Corporate Immigration from ASEAN Countries to Vietnam

An introduction to doing business in Vietnam as an ASEAN citizen

According to information by the Harvey Law Group, Vietnam’s Foreign Investment Department has confirmed this year that the inflows of foreign direct investment (FDI) into Vietnam are again breaking previous records, with USD 19.1 billion invested in 2018, compared with USD 17.5 billion in 2017.

As of the end of 2018, the total accumulated registered capital of FDI projects in Vietnam was estimated at US$191.4 billion, representing approximately 56,2 percent of the total registered capital of businesses in Vietnam.

Many of Vietnam’s international integration and cooperation initiatives are tied to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) organization. This is the primary regional organization for the region and plays a major role in promoting the exchange of goods, services, and visitors.

What are the basics of corporate immigration in Vietnam?

The main regulation regarding immigration to Vietnam is the Law on Entry, Exit, Transit and Residence of Foreigners in Vietnam — also known as the Immigration Law — which states the legal requirements for foreigners to enter and stay in Vietnam. This law came into force on 1 January 2015.

Vietnam’s main governing bodies for immigration are:

  • The Ministry of Public Security, through the Vietnam Immigration Department, and
  • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through embassies, consulates, and diplomatic missions.

According to the Immigration Law, foreigners planning to enter Vietnam — whether for employment purposes or others — first have to get an entry visa from the Vietnamese delegation in their country of residence.

There are exceptions such as if you’re a national of countries that have visa exemptions, which we’ll explain further below.

Are there any special provisions for other ASEAN countries?

Vietnam engages in several economic integration policies with other Southeast Asian countries due to its membership in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Founded in 1967, this ‘European Union of Southeast Asia’ aims to facilitate further economic integration between Southeast Asian countries, including creating a single market. As of 2019, its member countries include:

  • Indonesia
  • Malaysia
  • The Philippines
  • Singapore
  • Thailand
  • Brunei
  • Laos
  • Cambodia
  • Myanmar
  • Vietnam

One of ASEAN’s recent milestones is the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) program, which came into effect on 31 December 2015. The AEC is now ASEAN’s main framework for economic integration and cooperation, aimed to facilitate growth for its developing states.

Among other things, AEC is based on implementing the following policies in Southeast Asia:

  • Eliminating and reducing tariff barriers,
  • Implementing a free trade area for products and services, and
  • Making it easier for skilled workers to migrate across Southeast Asian countries.

As a result, companies in ASEAN member countries can reduce costs and become more competitive by importing and exporting goods to other ASEAN states.

In the case of Vietnam, the benefits of AEC are estimated to help the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increase by up to 14,5 percent in the coming years. Vietnam ended 2018 with a GDP growth rate of 7 percent, indicating positive trends for the country’s economy.

Besides ASEAN, Vietnam also engages in agreements with other countries and organizations designed to boost its growth, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the European Union Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA).

What are the effects of ASEAN regulations on Vietnam?

As per its objective, the AEC aims to promote foreign labor exchange among the participating countries, including Vietnam.

Therefore, in the past few years, Vietnam has released several regulations and policies to make this process easier. This includes the process of issuing work permits and facilitating entry for foreign employees.

Specifically, on 8 October 2018, the Vietnamese government issued Decree 140/2018/ND-CP amending previous decrees about foreigners working in Vietnam. The decree came into effect on the same day.

Some of the changes include reducing the processing time for work permit applications and the easier grant of work permit exemptions for foreign nationals responsible for establishing a commercial presence in Vietnam from companies in a foreign country.

In addition, Vietnam offers visa-free travel for visitorsincluding business visitorsfrom other ASEAN countries. Visitors with valid passports issued by these countries can enter Vietnam without a visa for a limited number of days:

  • Indonesia: less than 30 days
  • Malaysia: less than 30 days
  • Singapore: less than 30 days
  • Thailand: less than 30 days
  • Laos: less than 30 days
  • Cambodia: less than 30 days
  • The Philippines: less than 21 days
  • Myanmar: less than 14 days
  • Brunei: less than 14 days

To promote tourism, Vietnam has also temporarily extended its similar visa exemption policy allowing a maximum 15-day stay for visitors from these countries:

  • France
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Spain
  • The United Kingdom

This visa exemption will be implemented from 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2021. Any foreign national that enters Vietnam with visa-free entry must have a passport that is still valid for at least six months and the entry date must be at least 30 days from the previous exit.

What’s the conclusion?

Vietnam is a growing market and has several regulations already in place to serve foreign employees and business visitors. This makes it a viable next step or even headquarters to expand your business across Southeast Asia.

However, applying for work permits can still be a long and complicated process — especially if you’re also planning the first steps of your business in a new country.

You can start by contacting a law firm or service provider to help assess your needs and figure out the best option for you.


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Information credit to Harvey Law Group, 2019. Image Source: Pixabay

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