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Copyright © 1999-2013 Vietnam Venture Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Updated March 3, 2004
NEW VISA RULES FOR FOREIGNERS
was prepared by Deacons Vietnam*. It first appeared in the August 2001 edition
of Vietnam Economic Times and is re-published here with generous permission and
Ordinance 24/2000/PL-UBTVQH10 dated 28 April 2000 on Entry, Exit, and Residence
of Foreigners in Vietnam (Ordinance 24), the Government issued Decree 21/
ND-CP (Decree 21) on 28 May 2001. Ordinance
24 replaced the old Ordinance of 21 February 1992.
systematizes and repeals completely a series of Decrees guiding the former
Ordinance. Decree 21 applies to foreigners and Vietnamese having foreign
passports other than those wishing to resettle in Vietnam. Decree 21 took effect
from 28 June 2001.
Generally, to enter Vietnam, a foreigner must obtain a visa from the competent
Vietnamese agency (diplomatic or consular overseas offices) unless he is
exempted in accordance with international treaties to which Vietnam is a party.
stipulates two sets of procedures for visa issuance – the first applies to
foreigners entering Vietnam at the invitation of an organization or an
individual in Vietnam, and the second applies to those who enter Vietnam without
which are allowed to invite foreigner to visit Vietnam are agencies of the State
or the Communist Party, socio-economic organizations, and enterprises
established under Vietnamese law, diplomatic representative offices, branches of
foreign enterprises, representative offices of economic, cultural and
professional foreign organizations, or other entities legally established in
It is notable
that Decree 21 clearly provides that foreigners holding permanent or temporary
residency status of more than six months in Vietnam, and Vietnamese citizens
temporarily resident if Vietnam are entitled to invite foreigners.
Previously under Decree 24, only Vietnamese citizens residing permanently
in Vietnam could invite their overseas relatives.
now also able to visit Vietnam without any invitation. The previous requirement
that these people (including tourists) had to have a service company engaged to
act as a local agent to liaise with the Immigration Department is now abolished.
VALIDITY AND TYPES OF VISAS. If a foreigner is invited to Vietnam to implement an investment project or a cooperation contract, or to work for a foreign entity in Vietnam, the foreigner and his family can obtain an entry visa for a maximum duration of twelve (12) months. For foreigners invited to visit Vietnam for other permitted purposes, the maximum duration of a visa is six (6) months. Thirty-day visa, either single or multiple entry, may still be obtained.
provides that there is now only one type of visa for both entry and exit. This
should facilitate the granting of visa by the authorities.
Furthermore, multiple entry-exit visas are now available to invited
Upon expiry of
a visa, a foreigner must obtain a new visa as opposed to renewing the existing
visa as was permitted under the now repealed regulations.
This may be considered a set back as visa extensions involve a simpler
procedure and are cheaper (US$ 10) than new visa issuance (US$ 100).
It is hoped that the visa fees will be reduced.
HOW TO GET A
wishing to enter the country without an invitation can now directly submit
applications for visa to the relevant diplomatic office.
Individuals and organizations wishing to invite foreigner to Vietnam must
send a written request to the Immigration Department under the Ministry of
Public Security (formerly called the Ministry of the Interior).
in the case of a refusal to issue a visa, Decree 21 omits to regulate as to
whether an applicant will be informed of the reasons for the refusal, or whether
they can request a review of the decision. The streamlined procedures mean that
a visa, if approved, can in principle be obtained within eight (8) days.
holding an invitation can obtain a visa upon arrival if they can produce
evidence that their visit is for any of the following reasons: (i) attending the
funeral of a relative, (ii) visiting a seriously-ill relative; (iii) coming from
a country where a diplomatic office is not available; (iv) visiting under a
program organized by an inte5rnational tour operator in Vietnam; (v) urgent
technical support for programs or projects; (vi) first-aid services for
seriously ill persons or accident victims; (vii) rescue of victims of natural
disasters or epidemics in Vietnam; and (viii) other urgent reasons.
VIETNAM. Decree 21
provides that the foreigner or the person/organization inviting him/her shall
specify in the visa application the purpose and duration of the visit and
his/her address in Vietnam. The new procedure is simpler than before where a
separate registration of residence was required after the visa had been granted.
A foreigner can
be a permanent or temporary resident in Vietnam. A Permanent Resident Permit,
Temporary Resident Permit, or a Certificate of Temporary Residence certifies his
status. Foreign invitees are
normally granted Temporary Residence Permits. Otherwise, a foreigner entering
Vietnam without an invitation will be issued a Certificate of Temporary
Residence with 65eh same duration as stipulated in the visa.
Ordinance 24, permanent residents and holders of Temporary Residence Permits
with a duration of more than one year are exempt from the visa requirements.
Although this stipulation, if implemented, should considerably simplify
the entry and exit procedures for foreigners, Decree 21 does not include any
guidelines in this regard. Therefore the effect is unclear.
EXPULSION. A foreigner
may freely exit from Vietnam. However, exit from Vietnam may be delayed if the
foreigner is subject to criminal investigation, has been convicted or
prosecuted, or has been sanctioned to an administrative penalty to do with tax
obligation, Etc. Decree 21 further
provides that the Courts at provincial level or the Minister of Public Security
(Police) may allow a foreigner to exit Vietnam if the foreigner guarantees the
fulfillment of his/her obligations. How
such a guarantee should be given is not stipulated in Decree 21.
Minister of Public Security (Police) has the power to expel foreigners for the
purpose of national security, order, and safety o the society or if the
foreigner seriously violates Vietnamese laws or commits an offence but is
exempted from prosecution or criminal liability.
However, there is no guidance as to when such a power will be exercise by
the Minister of Public Security.
CONCLUSION. Decree 21 may be seen as an effort by the Government to reduce cumbersome administrative procedures for entry and exit by foreigners, especially for those wishing to work or invest in Vietnam. This should contribute to a better business environment. However, the actual effect of Decree 21 will depend significantly on the guiding circular(s) to be issued by the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
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