have a Work Permit and arrange a Temporary Resident Card
- If an investor, seek to arrange a Temporary Resident Card through investor rights (noting the upcoming changes from 1 July 2020), or seek to be formally employed with a Work Permit.
- For those on Visa Exemption Certificates, which are essentially designed to come and spend extended time periods in Vietnam but are not designed for long-term living in Vietnam, seek to move to a marriage-base Temporary Resident Card, or arrange a Work Permit with your employer and a Temporary Resident Card based on the employment
- For those on Business or Tourist Visas that don’t have the option of being formally employed or obtaining a Temporary Resident Card, there is always the risk of your tenure in Vietnam, and we strongly suggest that you revisit the basis of your term in Vietnam and look to move towards something more secure (ie, establishing your own company in Vietnam to support your status here).