How To Get A Work Permit In Vietnam | A Detailed Guide For Foreigners 2023

As globalization continues to foster international business relationships, Vietnam has emerged as an attractive destination for foreign professionals seeking career opportunities. However, working legally in Vietnam as a foreigner necessitates obtaining a work permit, a crucial document that signifies compliance with Vietnamese labor laws.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the intricacies of obtaining a work permit in Vietnam, offering valuable insights into the application process, requirements, special provisions, renewal procedures, and more.

Overview of Vietnam’s Work Permit System


A work permit, as defined by Vietnamese law, is a mandatory document issued by the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs (MoLISA) that authorizes foreign nationals to work legally within the country’s borders. It serves as a legal foundation, ensuring foreign workers’ rights and adherence to labor regulations.

Role of Invalids and Social Affairs

The Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs (MoLISA) plays a pivotal and multifaceted role in the issuance and regulation of work permits for foreign professionals in Vietnam. Its responsibilities encompass several crucial aspects of the process, ensuring that foreign workers are integrated into the labor market in a legally compliant manner.

  • Evaluation of Applications. One of MoLISA’s primary functions is to evaluate work permit applications submitted by foreign workers or their prospective employers. This evaluation involves a thorough examination of the applicant’s qualifications, the employer’s legitimacy, and the overall compliance with Vietnamese labor laws and regulations.
  • Verification of Eligibility Criteria. MoLISA meticulously verifies whether applicants meet the eligibility criteria set forth for work permits. These criteria typically include age, health, expertise, and the absence of any criminal record or pending criminal proceedings in Vietnam or abroad. This verification process is crucial in upholding the integrity of the work permit system.
  • Ensuring Compliance with Regulations. MoLISA is responsible for ensuring that work permit applications adhere to the latest labor regulations and policies in Vietnam. This includes assessing whether the employment of foreign professionals aligns with the country’s labor needs and policies, contributing to the overall economic development.
  • Granting Work Permits. Upon successful evaluation and verification, MoLISA has the authority to grant work permits to eligible foreign professionals. This step involves the issuance of the actual work permit document, which serves as a legal authorization for the foreign worker to engage in employment activities in Vietnam.
  • Oversight and Regulation. MoLISA continues to play a vital role even after work permits are granted. It monitors and regulates the compliance of both foreign workers and their employers with the terms and conditions of the work permit. This ongoing oversight ensures that foreign professionals contribute positively to the Vietnamese labor market and adhere to the responsibilities outlined in their work permits.
  • Addressing Exceptions and Special Provisions. MoLISA also deals with exceptions and special provisions related to work permits, such as cases where foreign workers may be exempt from certain requirements. These exceptions are considered within the framework of Vietnamese labor laws, and MoLISA assesses their validity on a case-by-case basis.

The benefits of holding a valid work permit in Vietnam are multifold. It not only allows foreign workers to legally engage in employment but also provides them with job security, access to social services, and the ability to open a bank account, among other advantages.

Work Permit Requirements

Criteria for Eligibility. To be eligible for a work permit in Vietnam, foreign applicants must meet specific criteria, including being at least 18 years old, maintaining good health that satisfies job requirements, possessing the necessary technical skills and knowledge for the job, and having no criminal record in Vietnam or abroad.

Documentation and Verification. The process of documenting and verifying the necessary paperwork for obtaining a work permit in Vietnam is a critical step in ensuring the legality and eligibility of foreign workers. Here’s a detailed breakdown of the documentation and verification requirements:

  • Application Form. The employer must complete the application form for a work permit, as specified in form No.11/PL1 Appendix attached with Decree No.152/2020/ND-CP. This form serves as the foundation for the work permit application.
  • Fitness to Work Certificate: A fitness to work certificate issued by a competent health facility, whether foreign or Vietnamese, is a mandatory requirement. This certificate should be issued within 12 months before the submission date of the application or in accordance with the regulations of the Minister of Health.
  • Criminal Record Certificate: A criminal record or certificate confirming that the foreign worker has no criminal history or pending criminal prosecution must be obtained. This record or certificate should be issued by the foreign competent agency and should be no older than 6 months from the date of issuance to the date of application.
  • Documentation for Specific Roles. For foreign workers in managerial or executive positions, the appropriate documents confirming their status as per legal and regulatory standards should be provided. For experts, technicians, or technical workers, documentation such as diplomas, certificates, and certifications from foreign agencies, organizations, or enterprises indicating their years of relevant experience is necessary.
  • Documentation for Specialized Professions. Foreign football players should provide documents verifying their status as experienced foreign football players, an international transfer certificate (ITC), or a document from the Vietnam Football Federation certifying their temporary or official registration with a club affiliated with the Vietnam Football Federation. Foreign pilots should present a pilot license issued by a Vietnamese competent authority or a foreign authority validated by Vietnamese competent authorities. Flight attendants should have a certificate of eligibility for working on aircraft issued by the Ministry of Transport. For foreign workers involved in aviation maintenance, a certificate of competency issued by a Vietnamese competent authority or a foreign authority validated by Vietnamese authorities is required.

Foreign crew members of ships/vessels must provide documents confirming their competency issued by Vietnamese competent authorities.

  • Documentation for Sports Coaches. Sports coaches should possess a certificate of high achievement in sports certified by the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism. Alternatively, they should hold certificates such as AFC (Asian Football Federation) coaching level B, AFC goalkeeping coaching level 1, AFC fitness coaching level 1, AFC Futsal coaching level 1, or equivalent foreign certificates accredited by AFC.
  • Educational Qualifications. Foreign workers should have diplomas issued by competent authorities following qualifications or standard qualifications as per the Law on Education, the Law on Higher Education, and the Law on Vocational Education. Additionally, adherence to regulations on the organization and operation of foreign language and computer training centers, as issued by the Minister of Education and Training, is essential.
  • Colored Photos. Two colored photos (4cm×6cm) with a white background, showing the frontal side of the applicant without head coverings or colored glasses. These photos should be taken within 6 months of the date of application.
  • Acceptance of Demand (if required). An acceptance of demand for foreign workers may be necessary, depending on the specific circumstances. This document confirms the demand for foreign workers by the employer.
  • Notarized Copies of Passport. One notarized copy of the valid passport of the foreign worker, which is a crucial identification document.

Additional Documents for Specific Categories.

  • For foreign workers under an intra-company transfer program, documentation issued by the foreign company indicating their assignment to work in Vietnam is required, along with proof of at least 12 consecutive months of employment with the foreign company before the transfer date.
  • For foreign workers involved in business, commerce, finance, banking, insurance, science and technology, culture, sports, education, vocational training, and health, an agreement or arrangement between Vietnamese and foreign partners specifying the details of sending foreign workers to Vietnam is necessary.
  • Foreign workers providing services under contracts should have a service contract between Vietnamese and foreign partners, along with documentation proving at least 2 years of employment with the foreign company that lacks a commercial presence in Vietnam.
  • For foreign workers coming to negotiate service provision, a document issued by the service provider authorizing their presence in Vietnam is required.
  • Foreign workers employed by foreign non-governmental organizations or international organizations in Vietnam should provide documents in accordance with Vietnamese law.
  • Managers, chief executive officers, experts, and technicians should present documentation from the foreign enterprise, agency, or organization confirming their assignment in Vietnam and compliance with the expected job position.

Application Procedure

Employers seeking to hire foreign employees are required to follow a specific process to obtain approval. This process involves submitting a written request to the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids, and Social Affairs or the Chairman of the People’s Committee at the provincial level at least 30 days before the intended start date of employment. An exception to this rule is provided for bidders.

As of October 2, 2017, employers have the option to submit their request electronically through the web portal: To do this, they must first create an account on the provided website and submit the application using this account, no later than 20 days before the expected employment commencement date.

Upon receiving a valid application and the accompanying report explaining the demand for hiring a foreign employee, the competent authority is responsible for providing the results to the employer within 12 days via email. If the submitted application is found to be incomplete or inaccurate, the competent authority will issue a notice requesting necessary corrections.

Once the employer receives approval to hire a foreign employee, they must then submit the original documents to the competent authority either in person or by post. The competent authority is obliged to return the original approval result to the employer within 8 hours of receiving the application.

The application dossier must include a Form of Explanation for the demand for hiring a foreign employee, following the guidelines outlined in Circular 40/2016/TT-BLDTBXH.

Application for Work Permit for Foreign Employees

To obtain a work permit for a foreign employee, the employer must submit an application to the Ministry of Labor, Invalids, and Social Affairs or the Department of Labor, War Invalids, and Social Affairs in the province where the foreign employee is anticipated to work. This application should be submitted at least 15 days before the intended start date of employment.

Upon submission, if the application is deemed complete and valid, the applicant will be required to pay the work permit fee and will be given an appointment for the date when the results will be returned. In cases where the application is incomplete or lacks necessary details, the applicant will receive a notification requesting the supplementation of information.

The processing time for a work permit typically takes five working days from the date of receiving a complete and valid application.

Receiving the Work Permit Result

Within the stipulated timeframe of five working days, the Ministry of Labor, Invalids, and Social Affairs or the Department of Labor, Invalids, and Social Affairs is responsible for issuing work permits to the applicant. This issuance follows the guidelines outlined in Form 12/PLI as indexed in Decree 152/2020/ND-CP.

In cases of refusal, the Ministry or Department of Labor, War Invalids, and Social Affairs is obligated to provide a written explanation stating the reasons for the refusal.

Special Provisions for Specific Foreign Workers

Exemptions and Unique Provisions. Vietnamese law provides specific exemptions for certain categories of foreign workers, including:

  • Owners or capital contributors of limited liability companies meeting government regulations
  • Chairpersons or members of the Board of Directors of joint-stock companies meeting government regulations
  • Heads of representative offices, project offices, or employees of foreign non-government organizations in Vietnam
  • Foreign workers with assignments lasting less than three months
  • Foreign experts addressing emergencies or technologically complex situations
  • Lawyers with professional permits in Vietnam
  • Cases covered by international treaties to which Vietnam is a signatory
  • Foreigners married to Vietnamese citizens residing in Vietnam
  • Other cases authorized by the government

Benefits of Special Provisions

Special provisions in the context of work permits in Vietnam offer distinct advantages for specific categories of foreign workers. These provisions are designed to acknowledge the unique roles and contributions these individuals make to Vietnam’s economy and society. Let’s delve into the benefits and implications of these special provisions:

  • Exemptions from Certain Requirements. Special provisions often grant exemptions from specific requirements that would otherwise be mandatory for regular work permit applicants. This can include exemptions from certain educational qualifications or experience prerequisites. For example, experienced foreign football players may be exempt from traditional work permit criteria.
  • Streamlined Application Processes. In many cases, special provisions come with streamlined and expedited application processes. This means that eligible foreign workers can navigate the work permit application process more efficiently, reducing paperwork and processing times.
  • Extended Work Periods. Some special provisions may allow foreign workers to extend their work periods beyond the usual limitations imposed by standard work permits. This is particularly beneficial for individuals in critical roles, such as managers or experts, who are essential to the long-term success of a business or project.
  • Enhanced Flexibility. Special provisions can offer enhanced flexibility in terms of job roles and responsibilities. Foreign workers may have more latitude in their job assignments and may be able to take on a broader range of tasks that align with their expertise.
  • Recognition of Unique Skills. These provisions recognize the unique skills and talents that certain foreign workers bring to Vietnam. This acknowledgment reinforces their value and contribution to the country’s development and can lead to more favorable treatment and opportunities.
  • Support for Critical Industries. Special provisions often target foreign workers who play pivotal roles in critical industries such as sports, aviation, education, or technology. By facilitating the entry and employment of skilled professionals in these sectors, Vietnam can strengthen its position in the global market.
  • Enhanced Cultural Exchange. Some provisions may promote cultural exchange and collaboration by allowing foreign workers to engage in activities beyond their primary job responsibilities. This can contribute to cross-cultural understanding and cooperation.
  • Facilitation of Investments. In cases where foreign workers are integral to investment projects, special provisions can make it easier for them to work in Vietnam. This can encourage foreign direct investment and stimulate economic growth.
  • Compliance with International Agreements. Special provisions may align with international agreements and treaties that Vietnam has entered into. This ensures that the country fulfills its commitments while benefiting from the expertise and contributions of foreign professionals.
  • Attracting Top Talent. By offering special provisions, Vietnam can attract top talent from around the world, enhancing its competitiveness on the global stage. This can be particularly valuable in emerging industries and sectors.

Renewing a Work Permit

Renewing a work permit is a crucial process for foreign workers in Vietnam, allowing them to extend their legal employment beyond the expiration date of their initial permit. In this section, we will delve into the specifics of when and why renewal is necessary, the renewal procedure, and key differences from the initial application.

When and Why to Renew

  • Renewal Timing. Foreign workers should initiate the renewal process when their initial work permit is nearing its expiration date. It’s essential to begin this process well in advance to avoid any gaps in employment legality.
  • Purpose of Renewal. The primary purpose of renewing a work permit is to enable foreign workers to continue their employment in Vietnam legally. It ensures the seamless continuation of their work and helps maintain their legal status in the country.

Renewal Procedure

The process of renewing a work permit in Vietnam shares similarities with the initial application process, but there are key differences to be aware of. Below is a step-by-step guide to the work permit renewal process:

  • Document Preparation.  As with the initial application, the renewal process begins with the collection and preparation of necessary documents. These documents may include updated health certificates, criminal records checks, and other relevant paperwork.
  • Form Completion: Foreign workers must complete the required application forms for work permit renewal. These forms may have been updated since their initial application, so it’s essential to use the latest versions provided by the authorities.
  • Document Submission: Once all required documents and forms are in order, foreign workers or their employers must submit the renewal application to the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs or the Department of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs in the province where they work. It is crucial to do this at least 15 days before the current work permit’s expiration date.
  • Awaiting Feedback. After the submission, applicants will need to await feedback from the competent authority. During this period, authorities will review the application for completeness and compliance with regulations.
  • Receiving or Appealing. Upon approval, the renewed work permit will be issued. However, if there are any issues or discrepancies in the application, the applicant may be asked to provide additional information or make corrections. It’s important to address any concerns promptly to avoid delays.

Link Between Work Permit and Temporary Residence Card

Foreign workers in Vietnam often find that in addition to obtaining a work permit, they require a Temporary Residence Card (TRC) to legally reside in the country for an extended period. This section provides an in-depth understanding of the intricacies of obtaining a TRC once a work permit has been secured.

Understanding the Temporary Residence Card

A Temporary Residence Card (TRC) serves as a vital document for foreign workers in Vietnam. It allows them to legally reside in the country for an extended period, typically ranging from 2 to 5 years, depending on the type of TRC. Understanding the process of obtaining a TRC is essential for foreign workers to ensure their compliance with Vietnamese immigration regulations.

Linkage to Work Permit

The TRC is closely linked to the work permit, and the two documents often go hand in hand. Here, we explore the interdependence of these essential documents and why foreign workers frequently need both to work and live in Vietnam legally. The TRC essentially validates their stay beyond the work permit’s validity.

Steps to Obtain TRC

Securing a TRC after obtaining a work permit involves a specific set of steps and procedures. We outline these steps comprehensively to guide foreign workers through the process. It’s crucial to adhere to these steps diligently to ensure a seamless transition from holding a work permit to acquiring a TRC.

  • Eligibility Check. Before applying for a TRC, foreign workers must ensure they meet the eligibility criteria, including having a valid work permit and complying with other immigration regulations.
  • Document Preparation. Gather all necessary documents, which typically include a valid passport, a copy of the work permit, health insurance, and a local sponsor.
  • Application Submission. Submit the TRC application to the relevant immigration authorities in Vietnam. This process often takes place at the provincial level.
  • Processing Period. Wait for the processing of the TRC application, which can vary in duration but generally takes several weeks.
  • Biometrics and Interviews. Attend biometrics appointments and interviews as required by the immigration authorities.
  • Approval and Collection. Once approved, collect the TRC, which will specify the duration of your legal stay in Vietnam.

The Relationship Between the Two Documents

Understanding how the work permit and TRC complement each other is crucial for foreign workers to navigate the complexities of living and working in Vietnam. The work permit primarily authorizes their employment, while the TRC validates their long-term stay in the country. Together, these documents ensure full legal compliance, allowing foreign workers to pursue their careers and enjoy a stable living situation in Vietnam.

Common application mistakes:

Mistakes and Their Implications

Mistakes made during the work permit application process can lead to delays, rejections, and legal complications. Identifying these errors and understanding their implications is essential for a successful application. Here are some frequent mistakes:

  1. Incomplete Documentation.Failing to provide all the required documents or submitting incomplete paperwork can result in delays or rejection. Each document plays a crucial role in establishing eligibility. The application may be put on hold until all necessary documents are provided, causing delays in the processing timeline.
  2. Incorrect Form Completion. Errors in filling out application forms, including using outdated forms or providing inaccurate information, can lead to complications. Inaccurate information can raise concerns about the applicant’s eligibility or credibility, potentially leading to rejection.
  3. Missed Submission Deadlines. Late submission of the application, whether for the initial permit or renewal, can lead to complications in the approval process. Delays in processing can result in gaps in employment legality or the need for expedited processing, which may incur additional costs.
  4. Health Certificate Issues. Neglecting to obtain or provide a fitness-to-work certificate from a competent health facility within the specified timeframe can be problematic. Failure to meet health certificate requirements may lead to doubts about the applicant’s fitness for the job.
  5. Criminal Record Delays: Not obtaining a criminal record or certificate of non-prosecution within the required timeframe can create obstacles. Delays in obtaining these records may lead to concerns about the applicant’s criminal history or legal standing.

Potential Consequences

Common application mistakes can have significant implications for foreign workers and their employers. These potential consequences should be taken seriously:

  • Application Rejection. Inaccuracies or missing documentation can lead to the rejection of the work permit application.
  • Legal Delays. Mistakes may result in processing delays, affecting the foreign worker’s ability to commence or continue employment.
  • Compliance Issues. Non-compliance with application requirements can raise concerns about the foreign worker’s eligibility, potentially affecting their legal status in Vietnam.
  • Additional Costs. Correcting mistakes or expediting processing due to errors can result in additional costs for the applicant or employer.

Guidelines for a Flawless Application

To ensure a flawless work permit application, it’s crucial to follow practical guidelines and tips meticulously:

  • Thorough Document Review. Carefully review all document requirements and ensure that each is complete and accurate before submission.
  • Updated Forms. Use the latest versions of application forms provided by the authorities to avoid outdated or incorrect information.
  • Timely Submission. Adhere to submission deadlines, both for the initial application and renewal, to prevent processing delays
  • Health Certificate. Ensure the timely acquisition of a fitness-to-work certificate from a competent health facility.
  • Criminal Records. Obtain criminal records or certificates of non-prosecution within the specified timeframe.
  • Accuracy. Double-check all information provided in the application forms to ensure accuracy and consistency.
  • Seek Professional Assistance. Consider seeking assistance from legal experts or consultants experienced in work permit applications to navigate the process smoothly.

Penalties for Non-compliance

In this section, we delve into the serious legal consequences that can arise due to non-compliance with Vietnamese work permit regulations. It’s crucial for both foreign workers and their employers to fully grasp the potential penalties and legal implications associated with non-compliance.

Legal Consequences. Non-compliance with Vietnamese work permit regulations is a matter taken seriously by the authorities. Foreign workers and their employers who fail to adhere to the established rules and procedures can face a range of legal repercussions, including:

  • Work Permit Revocation. The most immediate consequence of non-compliance is the revocation of the work permit. If it is discovered that a foreign worker is not in compliance with the terms of their work permit or has violated any work-related regulations, the work permit may be revoked.
  • Deportation. In more severe cases of non-compliance, foreign workers may face deportation. This means they could be forcibly removed from Vietnam and barred from reentry for a specified period.
  • Fines and Penalties. Non-compliant foreign workers and their employers can be subject to fines and penalties. The exact amount of these fines can vary depending on the nature and severity of the violations.
  • Suspension of Business Operations. Employers who knowingly hire non-compliant foreign workers may have their business operations suspended for a period of time. This can have significant financial and operational implications for the company.
  • Loss of Reputation. Non-compliance can also lead to damage to the reputation of both foreign workers and their employers. This can affect future job prospects and business relationships in Vietnam.

Pursuing a work permit in Vietnam is invaluable for foreign professionals seeking to build their careers in this vibrant and dynamic country. Compliance with Vietnamese labor laws not only ensures legal standing but also protects the rights and interests of foreign workers. As Vietnam continues to welcome international talent, it is imperative that both employees and employers adhere to the regulations governing work permits. Staying informed and up-to-date with the latest developments in the process is essential for a successful and fulfilling professional journey in Vietnam.

This comprehensive guide serves as a reliable resource for foreign workers and employers, offering clarity and guidance on the intricate process of obtaining a work permit in Vietnam. By adhering to the outlined procedures and requirements, foreign workers can embark on their career journey in Vietnam with confidence, knowing they are in compliance with the law and fully equipped for success. For any inquiries or uncertainties regarding this matter, our team of seasoned corporate attorneys stands ready to provide expert guidance and assistance. Reach out to us at