Working In Vietnam As An Expat

Adam Fayed
18 min readFeb 7, 2024

The recent economic developments in Vietnam resulted in new opportunities for individuals who are interested in working in Vietnam as an expat and becoming immersed in a new cultural milieu.

The past decade has been particularly fruitful for Vietnam in terms of economic development and technological advancement.

Expats are moving to Vietnam with the goal of fostering the growth of local human resources and improving the country’s competitiveness on both the regional and international levels.

Teaching is still regarded as one of the most desirable careers for expats working in Vietnam, despite the availability of stimulating jobs in a variety of disciplines, including business and technology.

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Economy of Vietnam

At the beginning of 2016, the unemployment rate in Vietnam was 2.23%, placing it among the lowest in the world.

This puts Vietnam in the company of some of the countries with the lowest unemployment rates. Since 1986, Vietnam has had substantial economic growth, positioning itself as a prominent success story in terms of the economic development of other countries.

Over the period of twenty-five years, the country went through a dramatic transformation, shifting from being one of the most economically disadvantaged nations on the planet to achieving a categorization of lower middle income.

Since the beginning of the 21st century, there has been a noteworthy boom in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which has been accompanied by a substantial fall in the rate of poverty, which has gone from 58% to 14%.

In the year 2015, Vietnam was the only country in the world to observe a major expansion in its export activities, which helped the country to mitigate the negative impacts of the financial crisis.

Indeed, the country was lauded for its skillful management of the crisis, and it was able to report a significant rise in its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 5.5% in 2014 and 6.5% in 2015.

The reforms that have been adopted by the government in many key industries of the economy, such as agriculture, the food industry, textiles, furniture, energy, tourism, and telecommunications, are largely responsible for the successes that have been described above.

The reforms included the privatization of state-owned businesses, improvements to the business climate, streamlined processes for attracting foreign investment, and the introduction of efficient monetary policies.

As a result of the existence of a number of characteristics, expats who are both skilled and experienced find Vietnam to be an attractive destination.

There are a great number of opportunities that have the potential to be exploited, particularly in light of the sizeable amount of domestic consumption that already exists and the expanding openness to foreign direct investment (FDI).

In spite of this, Vietnam’s economic potential is being significantly held back by a huge barrier. The current state of affairs in the banking industry is marked by the presence of a sizeable quantity of non-performing loans, which represents a significant threat to the industry’s long-term financial viability.

Inadequate capitalisation within the industry is another factor that contributes to the sector’s already precarious position.

Despite this, there is reason to be optimistic about the nation’s prospects in the years to come. This is demonstrated by Vietnam’s involvement in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in 2016, which was a landmark deal that established linkages between Vietnam and eleven other Pacific countries.

Furthermore, the agricultural and energy sectors have tremendous potential, which, when paired with a qualified and cost-effective workforce, provides a good economic outlook.

This potential can be realized in a number of different ways.

Additionally, it is predicted that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Vietnam will have grown at a pace of 6.4% by the end of the year 2016, which is an increase from the growth rate seen in 2015.

Job Market in Vietnam

The economy of the country is in the process of liberalization at the moment, which has led to an extended period of exceptional growth and has culminated in the current situation.

The vast majority of people who live and work abroad are exempt from having to pay into the country’s social security system.

The procedure to acquire a work permit can be complicated, and the Vietnamese government places a high priority on resolving any issues that may arise in this regard.

To be able to successfully engage in professional efforts in Vietnam, it is essential to have a comprehensive grasp of the cultural values and norms that are widespread in the country.

This awareness can be gained by observation and participation in local communities.

It is only under these conditions that it will be possible to successfully create strong economic ties with another party.

Cultural values do, in fact, exert a great amount of impact on the atmosphere of the corporate world.

During the latter half of the previous century, the country went through a period of severe economic turmoil.

The historical struggle that took place between the United States and Vietnam, more generally referred to as the US-Vietnam War, as well as the economic blockade that was enforced by the United States, have both had a considerable impact on the countries that were engaged.

Nevertheless, in spite of the obstacles that have been brought about by the slump in the global economy, the country is currently going through a period of economic growth.

Consequently, there are a multitude of benefits that come with looking for career chances in Vietnam.

Job Opportunities in Vietnam for Expats

The exportation of goods is the primary driver of Vietnam’s economy, and there are a substantial number of foreign nationals working in this dynamic sector.

If one is interested in expanding their business to include the export of Vietnamese goods, they have a far better chance of finding work in this sector of the economy.

There is a large pool of job openings available within the service industry, particularly in the financial and tourism industries.

However, having a high level of qualifications is regarded as an essential criterion, and this could potentially cause some difficulties.

It’s possible that there will be a language barrier, which is another obstacle that would need to be overcome.

Although English is widely used in Vietnam’s commercial sector, it is crucial to keep in mind that certain business partners may have a limited ability in the English language and prefer to speak in Vietnamese. This is something that should be taken into consideration.

Throughout the course of its history, Vietnam has attracted a sizeable number of people from other nations with the intention of hiring them to work as English teachers.

There is a huge availability of English teaching jobs available in Vietnam, each of which provides a high salary and benefits package.

At one point in time in Vietnam, there was a time when persons from a wide range of backgrounds were able to participate in teaching without significant impediments.

However, in recent years the government has passed legislation that requires institutions teaching foreign languages to perform comprehensive background checks on prospective teachers before hiring them.

In spite of the implementation of these stricter rules, there is still a demand for knowledgeable educators across a wide range of academic fields.

The ability to be creative, to keep tenacity, and to display a readiness to overcome hurdles are, in essence, the most important factors that have relevance.

What You Need to Know Before Working in Vietnam as an Expat

According to the most recent figures that were made available by the Ministry of Labour in April 2021, it was found that over 101,550 foreign nationals have successfully established themselves as permanent residents in Vietnam.

This number is in comparison to the total population of Vietnam, which is now estimated to be around 98.2 million people.

The majority of expats choose to make their homes in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, two of the country’s most important metropolitan areas.

Ho Chi Minh City was once known as Saigon when it served as the capital of South Vietnam before the country was reunited after the war.

Expats can also be seen in major regions in Vietnam, such as Danang, Da Lat, Nha Trang, and Vung Tau.

People who are not citizens of Vietnam need to obtain work permits in order to work in the country for a period of time that is longer than three months.

It is vital to hold a state of good health, meet the credentials required for the assigned role, and have a criminal record that is free of any violations in order to be eligible to receive a work permit.

Work permits are only valid for a period of two years, after which they cannot be renewed under any circumstances.

If a company wants to keep a foreign worker on their payroll for longer than two years, they have to start the application process all over again.

This is the case even if the person has a valid work visa. According to Butler, in order to ensure smooth operations, it is essential for a reputable company to cultivate positive ties with the appropriate government departments.

Individuals who hold work permits, members of the embassy staff, foreign investors, students, journalists, and representatives of foreign companies with operations in Vietnam are eligible to apply for dependent visas, which are also known as TT visas in some instances.

This allows these individuals to facilitate the immigration of their spouses and children into the country.

These are good for a period of one year from the date of purchase. Because a legitimate marriage certificate is required for the TT visa, it is not possible for unmarried partners to obtain one of these travel documents.

The government of Vietnam does not recognize marriages between people of the same gender or civil unions between people of the same gender.

In order for people who are in relationships with those of the same sexual orientation to be eligible for employment, they will need to get separate work visas from their respective employers.

These visas will be given by the government. Despite the absence of legal recognition for same-sex marriage in Vietnam, a legislative measure that was approved in 2015 affirms the entitlement of same-sex couples to engage in a committed partnership.

This is despite the fact that marriage is not legally recognized for same-sex couples in Vietnam.

If one plans to stay in Vietnam for more than three months at a time, it is not a good idea, to arrive without a job offer already in hand because it is difficult to get work in Vietnam.

The individual who made this statement believes that it is unwise to make the assumption that one may simply enter the country on a visiting visa and then engage in an employment opportunity that has not been revealed without fear of incurring repercussions.

Even though instances like these do take place occasionally, they almost always have undesirable consequences.

Employers that engage in such actions are seen as being of the lowest quality, and this particular trait gives rise to a range of potentially unpleasant effects, such as the non-payment of wages, the abrupt termination of work, and living accommodations that are not up to standard.

The climate in Vietnam is one of the most important aspects that add to the country’s overall allure.

Typically beginning in April and lasting all the way through October, the wet season is characterized by temperatures that routinely remain above 20 degrees Celsius.

Temperatures, on the other hand, are found to be more bearable in the scenic highland regions, and the presence of pleasant coastal breezes in places such as Ha Long Bay leads to a decrease in temperature in those areas.

Working in Vietnam as an Expat

How to Get a Work Permit in Vietnam for Expats

Obtaining a work permit is necessary for foreign nationals who wish to begin working in the country of Vietnam. In order for people from other countries to participate in this project, they need to have a formal work agreement and have the commitment of an employer who is willing to make the appropriate arrangements on their behalf.

Only then will they be able to get started. The individuals will deliver their applications to the Department of Labor, War Invalids, and Social Affairs which is housed inside their respective city governments.

The government is currently in the process of introducing new policies with the intention of simplifying the requirements for work permits and broadening the range of situations that qualify for exemptions. The most recent change was made through legislation in April of 2016.

Who is Exempted from Getting a Work Permit in Vietnam

The list of expats who are exempt from particular commitments that can be seen below is a significant compilation.

In addition, a full explanation is given to clarify the particular conditions that individuals must meet in order to be eligible for such exemptions.

Expats with College Degrees

Expats who have a minimum of three years of professional experience in the industry of their choice and hold a degree equivalent to that of a bachelor’s degree.

This condition is only applicable to those who stay in the country for a maximum of 30 days during each visit and do not exceed a cumulative total of 90 days during the course of a single calendar year.

International School Teachers

Teachers of international schools who work under the supervision of embassies from other countries.

It is necessary that persons receive authorization from the Ministry of Education in the case that they are hired by educational institutions in Vietnam.

This authorization can be obtained in a number of ways. Persons who are in possession of this exemption are granted permission to remain in the country for the duration of the work permit’s validity period.

Company-transferred Expats

If an employer operates in the fields of information technology, business, education, distribution, construction, health, environment, finance, tourism, or the entertainment industry, then an expatriate employee may be eligible for a transfer within the company.

Those who are in possession of this exemption are granted permission to remain in the country for the entirety of the time allotted for their work permit.

Interns in Vietnamese Companies

Interns who are engaged in professional employment within Vietnamese enterprises approved volunteers from international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and specialists who provide support in the implementation of Official Development Assistance (ODA) programs.

All of these individuals are considered to be a part of this context. Those who are eligible for this exemption are given the additional privilege of being allowed to remain in the country throughout the entirety of their work permit.

In addition to this, the employer is obligated to provide the relevant documentation to the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids, and Social Welfare.

Within a time of three days, the government will provide official certification of the exemption, and the exemption that is granted will be valid for a length of two years.

Who are Required to Get a Work Permit in Vietnam

Every non-native person who wishes to find employment in Vietnam must first get a work visa. It will be necessary for them to provide their papers to the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids, and Social Welfare.

It is vital to ensure that the following documents are submitted to the ministry in a timely manner, ideally no later than two weeks before the beginning of employment.

However, if it is at all possible, you should get the necessary processes started many months in advance. This is a recommendation that should not be ignored.

  • A passport copy that has been notarized
  • A clean criminal record from your home country. You only need to receive this from Vietnamese authorities if you have been a resident for longer than 30 days.
  • A medical certificate that is valid for a year and is issued by recognized organizations both domestically and internationally.
  • Two recent colour photographs (size 4 cm x 6 cm, white backdrop, forward-facing, bareheaded, without coloured spectacles).
  • Your credentials as a management, executive, professional, or technical worker, as evidenced by the following documents:
  • A letter from the employer asking for the employee’s work permit
  • Proof of employment with a foreign business that sends workers to Vietnam

The response from the ministry is expected to be sent within a period of seven days, and the work permit that is issued as a result will have a validity duration of two years.

Social Security for Expats in Vietnam

Social Security Contributions

Contributions to Vietnam’s social security system are broken down into three main categories: social insurance, unemployment insurance, and health insurance.

Since the year 2016, the health insurance component is only applicable to people who are currently living outside of their native country and are therefore more frequently referred to as expats.

Having said so, it is necessary to emphasize the fact that the applicability of this principle is contingent on particular conditions and stipulations.

The only people who are required to make these contributions are foreign nationals who are working in Vietnam on the basis of legally binding labour contracts.

Expats who are excluded from paying this component include those who work for international firms and do not have a local contract with the relevant Vietnamese entity.

As a direct consequence of this, the expats whose names were provided earlier are excused from paying any contributions toward social security in Vietnam.

When it comes to the employee’s health insurance premium, the employer is responsible for making a payment equal to 3% of the employee’s annual wage, while the employee is liable for making a contribution equal to 1.5% of their own earnings.

Social Security Services

Individuals who have actively participated in economic activities for a period of twenty years are eligible to receive old-age pension benefits in Vietnam, beginning at the ages of 60 for men and 55 for women.

These benefits are only available to individuals who have actively participated in economic activities for a total of twenty years.

It is possible for a person to become eligible for early retirement in Vietnam if they have been subjected to hazardous or unsafe working conditions that have had a significant impact on their health.

In a similar vein, this holds true when discussing issues that are associated with having a disability.

In addition to the aforementioned services for social security, there are additional provisions for provisions for sick leave, maternity leave, and worker’s compensation, among other benefits that are related.

The Vietnam Social Security is the organization in charge of ensuring that the administrative procedure is carried out correctly. The Ministry of Labor, Invalids, and Social Affairs is responsible for a wide variety of duties, all of which are under its supervision.

Business Culture in Vietnam

The working environment in Vietnam is distinguished by the incorporation of civility, punctuality, and respect, in addition to a considerable emphasis on the cultivation of social connections with business contacts and colleagues.

Regardless of the language that was spoken over the course of the interaction, it is considered a gracious deed to give and receive low-cost gifts as well as business cards that are printed in more than one language.

When greeting someone, it is appropriate to offer one’s hand for a handshake and then bow slightly before continuing with the greeting.

There are some women who do not participate in the practice of shaking hands, however, it is acceptable for a woman to offer her hand as a sign of greeting if she is comfortable with the tradition of doing so.

In that case, a slight bow can be regarded as an appropriate expression of respect. Individuals in Vietnam have a great proclivity toward honesty, and they hold others to the same high standards they set for themselves in this regard.

Extended meal times, such as lunches and dinners, typically include the consumption of alcoholic beverages and generate an atmosphere that is suitable for casual discussions regarding themes such as matters pertaining to the family, personal hobbies, and individual interests.

These types of topics are often brought up in conversation.

Before going to a professional luncheon or dinner, it is a good idea to premeditate the writing of a toast, especially with the purpose of paying tribute to the head of the group with whom one is engaged in business activities.

This will ensure that the toast goes off without a hitch.

Being on time and showing respect for more experienced coworkers are two of the most important characteristics of professional conduct in the workplace.

It is well acknowledged that socialization plays an important part in the process of cultivating powerful professional relationships; hence, the building of personal trust both within teams and among colleagues is held in very high regard.

It is not uncommon for businesses to set aside money for their employees to participate in group meals or recreational activities.

People in the northern part of Vietnam have a greater propensity to stick to formal business attire, which is typically characterized by the use of suits the majority of the time.

This tendency is rather widespread. In spite of this, it is considered appropriate to go without a tie when wearing a shirt with sleeves, particularly in the setting of the warmer months.

There is a growing trend toward a more relaxed dress code in certain industries, such as software development.

As a result, individuals in these fields frequently choose to dress for work in more casual attire, such as jeans and T-shirts.

Social Customs in Vietnam

It is said that Vietnam is a country that exemplifies a friendly and welcoming environment, one in which the values of civility and reverence are accorded great importance in both social and economic settings.

The shaking of hands or the bending of the head to one side is a common kind of welcome, particularly in the first stages of a relationship.

When going to a temple or spending time with an elderly person, it is customary to dress in a demure and subdued manner.

This is also true in most other social situations.

It is appropriate to make sure that one’s legs and shoulders are covered, but public displays of affection that go beyond handholding are typically regarded as being more appropriate for private situations. It is appropriate to cover one’s legs and shoulders.

It is considered to be proper manners to bring a small token of appreciation, such as a bouquet of flowers or a box of chocolates when paying a visit to someone at their place of abode.

Kindly remove your footwear and wait patiently to be guided to the space provided for you to sit in. It is considered proper etiquette to rest one’s chopsticks on the table when conversing with one’s dining companions or while in between pieces of food.

It is not regarded as rude to bring one’s bowl closer to one’s face, nor is it considered rude to make slurping noises when eating.

After finishing a meal, it is considered rude to place chopsticks in a bowl so that they are standing upright because this action is frequently associated with the image of death.

In the event that one is given the option to drink either tea or alcohol, it is recommended that one accept the offer, even if one just intends to have a small amount of either beverage.

Safety in Vietnam

Even while there has been a discernible rise in the number of drug-related offences and cases of prostitution over the past few decades, the overall crime rate in Vietnam remains extremely low.

The number of killings is relatively low, however it should be noted that the most current data that is available is from 2011 when the murder rate was 1.5 out of every 100,000 people.

With this disclaimer in mind, it is important to note that the incidence of homicides is relatively low.

It is severely discouraged to engage in either the purchase or the sale of illegal substances. It is not uncommon for those involved in the distribution of drugs to report drug users to law enforcement authorities, which can result in legal repercussions.

This is in addition to the potential health risks that may be posed by drug usage. Offences that involve drugs can result in harsh penalties, including lengthy prison sentences and even the death penalty in extreme cases.

Sexual encounters between male customers and sex workers, who are typically female, frequently take place at low-cost lodging businesses or on public thoroughfares while the riders are on motorcycles.

It is vital to highlight the major threat to public health that AIDS poses in Vietnam; this is in addition to the legal and ethical problems that come into play in connection with engaging in prostitution.

It is prudent to exercise caution regarding the presence of pickpockets and those who engage in bag-snatching activities, particularly in establishments such as pubs and during nocturnal excursions, in the same way, that it is prudent to exercise caution regarding the presence of pickpockets and individuals who engage in these activities in many urban areas and important tourist destinations.

Taxis with meters should be used at night in Vietnam rather than cyclos, unmetered taxis, or walking.

Vietnam is generally regarded as a location that is safe for women to visit; however, it is suggested that women use taxis with meters rather than walking.

However, similar to the situation in a number of other countries, the presence of societal norms and limitations relating to sexual matters may result in an underreporting of crimes like as sexual assault and harassment that occur in public places.

The use of road transportation in Vietnam is not without its dangers.

According to the statistical information that was provided by the World Health Organization in 2016, the rate of fatalities that were caused by automobile accidents amounted to 26.4 for every 100,000 people.

This resulted in a total of 8,417 documented incidents of fatalities due to the road, along with 374,550 occurrences of severe injuries. In addition, there were a total of 1,040,050 instances of minor injuries.

Final Thoughts

Individuals who are interested in both personal and professional development will find that working in Vietnam as an expat can provide them with a one-of-a-kind and culturally immersive experience.

The dynamic economy of Vietnam, which is characterized by its adoption of a modified version of capitalism, has provided openings for daring expats to contribute to the quick development of the nation while concurrently enjoying the rich cultural tapestry of Vietnam.

Expats who are looking to broaden their horizons will find that Vietnam offers a friendly and active atmosphere in which to pursue their interests, whether those interests lie in the humming IT industry, the flourishing business sector, or the rewarding field of education.

This article has proven that those who choose to work in Vietnam as expats can look forward to chances and experiences that are both professionally rewarding and personally enjoyable.

These possibilities and experiences can be found throughout the country.

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