How To Move To Vietnam
The complete guide!

Find A Job

Vietnam is an increasingly attractive destination for expats seeking employment. As the country becomes more and more industrialised, foreign specialists are in demand, and the range of jobs is developing beyond the education and tourism sectors. Unemployment is currently low. Salaries in Vietnam are not comparable to Western nations, but the cost of living is also not as high. Further to this, some jobs, such as teaching, may come with accommodation. The number of foreign workers in Vietnam has been steadily rising, although most expats work for international companies running FDI (foreign direct investment) projects.


What are the legal requirements for foreign employees?

The legal requirements for working in Vietnam are relatively straightforward compared with those of many other countries. You will need a work permit, which you can apply for either in your home country or once you are on the ground. Your employer will need to prove that, with the exception of some managerial or specialist positions, they have advertised the vacancy locally, since the government is trying to prioritise local hires.

However, note that you can work in Vietnam without a permit if:

• the duration of your employment is less than three months
• you are a member of a limited company that includes more than one member
• you are the owner of a one-member limited company in Vietnam
• you are on the board of directors at a joint stock company
• you are undertaking service sales activities for a foreign company in Vietnam/ you are coming to Vietnam to market products and services
• you are a foreign lawyer with a law practice license issued by the Ministry of Justice
• you are coming to Vietnam for less than three months in order to resolve an emergency or technologically complex situation that could affect production, which Vietnamese experts or foreign experts currently in Vietnam are unable to resolve
• you are the head of a representative office, the chief of project offices or someone working for a foreign non-government organisation in Vietnam
• you are internally transferred within an enterprise that has a commercial presence in the committed service list of Vietnam with the World Trade Organisation, including: business service, information service, construction service, distribution service, education service, environment service, financial service, health service, tourism service, cultural and recreational services and transportation service
• you are coming to Vietnam to supply consulting services on tasks serving to research, build, appraise, monitor and evaluate, manage and process programs and projects that use Official Development Assistance (ODA)

Be aware, however, that the Vietnamese authorities are strict with both employees and employers who violate the law, so double-check with immigration if you think that you may not need a work visa. If you fall foul of the law, you could be deported and your employer could be fined.

If you do not come into one of the above categories, you will need to supply:

• work permit form
• health check certification
• criminal record clearance (issued within 180 days) – if you have been in Vietnam for more than six months, you will have to provide both Vietnamese clearance and clearance from your home nation
• qualifications (university or higher)
• working experience confirmation document from former employers
• passport
• approval document from the Vietnamese authorities permitting your employer to hire foreign personnel
• employer’s business certification
• two passport-size photos

Currently, work visas are valid for three years and are not renewable.


Are any skills in particular demand?

Tourism is still a big sector, with hotel workers, swimming instructors and diving instructors in demand.

TEFL teachers are also wanted. You will need a TEFL certificate and ideally a university degree.


What are typical working hours and annual holiday entitlement?

Typical business hours in Vietnam tend to run from 7.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. The maximum number of working hours is 48 per week, and you are entitled to one day off per week.

Annual leave is set at 12 days per year. There are seven public holidays.

Maternity leave is set at six months and is fully paid at 100% of your salary. This is one of the most generous provisions in Asia.


Can my spouse work?

Your spouse will need an entry visa, but will not be entitled to work unless they apply for a separate work permit.


Are speculative applications to companies common?

You can make speculative applications to companies, both when you are outside the country and when you arrive.


What is the best method of finding a job?

There are many online job boards and recruitment agencies that cover Vietnam. There are also some government-owned employment service centres.


What is the recommended format for CVs/resumes and covering letters?

One page CV/resumes are recommended. You may wish to have your information translated into Vietnamese.


Which questions are illegal / can be asked in an interview?

Anti-discrimination law in Vietnam is gradually improving, particularly with regard to gender equality, but may not be commensurate with legislation in some Western nations.


Qualifications and training

It is advisable to have your qualifications apostilled and translated into Vietnamese.


Apply For A Visa/Permit

Which type of visa you need to visit Vietnam depends on your nationality. Many nationalities can enter Vietnam for tourism or business purposes for a period of up to 15 days, inclusive of entry and exit dates, without a visa. If you are intending to visit Vietnam for these purposes for between 15 and 30 days, you can apply for an e-visa online prior to arrival. For visits longer than 30 days, you will need to apply for a visa, before you travel, at your nearest embassy or consulate.

There is a separate visa waiver in place for the island of Phú Quốc, which allows the majority of visitors to visit visa-free for up to 30 days. This does not apply to anywhere outside of Phú Quốc.

Spouses or children of Vietnamese nationals / citizens / permanent residents can apply for visa exemption certificates. These certificates are valid for up to five years at a time and permit multiple entries for six-month periods. You can apply at your nearest embassy, or at the Department of Immigration in Vietnam.

When visiting Vietnam, your passport should have a minimum validity of six months from the date you arrive. It will also need to have at least two blank pages. It is possible to have your entry refused if your passport has been damaged, and numerous cases of this have been reported.

It is common practice in Vietnam, when you are registering at a hotel, to hand over your passport. This is so that they can take your details and register your presence with the local police, which is required of all foreigners by law. However, they should always give your passport back to you, and shouldn’t have to keep it behind the desk for any reason. If you are staying in private accommodation, you will need to register your presence yourself.



There are many different types of visa available to foreigners travelling to Vietnam. Ensure you apply for the one that best suits you. Visa overstays are taken very seriously and often result in large fines. The types of visa available are as follows:

Tourist visa
Those who are not visa exempt will require a tourist visa. Those who are visa exempt, but who are planning on staying in Vietnam for longer than 30 days, can apply for a tourist visa that lasts for up to three months. Tourist visas can usually be obtained on either a single-entry or a multiple-entry basis. The 30-day tourist visa can be extended for a further 30-day period once or twice, up to the three-month maximum.

Business visa
Usually valid for a period of three to six months, a business visa allows its holder to work and conduct business. However, a business visa is not the same as a work permit; it only allows you to enter the country for the purpose of work. In order to legally work in Vietnam, you will need to have a work permit.

Student visa
Once you have been accepted into an approved educational institution in Vietnam, you will be able to apply for a student visa. This is usually done before you enter the country, but it is also possible to enter on a tourist visa, enroll in a study programme or language course, and then change your immigration status and visa retrospectively.

Transit visa
Transit visas for Vietnam can be for up to five days. Most often, this visa is issued to groups accompanied by a licensed tour guide. Exact itineraries and accommodation details must be provided. A guarantee from your tour guide or travel agency might also be required.

Diplomatic and official visas
Diplomatic and official visas are usually granted to government workers or those visiting on diplomatic terms. These visas do not require a visa fee like many of the other visas do. Applicants for official visas will need to produce an official letter (note verbale).


Work Permits

It is a legal necessity to hold a valid work permit when working in Vietnam for a period of more than three months. Usually, your employer will apply for this on your behalf with the Ministry of Labour, Invalids, and Social Care (MoLISA). This must be obtained prior to starting your work contract. In order to be considered eligible for a work permit in Vietnam, applicants must not have a previous criminal record.

In some circumstances, you may need to apply for the work permit yourself. If this is the case, the application process for a Vietnamese work permit is as follows:

1. You will need to obtain a letter from your employer that confirms the contract you have been offered
2. You will need three passport-size photos
3. You will need a full health check-up and a medical certificate; this can be done in your home country or in Vietnam
4. You will need proof of your criminal record check from your home country and your country of residence (if applicable)
5. Check for any other necessary supporting documents, and then submit your application to the Department of Labour in Vietnam



In some circumstances, foreigners may be eligible for a permanent residence card (PRC) application. This card is valid for a period of up to three years on a renewable basis.

Official sources state that the below qualify as eligible:

• A person who fights for the freedom and independence of the Vietnamese race, for socialism, for democracy and peace, and for science, but who is suppressed

•. A person with a special skill set that is desirable and highly in demand

• A spouse, child or parent of a Vietnamese citizen residing permanently in Vietnam

Applications for PRCs are filed at the Immigration Department of the Ministry of Public Security.

When making your application for a PRC, you will need a photo, adhering to the specifications set out by the Ministry of Public Security, and a copy of your passport. You may also need to provide copies of birth certificates and/or marriage certificates. Such certificates may require official translation, if they are issued outside of Vietnam. You may be required to submit your CV and/or copies of your education and qualification certificates.


Get Health Insurance

Many expats take out private medical insurance, even if this is not a requirement of residence, because healthcare is expensive in their destination country or because certain treatments and procedures are not available.

When taking out health insurance, be sure to check factors such as the annual and lifetime policy limits, whether there are any exclusions which are likely to affect you, whether you are limited to treatment from specific types of healthcare providers, and whether the policy covers emergency evacuation for medical treatment.

Too frequently, potential buyers of health insurance look only for the lowest cost of premiums before really considering the specific benefits and areas of cover they may actually need. Some plans are cheaper for a reason. Often they include large voluntary deductibles on any claim you might make in the future and may severely cap the benefits received under the plan. Clients should define their needs first, establish the particular area of cover they need, then determine their annual healthcare insurance budget. Only then should they look to premium comparisons, last of all.

Do not buy a plan without studying the policy wording carefully. If in doubt, ask, and only when completely satisfied complete all application forms fully, to the best of your ability.

Important questions to ask the insurance provider:

1. Does the plan allow for cooling off periods, cancellation and then repayment of premium in full?

2. Does the plan offer “Moratorium” or is it “Full underwriting” and do you need to have a medical examination before joining?

3. Does the insurer offer a 24 hour help line, 7 days a week, available from anywhere in the world (freephone)? Most insurers now offer this facility.

4. Are pre-existing conditions excluded when joining and if so, for how long are such conditions excluded?

5. Are all and any nationalities accepted or are there restrictions which apply to local nationals? Some insurers will only take expatriates abroad and not local nationals into an overseas plan.

6. Does the plan allow you to continue cover unbroken through your lifetime? In most cases insurers will continue to offer existing clients cover year on year, irrespective of age or claims history, although premium rates charged can increase dramatically with age.

7. Does the insurer allow for any doctor or consultant or hospital within the plan? Are there any restrictions in this respect? Most international plans do not place restrictions on either hospitals or doctors, but almost all demand that their help lines are called first, prior to approval of any inpatient care.

8. Does the insurer provide for the direct settlement of bills presented by hospitals worldwide, regardless of location (or do you have to pay first)?

9. What are the insurers procedures for outpatient claims? Do these require any pre-authorization or if stated in the plan can you just pay and claim? How long before you get money back from the insurer? 14 days? 28 days?.

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Rent Or Buy Property


Renting Property

Anyone with a valid passport can rent property in Vietnam. Local agents maintain listings, which are widely available on the internet. Property is available both furnished and unfurnished – see individual property listings for details.

The local agents will explain legal procedures and the terms of contract. They will facilitate deposits and rental payments, negotiate notice periods, and sort out a suitable length of tenancy for you. They can also help you negotiate with the utility organisations.

If you are new to a particular area and need a short-term solution, while you explore and make local contacts, ‘Backpacker’ single rooms are available in many regions for as little as $100 to $200 a month. Quality varies considerably, but you get what you pay for.

For larger properties and long-term occupancy, rental costs vary considerably. However, even in the major city centres of Da Nang, Ha Noi and Ho Chi Min City, unfurnished two-bedroom apartments can be secured for as little as $1000 a month. For a furnished equivalent, you can expect to pay upwards of $1500. Suburban properties vary considerably, but it is possible to rent a four-bedroom house in some cities for as little as $1600 a month.


Buying Property

Vietnam has opened up its property market to foreign investors since 2015, and property prices have risen considerably as investors have moved in. Vietnam is seen as a golden opportunity in South East Asia.

Foreigners can now buy property even on a simple tourist visa. For major property investors, there are legal restrictions on the number of units (per condominium) a foreigner may own. If you are considering a multiple unit purchase, the limits need to be confirmed locally through the developers or agents.

It is much more difficult to buy from locals, and there are regional restrictions on the number of foreign owned properties (30%).

All land in Vietnam is owned by the people and managed by the state. Leases are for 50 years, but they are renewable, and the government is currently considering extending the lease period to 99 years.

There is a ‘Pink Book’, which is a Certificate of Land Use Rights (LUR), and this is given by the government on transfer. Your agent or developer will guide you through the steps necessary to secure your LUR.

Foreign residents can buy individual houses but not sub-let them, and there is also a strict regional limit of 10% foreign ownership for landed properties.

Condominium apartment units are most frequently purchased direct from the developers, or from other foreigners who have already done so. If you are reserving a property in a new development, a returnable deposit of typically $2000 to $5000 is payable.

Property is also widely advertised on the internet by both agents and individuals needing to move out, and prices and timescales are generally negotiable.

There is a 10% Value Added Tax on property transfers, and a 0.5% registration fee. Agent/solicitor fees are likely to be 1% to 3%, and there is an additional maintenance fee of 2% on new developments.

Unless you are married to a Vietnamese national, it is quite difficult for a foreigner to obtain mortgage facilities. Some international banks, such as HSBC and Citibank, do have branches locally, so may be able to assist you.

Deposits, final payments, charges, etc. can be arranged via a local bank, if you have an account, or via one of the international banks.

New developments often have a structured payment scheme that is agreed directly with the developer. These vary considerably and can spread costs while the condominium is being built.

Your local agent will usually have an in-house notary, who can be used for the exchange of contracts. They will also guide you through the process of paying the deposit, transferring the funds, and conveyancing.

Property prices are still lower in Vietnam than in many of the Asian powerhouses, and the Vietnamese housing market is considered to be a sound investment.

Whilst some popular districts of Ho Chi Minh City are more expensive, the average price is around $2,500 per square metre for a city centre apartment. Property in suburban areas can be as low as $1,100 per square metre. New condominium developments might be cheaper, but it is vital to contact reputable developers and to use a solicitor. Local agents can assist you with the process.

In the bigger cities, such as Ha Noi, Da Nang, and Nha Trang, there are apartments available from $40,000 to $100,000 upwards.

There are many local and international agents who deal with property in Vietnam, and you can find these online. Here are just a few who provide comprehensive property services for renters and buyers:


Move Your Belongings

Consider if you want (or are able) to transport your belongings yourself or whether you will need the services of a removals company that deals with international moves. Unless you are travelling very light, or making a fairly short move by road, you will probably need professional help to ship your possessions. Ask for quotes from several companies first, ensuring that they visit your home to carry out a survey of your requirements. It may be worth paying extra for the removals firm to pack your possessions for you, particularly if they are going to be transported to a distant country and need special protection for the long journey. Make sure you bring to their attention anything fragile or precious that needs particularly careful wrapping and packing.

Before agreeing to a quotation, ensure that you are fully aware of exactly what is covered in the price, and that the service to be provided meets all of your requirements. For example, does the service include both packing and unpacking of your household effects? What about disassembling and reassembling of furniture? If you are planning to put anything into storage in your destination country while you find accommodation, does the price include final delivery and unpacking at your home, or will you need to arrange collection of the items? Obtain a firm estimate of the likely arrival date of your items and obtain contact details for any agents that will be dealing with the removal in your destination country. Ensure that the removals company is aware in advance of any practical considerations such as the lack of an elevator to your apartment, or likely parking problems.

If using a removals company, you may be required to take out their insurance cover for your possessions. Whether or not this is the case, ensure that you have adequate insurance for anything of actual or sentimental value that could get lost or damaged during the move. Take the time to accurately complete or check an inventory of your possessions to be moved, as this will form the basis for any insurance claim for losses or damages. Find out if insurance is included in the price quoted by the removals company, or whether you are required to pay extra for this.

The removals company should arrange any customs and importation documents on your behalf, but if you are arranging the move independently you will need to find out what documents are required and what import duties and taxes are payable (and whether you are eligible for exemption from these).

Make sure that you set aside the important documents you will need for the journey, such as passports and air tickets, and keep these easily accessible in your hand luggage.

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Register For Healthcare

QUICK LINK: Vietnam health insurance

Although the principle of universal coverage has been growing, it is unlikely that you will be able to access the national insurance scheme. You can still access public healthcare, but you will need to make out of pocket payments.

Access to public healthcare may also depend on your nationality: due to historical ties between Vietnam and France, if you are a French national, you may be able to rely on your national health insurance coverage under CPAM. If you are from elsewhere, then you will need private cover.


Open A Bank Account

The State Bank of Vietnam, formerly known as the National Bank of Vietnam, was first established in 1961. As the country’s central bank, it is responsible for a variety of duties, including: maintaining currency reserves, securing monetary stability, and managing the circulation of banknotes. It also regulates all other banks operating within the country. The first solely commercial bank opened in Ho Chi Minh City in 1987 to handle personal savings and to extend loans to enterprises and individuals.

From 1992 onwards, Vietnam’s banking system had consisted of a combination of state-owned, joint-stock, joint-venture, and foreign banks. The state-owned commercial banks were suffering from high levels of non-performing loans (NPLs), most of them to state-owned enterprises. Consequently, in 2005, Vietnam decided to equitize all five state-owned banks. In addition to NPLs, Vietnam’s banks have been said to suffer from low public confidence, as well as regulatory and managerial weaknesses.

Experts have noted an absence of international auditing and a lack of compliance with the Basel capital standards. Currently, large foreign banks are having to balance their interests in serving multinationals and expats in Vietnam with their frustrations over the continuous restrictions. For example, the foreign investment limit into national banks of Vietnam is currently set at 30%.

Banking options for expats

A number of international banks have a presence in Vietnam, including HSBC and ANZ. Many expats in Vietnam choose to go with these banks, and many already have an international account with one of them before their arrival. Those looking to bank with a Vietnamese bank will find that Vietcombank is the most popular choice among foreign nationals. If you do not already bank with an international provider, the wisest course of action is to keep your home country account open. This will allow you to maintain your credit history and credit rating there. You can then open a new local account upon arrival.

Vietnam ranks first in the world for helping foreign workers save money. Around 72% of expats agree that moving to Vietnam helped them do this. In a separate survey, another 72% of foreign workers stated that they had more disposable income in Vietnam than they did in their home country. Additionally, around 66% of surveyed expats in Vietnam said that they felt confident about the current economic climate in the country.

Many expatriates express an interest in offshore banking, and this can be for a myriad of reasons. If you are considering this, then bear in mind that offshore banking in the region has become increasingly difficult. Various restrictions have been implemented to crack down on money laundering. Therefore, the best way to deal with offshore banking legitimately is to employ the services of an experienced financial advisor

How to open a bank account in Vietnam

At the beginning of July 2019, significant changes were made, which impacted on expats looking to bank in Vietnam. Opinions have been somewhat divided on these. Some report that the rules seem to have relaxed to a degree, whilst others claim the complete opposite. The main focus of the legislation was that foreigners and expats would be required to prove residential status. In other words, they must prove they have spent a minimum period of six months living in the country, in order to open a Vietnamese bank account.

The result is that, unless you are living and working in Vietnam for at least six months, you will only be able to open a restricted bank account. You will not be able to make cash deposits at the bank. Foreigners and those on tourist visas may be able to open a restricted account by writing an affidavit certifying that they are not conducting any paid work in Vietnam.

Most banks in Vietnam have English-speaking staff, websites, and brochures outlining their services and packages. Therefore, you are unlikely to find that the language barrier causes problems. Typically, when opening a new bank account, customers will be given the option of banking in Vietnamese Dong or US Dollars.

In order to open a bank account in Vietnam, you will need several documents to support your application and prove your identity. These documents include:

  • A valid passport (you may also need to provide photocopies of the biometric data and working visa pages)
  • A copy of your employment contract
  • Proof of address in the form of utility bills OR a confirmation from your landlord that you are legally renting a property in Vietnam
  • Initial monetary deposit to secure account (exact amount varies between banks)

You simply need to visit the local branch of your chosen bank and speak to an advisor. You will be given some application forms to fill out and sign, and your supporting documentation will be checked. The process itself is quite simple, provided that you are residing and working in the country legally and have the correct visa.

More on banking in Vietnam

Bank opening hours vary between banks. However, the majority of banks in Vietnam are open from 08:00 to 11:30, and then from 13:00 until 16:00. These hours are applicable from Monday to Friday. On Saturdays, select banks and branches may open for a half day, usually from 08:00 to 11:30. Some international banks may choose to operate over the weekend, but most banks close for the entire day on Sundays, as well as on public holidays.

In addition to the internationally operating banks in Vietnam, there are a number of local banks to choose from. Vietnam’s top five banks by registered capital are:

  1. VietinBank $1.56 billion (32,661 billion VND)
  2. Agribank $1.39 billion (29,154 billion VND)
  3. Vietcombank $1.10 billion (23,174 billion VND)
  4. BIDV $1.10 billion (23,011 billion VND)
  5. Eximbank $0.59 billion (12,355 billion VND)

You will also be able to find various expat-orientated banking services, from the international experts at HSBC to the more local financial advisory firms, such as Credenda Associates, A&C Consulting Services, and Infinity Solutions.

Transfer Money

There are many ways of sending money from one country to another. As always, expats can save themselves a lot of trouble and expense if they do a little research and shop around for the best deal.

International Bank Transfers

For most expats, currency transfer involves transferring small to medium sized amounts regularly from an existing bank account back home into a new overseas bank account in the local currency. These may be pension payments, benefits, or any other form of income.

Your home bank will usually be glad to oblige. You can set up facilities with them “on demand” whereby you fax or call them on the phone, provide a secret code or two, tell them the amount in question, and they will transfer it to your new bank, automatically converting it into the relevant local currency. Some banks also allow you to make international payments online. Whatever method you choose, transfers normally take between 3-7 days although 1-2 day transfers are often available but be prepared to pay more for these.

You can also set up regular transactions that are processed automatically on a fixed day of each month. Many state pensions and benefits can be paid directly into your new bank abroad without going through your home bank at all. Some private pension organisations may also offer the same facility.

When you first set up a transfer of funds abroad, the sending bank or institution will ask you for various codes that identify the destination bank. Often they will ask for IBAN (International Bank Account Number), BIC (Bank Identifier Code) or SWIFT codes but don?t panic – your new bank will give these to you and they may even already be listed in your new chequebook or bank statements.

As far as charges are concerned, you will probably be required to pay a flat fee per transaction. Additionally a percentage fee is often charged for the currency conversion itself. You may also find that your receiving bank charges you for receiving the transfer. Charges vary by bank but can quickly add up – ask your bank(s) for an indication of the fees involved.

As a general rule, transferring larger sums less frequently usually works out cheaper than transferring smaller amounts more often. However, if you need to transfer regular amounts of at least a few hundred pounds/dollars or need to make a larger one-off payment (e.g. for a house purchase) you should consider the services of a currency broker.

Cash Machine/ATM Withdrawals

Thanks to modern technology, most people abroad can go to a cash machine/ATM and withdraw local currency funds directly from their home bank account. This is a useful option to have for expats but exercise caution – many banks make hefty charges for using this type of facility. You may also find that withdrawal limits are in place (as a security measure) even if you significant funds in your account back home.

You can also use VISA or Mastercard credit cards to obtain cash in this fashion and if you pay the amount off quickly and avoid interest charges then fine – but once again credit card charges for cash withdrawals can be high. Check the rates carefully.

Currency Brokers

Currency brokers (also called foreign exchange brokers) offer significant advantages over traditional banks. Firstly, brokers will often be able to offer you a better rate than your bank. Secondly, the entire process is more transparent – many banks require you to accept the exchange rate available on the day they process your transaction, whatever and whenever that may be, but a specialist broker will offer greater flexibility, even allowing you to specify the rate you want in advance.

Currency brokers are smaller companies than major banks so always check their background carefully. Ask existing expats for their own experiences and recommendations before choosing a firm to handle your own foreign exchange requirements.

A good broker will discuss all the options with you and enable you to make the best decision for your circumstances. Using a broker will typically off the following advantages:

1) Currency brokers generally provide superior exchange rates to the high street banks. The currency brokers have access to the interbank rate and do not have the high costs that the banks have. This means that they can usually offer better exchange rates.

2) Use of a free Market Watch/Order Service: This allows you to tell your currency broker your target or budget exchange rate and they will ring you if that exchange rate level is reached. As the rate moves every few seconds, currency brokers can act as your eyes and ears on the market.

3) Ability to fix the exchange rate in advance using a Forward Contract. If you know you need to convert/move funds in the future but don?t yet have the money you can reserve a rate in advance using a Forward Contract. During this period, you are exposed to exchange rate movements and therefore, a forward contract is ideal if, for example, you have agreed to buy a house and want to fix the rate now but will not be making payment for a couple of months.

Savings from currency brokers can vary from between 1 and 4 per cent on the exchange rate alone, and specialists do not typically charge any fees for transmitting the funds abroad, unlike banks which often levy expensive fees or charges. If you are emigrating and transferring a large sum of money – such as the proceeds of a property – a foreign exchange company could potentially save you thousands.

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Learn The Language

If you are intending to go out to Vietnam to live and work, you may be wondering how easy it will be for you as a native English speaker. Will you be able to communicate in English, or must you learn Vietnamese? Which other languages are spoken in Vietnam? We will answer some of your questions below.

The official language of Vietnam is Vietnamese (Tiếng Việt). This is an Austroasiatic language spoken by around 95 million people, both in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, and throughout the Vietnamese diaspora. For example, it is an officially recognised minority language in the Czech Republic and is the fifth most widely spoken language in the USA. You will also hear many other languages spoken here, including:

• Chinese
• English
• French
• Khmer

A number of indigenous languages are also spoken in Vietnam, particularly in the highlands. Around 85 – 90% of Vietnam’s residents are ethnically Vietnamese. The remainder come from a number of ethnic backgrounds such as Chinese, Hmong, Thai, Khmer, Cham and 50 different highlander (Montagnard) groups.

Much of the lexicon of Vietnamese comes from Chinese, a legacy of extensive Chinese rule, and it has also been heavily influenced by French, also resulting from colonialism. French is still widely spoken in the country but English loan words are rapidly coming in, too. Vietnamese, like most languages, has a number of dialects: you will find three main dialects in the country.

The Minister of Communication suggested in 2018 that English should be officially adopted as a second language in Vietnam, which led to a heated media debate. This shows, however, that the Vietnamese establishment recognises the importance of the language internationally. Although English is becoming widely adopted as a second language, particularly by the younger generation and in urban and tourist areas, it would be unwise to rely on this, especially if you are intending to travel in more remote areas. You may be able to get by in French. However, Vietnamese uses the Latin alphabet, so you will be able to read signs, at least.

In the workplace, English is rapidly becoming more commonly used, but Vietnamese industry heads have recognised the limitations of English proficiency among employees as a problem. You are likely to encounter English as a lingua franca if you are working for a multinational company.

If you are travelling in the country, you can use digital translation methods, but take a good phrasebook along as well in case you find yourself in a region with limited wifi or mobile phone reception.

To achieve a foundation in Vietnamese before you go, or to consolidate it when you arrive, there are a large number of courses available on the internet – some of which are free up to a certain level.

Vietnamese is not an easy language to learn for native English speakers: it is tonal, and Westerners tend to find pronunciation difficult. However, it is not a gendered language and has no articles or plurals. Tenses are also relatively simple to master.

Linguistic experts generally recommend an immersive learning experience, as the quickest way to attain fluency in any language, and immersive courses can be found locally. You will find plenty of provision in local language schools, particularly in the cities, such as VLS in Ho Chi Minh City, and you may also wish to consult your local university, such as the Faculty of Vietnamese Studies in the Vietnam National University. Some schools also combine language learning with cultural classes. You will be able to choose a variety of types of class, from intensive one-to-ones, perhaps for business purposes, to group conversational classes.

123 Vietnamese, for instance, has different branches across the country including those in Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hai Phong City, and Hai Duong City. They offer classes at three different levels: elementary to intermediate.

Learn Vietnamese in Saigon (LVIS) offer individual and small group classes as well as online lessons, and run the Vietnamese Speaking Club, which will allow you to improve your conversational practice.

You may wish to go out to Vietnam in order to teach English and there is a demand: this is the most popular foreign language taught in the country. It is always easier to get work in international education if you have at least a certificate in either TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages).

It is also preferable if you have experience in teaching schemes such as the Cambridge English exams or IELTS (International English Language Testing System): the English test for study, migration or work. Some teaching experience in the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) will also be helpful. This assesses analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English for use in admission to graduate management programs, such as the MBA. You may also find work more easily if you are experienced in teaching English for particular sectors, such as tourism and hospitality, or in business and finance.

It will also be helpful to have at least a Bachelor’s degree as most language schools prefer this (though it is not a formal requirement for teaching English in the country): basically, the rule of thumb is that the more qualifications you have, both in TEFL and in academic subjects, the easier you will find it to get work. Salaries range from US$1700 – 2000 per month.

The legal requirements for working in Vietnam are relatively straightforward compared with many countries. You will need a work permit, and can apply for this either in your home country, or once you are on the ground.

If you want to work in interpreting or translating, you will obviously need to have a high level of proficiency in Vietnamese as well as the relevant qualifications.


Choose A School

The official language of Vietnam is Vietnamese (Tiếng Việt) although there are a wide number of other languages used across this South East Asian country. However, although the use of English in the country is growing and the government are currently trying to increase English language provision in schools, its use in the educational system is limited.

Education in the country in the public sector is split into five stages:

• preschool
• primary school (ages 6 -11, grades 1-5)
• lower secondary school (rung học cơ sở, ages 11- 15, grades 6- 9)
• high school (trung học phổ thông; ages 15 – 18, grades 10 -12)
• higher education

Secondary education is not compulsory, unlike primary education. At secondary stage students can focus on science or arts streams, and may also choose to learn another language.

The school year runs from August/September through to May/ June and is divided into two semesters. Schools normally run Monday – Saturday, with students attending six days a week, but only for half of each day.

Education in Vietnam faces some challenges, with some staff and material shortages reported by the OECD. However, it has scored reasonably highly – above OECD averages – over recent years in STEM subjects. Students may attend school in split shifts, a consequence of overcrowding.

With this and with language issues, some expat parents opt for private sector education for their children during their time in the country. If you are spending a short time in Vietnam and your child is not bilingual in Vietnamese, there may be a language barrier in public schools. In addition, private international schools tend to run on a three-term Western year, whereas state sector schools may not, a consideration if your child will be returning to education in your home country.

You will find a range of international schools in the country, teaching a variety of curricula from the British national curriculum, to the International Baccalaureate and American syllabi, among others.

However, international education in Vietnam also has a number of challenges, including problems relating to the quality of educational provision, lengthy approval processes and what has been termed a ‘difficult regulatory environment.’ Vietnam’s communist government seeks to maintain control over foreign institutions but is also attempting to attract more overseas educational providers to the country. This has led to a proliferation of foreign schools of doubtful quality, and diploma mills. In 2012 the government imposed restrictions on foreign institutions, for instance a minimum initial investment volume of USD $15 million for higher education institutions, minimum tuition fees of USD $7,500 per annum, and enrolment caps limiting the number of Vietnamese students at foreign high schools.

These regulations were tightened again in 2017 and a higher minimum investment was brought in. However, enrolment caps may be removed and this is likely to increase the number of international schools in the country. You will find plenty of provision, but do some research first: check educational outcomes and ask around in the expat community for any recommendations or warnings. Check accreditation with international bodies such as COBIS (the Council of British International Schools).

Some options include the British Vietnamese International School (BVIS) Hanoi, founded in 2013. Its curriculum is based on the National Curriculum of England, but includes a number of Vietnamese subjects in the programme, leading to International A Levels. Students are from 3-18, at a fee range from US$8K – 21K per year. The school is CIS accredited.

The British International School, Hanoi offers an IB and British curriculum, to ages 2 – 18 for a fee range between US$11K to 32K per annum.

The Singapore International School at Ciputra in Hanoi offers a British and Singaporean curriculum, teaching ages of 2 – 12 from between US$10K – 17K per year.

St. Paul American School Hanoi offers education for children in Pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade, following the Common Core Standards from the United States and preparing children for a wide range of Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Fees range from US$16K – 27K per year.

The Renaissance International School Saigon is fully accredited by the Council of International Schools. Its curriculum across the Early Years to Key Stage 3 is based on the requirements of the English National Curriculum, modified in part to meet the needs of a diverse international school community. In Key Stage 4 students study a range of subjects that lead to the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) award, whilst Key Stage 5, Year 12 and 13 students are involved in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP). Fees range from around US$10K – 28K per year.

The International School Ho Chi Minh City (ISHCMC) offers the three programs of the International Baccalaureate (IB). It is accredited as an IB World School and by the Council of International Schools. Fees range annually from US$12K – 36K.

The British International School, Ho Chi Minh City offers IB and British curricula from ages 2 – 18, from US$11K – 31K.

Saigon South International School also offers IB and British curricula from ages 3 – 18, from US$16K – 30k per annum.

Homeschooling is legal in the country but is not common: many locals apparently regard it as consisting of private tuition on top of state or other private schooling. However, you will find some assistance if you wish to go down this route with your child as there are currently a number of homeschooling groups in the country.


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