August 22, 2014

After the 2013 implementations of a new Labor Code and a new decree on the management of foreign workers in Vietnam, the Vietnamese National Assembly has now approved a new immigration law that will come into effect on January 1, 2015. Most notably the new law introduces 20 different visa categories, appears to ban in-country conversion from one visa category to another, and provides new conditions under which a foreign national will be barred from entering or exiting the country.

What’s Changed?

New Visa Categories
The 20 new visa and Temporary Resident Card categories that will be implemented in January include several different categories for various types of foreign employees. The ones most applicable to Pro-Link GLOBAL’s clients are likely to be:

• DN – applicable to foreign workers who will work as a local hire at a Vietnamese company, valid for up to 12 months.
• LĐ – applicable to Intra Company Transfers, as well as employees coming to work in Vietnam based on a contract between a foreign employer and a Vietnamese company, valid for up to 2 years;
• NN2 and NN3 – applicable for company heads and other staff, respectively, of representative offices in Vietnam, valid for up to 3 years.

The other work-related visa types include separate visas for managers of NGOs (NN1 – up to 12 months), journalists (PV1 and PV2, for longer term and short term assignments, both valid for up to 12 months) and for foreign investors and foreign lawyers practicing in Vietnam (ĐT, up to 5 years). Note that a work permit is still required in combination with all of these mentioned visas.

Foreign nationals who come to Vietnam to engage in general business activities and/or to attend conventions or conferences will be able to apply for an HN visa (valid up to 3 months).

It is important to note that the above reflects the current interpretation of the new law. However, since the official law does not go into much detail regarding which category of visa applies to which specific type of foreign worker, it is likely that the interpretations of these visa categories will change upon the authorities’ release of more detailed instructions. For example, this ambiguity is especially evident in the visa types DN (“Issued to people who come to work with companies in Vietnam”) and LĐ (“Issued to people who come to work”).

In-Country Change of Status
While the in-country change of status from tourism or business to work was previously commonplace, the new law does not seem to allow such a conversion anymore. Therefore, it is expected from January 2015 onwards it will no longer be possible to enter Vietnam on non-work status with the purpose of filing a work permit, and remaining in-country once issued.

Rather, the employee should first apply for a work permit and, upon its issuance, obtain the appropriate visa to enter the country. This process can take 1 to 2 weeks from date of application at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Immigration Department by the sponsoring entity in Vietnam. Depending on the nationality and home country of the employee, the visa can then be collected either at a visa-issuing authorities (e.g. consulate) in the employee’s home country or at a border checkpoint.

Exit and Entry Prohibitions
The new law also provides reasons why a foreign national may be banned from either entering or departing Vietnam.

Reasons for refusing someone to enter Vietnam:

• The person is a child under 14 years of age who is traveling without parents, guardians or authorized custodians;
• The person has forged papers or provided false information to obtain entry/exit/residence permit;
• The person is suffering from a mental disease or infectious disease that threatens the public health;
• The person was deported from Vietnam within the last 3 years, or was compelled to leave Vietnam within the last 6 months;
• For reasons of epidemic prevention, natural disasters, national defense, national security, social order, and social safety.

Reasons for refusing someone to exit Vietnam for up to 3 years:

• The person has been criminally charged or must serve a criminal sentence;
• The person is a defendant or a person with relevant obligations in a civil case pertaining to business, employment, administration, marriage and familial affairs;
• The person is obliged to comply with an administrative sanction;
• The person has not fulfilled their tax obligation;
• For reasons of national defense and security.

ACTION ITEMS FOR EMPLOYERS

Companies who plan to sponsor foreign employees, either coming on assignment or on local contract, should be aware that new visa categories will be implemented in January 2015 and that an in-country change of status may no longer be possible. As a result, the work permit will normally need to be obtained prior to the employee obtaining their visa and therefore a delay in the start date of employment from date of issuance of the work permit can be expected.

As instructions have yet to be provided to the Immigration Department on the implementation of the new law, the impact that the new visa categories will have on document requirements remains unknown at this time.

Pro-Link GLOBAL will continue to monitor the situation and will continue to keep you updated of any relevant news on the subject.

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Caveat Lector | Warning to Reader

This is provided as informational only and does not substitute for actual legal advice based on the specific circumstances of a matter. Readers are reminded that Immigration laws are fluid and can change a moment’s notice without any warning. Please reach out to your local Pro-Link GLOBAL specialist should you require any additional clarification. This alert was prepared by Pro-Link GLOBAL’s Knowledge Management team. Pro-Link GLOBAL worked with our PLG | KGNM Correspondent Office in Vietnam to provide you this update.

Information contained in this Global Brief is prepared using information obtained from various media outlets, government publications and our KGNM network of immigration professionals. Written permission from the copyright owner and any other rights holders must be obtained for any reuse of any content posted or published by Pro-Link GLOBAL that extends beyond fair use or other statutory exemptions. Furthermore, responsibility for the determination of the copyright status and securing permission rests with those persons wishing to reuse the materials. Interested parties are welcome to contact the Knowledge Management Department (km@pro-linkglobal.com) with any additional requests for information or to request reproduction of this material.