Overview of Legal Documents System in Vietnam

Legal normative documents are documents containing legal norms, promulgated in accordance with the competence, form, order and procedures specified in the Law on Promulgation of Legal Documents.  Legal norms are general rules of conduct with commonly binding force, which are repeatedly applied to agencies, organizations and individuals nationwide or within a certain administrative unit, promulgated by the State agency or competent person defined in the Law on the Promulgation of Legal Documents, whose implementation is guaranteed by the State.

The system of legal normative documents in Vietnam is specified in the Law on Promulgation of Legal Documents, taking some legal normative documents for example, the Constitution; Code, Law; Resolution of the National Assembly; Ordinance and Resolution of the National Assembly Standing Committee; Decree of the Government; Circular of the Minister and Head of Ministerial-level agency.

Understanding the legal normative documents system in Vietnam is crucial in performing any business in Vietnam.  This article from Le & Tran Trial Lawyers will help investors and business leaders comprehend the core of the legal normative documents system to operate their business in Vietnam.

Some Fundamental Legal Documents in Vietnam


The Constitution is promulgated by the National Assembly and is the basic legal normative document, having the highest legal validity in Vietnam.  The Constitution is the ground for promulgating other legal normative documents, such as the Code and Law.  All other documents must be consistent with the Constitution, and it is prohibited to promulgate legal documents contradictory with the Constitution.

The Constitution promulgated on November 28, 2013, has the highest legal validity and is currently being applied in Vietnam.

Code and Law

Code and Law have similar functions and are issued by the National Assembly.  The main difference between Code and Law is that the governing scope of Code is usually broader.  Accordingly, the Code includes the totality of legal norms governing social relations in one or more different fields, for example, the Civil Code, the Maritime Code, the Labor Code, etc.

The promulgation of the Code/Law must undergo a stringent process (specified in the Law on Promulgation of Legal Documents); normally, this process includes formulating a law-making program; drafting laws; verification of the law project; public consultation; discussing, internalizing, revising, and approving the law program; law publication.


Decrees issued by the Government usually detail the articles, clauses and points assigned in the Code and Law, stipulating specific measures to organize the implementation of the Code and Law.

In some cases where there are necessary issues within the competence of the National Assembly or Standing Committee of the National Assembly but they have not satisfied the conditions of formulating a Code/Law to meet the requirements of State management or socio-economic management, the Government also promulgates decrees to regulate these issues in case the National Assembly Standing Committee approved.


Circulars are usually issued by Ministers and Heads of Ministerial-level agencies to set out articles, clauses in the Code, Laws and Decrees, as well as prescribe measures to perform the State management function of Ministers, Heads of Ministerial-level agencies (such as detailed regulations on procedures, forms).

Official letters and other similar documents

Official letters and other similar documents are not legal normative documents, so they are not commonly used as a legal basis in courts.  However, these documents contain specific directives and instructions of superior State agencies sent to lower State agencies, so in practice, lower State agencies still comply with these documents.

Basic Features of the Legal Normative Documents System in Vietnam

Based on the legal application in practice, the legal normative documents system in Vietnam has three main features:

Firstly, the legal normative documents system in Vietnam is complex.  This system is structured based on numerous legal normative documents issued by different competent authorities.  For example, after the Code/Law is promulgated by the National Assembly, the Government may issue a Decree to guide this Code/Law; then the relevant Ministry(s) may continue issuing Circulars to guide the Decree; and in the process of implementing regulations, in case several provisions are not clear, additional official letter(s) may be issued to guide each specific case.  Therefore, in practice, a legal issue will likely be governed many times with different levels of detail in the Code/Law, Decree, Circular, Official Letter, etc.  In some cases, the contents specified in these documents may still contradict each other despite governing the same issue.

Secondly, legal normative documents are the foundation for everyone’s actions; in case a behavior is not specified in legal normative documents, there is a high probability that such behavior is not allowed to be performed in practice.

Thirdly, legal normative documents are strictly regulated and managed in nature.  In particular, legal normative documents governing several areas will prescribe specific reporting obligations for such areas, such as reports relating to labor, investment, statistics and compulsory social insurance.  For example, a foreign-invested company must submit labor reports on the number of employees, six-month periodic reports in case of changes relating to labor; monthly, quarterly and annual reports on investment progress; monthly, quarterly, half-year and annual statistical reports (on investment capital, business activities, etc.), etc.

Therefore, when conducting business in Vietnam, investors and business leaders need to understand basic information about the legal normative documents system in Vietnam in order for their effective business management in accordance with the provisions of the law.