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Expats Traveling to Vietnam and Working

Vietnam is an attractive destination for many expats, with its vibrant culture, growing economy, and beautiful landscapes. If you’re traveling through Vietnam and decide to stay and work, understanding the visa and work permit requirements is essential. Here’s what you need to know:

Signing a Labor Contract in Vietnam

As of January 1, 2021, under Article 151 of the 2019 Labor Code, foreign employees can only sign definite-term labor contracts, which must align with the duration of their work permits. The option to transition to an indefinite-term labor contract, commonly available after two definite-term contracts, does not apply to foreign employees. This means that as an expat, your employment contract will always be linked to the validity period of your work permit.

Work Permit Requirements

Even if you hold a significant position, such as a legal representative of an enterprise, obtaining a work permit is mandatory unless you meet specific exemptions. Exemptions include being an owner or a substantial capital-contributing member of a company, or a member of the Board of Directors with significant shareholdings. If you don’t meet these criteria, you must secure a work permit to legally work in Vietnam.

Working While Holding a Tourist Visa

If you receive a job offer while traveling in Vietnam on a tourist visa, you are required to obtain a work permit before you can start working. Although it is possible to be granted a work permit while holding a tourist visa, this does not change your visa status. You will need to exit Vietnam and re-enter with a work visa to legally stay and work in the country. This process ensures compliance with Vietnam’s immigration laws, which stipulate that activities under a tourist visa should be limited to tourism and visiting purposes.

Declaring Temporary Residence

Upon entering Vietnam, you must declare your temporary residence at the local public security office within 12 to 24 hours of arrival at your accommodation. This is crucial as it impacts various administrative procedures, including visa extensions, obtaining a criminal record certificate, and applying for a work permit. Failure to declare your residence can result in fines or even expulsion from Vietnam.

Multiple Legal Representatives

If you are named as a legal representative but do not reside in Vietnam, your company can appoint an additional legal representative who resides locally. This allows the enterprise to comply with local laws without requiring the non-resident representative to maintain a permanent address in Vietnam. This setup ensures that your company meets legal requirements while allowing you to manage your responsibilities from abroad.

Avoiding Penalties

Working in Vietnam without proper authorization can lead to significant penalties, including fines ranging from VND 15,000,000 to VND 20,000,000, and potential expulsion from the country. It is crucial to follow the legal procedures meticulously to avoid these consequences and ensure a smooth and legal stay in Vietnam.


As an expat in Vietnam, navigating work and residency requirements involves understanding the intricacies of labor contracts, securing the appropriate work permits, and adhering to residency declarations. By complying with these regulations, you can enjoy a rewarding professional and personal life in this fascinating country.


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