How to move to
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
• 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:
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.
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.
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 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).
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 a property in Vietnam for a medium to long term stay is a challenging process which can lead to the inexperienced being overcharged or even ripped off. However, if you follow a few simple rules, you should be able to find an affordable, comfortable home from which you can enjoy your new life in Vietnam.
Ensure that you arrive in Vietnam with a visa which permits you to stay more than three months. Under housing law, a landlord cannot accept you as a tenant unless you have the right to live in the country. Stay in a guest-house or hotel before you make longer term accommodation arrangements. This will give you time to adjust to the weather, culture, lifestyle and food, and will then give you time to work out where you want to live for the foreseeable future.
Being near available properties gives you the chance to look around and compare the real estate agent’s hype to the reality of the accommodation and its surroundings. If you get to know some local people, you will not only discover many of the advertised rents are much higher than the real average rents for the area, but you may find yourself being offered affordable properties owned by someone’s relative.
Waiting a while also gives you a chance to work out what sort of property is right for you. The hot and humid weather may mean that it’s worth the extra expense of a swimming pool for your children, or you may decide there are too many cool months when the costs of an outdoor pool can’t be justified. If you are single, you may decide to rent a room with a family, a practice that is much more common than in western Europe, rather than paying substantially more to live in a one-bedroom apartment.
You might be told that certain districts are off limits to expats. The reality is that some landlords don’t want the hassle of documenting your presence with the police, so would prefer a local tenant. Where expats are willing to pay premium rental prices, the landlord is will be more motivated to arrange the paperwork!
Be wary of real estate agents and online websites. You will see listings for two bedroom detached homes which are actually for a double room in a guest house, often with shared bathroom. Or advertised rents within a low-price band may all turn out to be unavailable, meaning you are pushed to consider properties at twice the monthly cost. The real estate agent will be working for commission, so wants to persuade you to take on the highest rent possible, but will also charge you for showing you around, meaning you can easily spend time and money looking at unsuitable properties. Of course, if your time is more precious than money, then having a fluent English speaker arrange an afternoon of viewings and liaising with the landlord will justify a higher rent. If you chose a property online before arriving, you have little chance of pulling out without high costs, so you should avoid doing this.
When you are exploring the streets of an area you’d like to live in, you may see nhà cho thuê (for rent) signs which include the landlord’s contact details. Many Vietnamese cities have alleyways and dead-ends that are packed with apartments, and so are well worth exploring for these signs. The alleyways tend to be quiet, and the absence of passing expats means the rent will be reasonable. It is unlikely that the landlord will speak English well, so find a Vietnamese speaker to help you negotiate with them over the phone; if the rent level is acceptable then arrangements can be made for you to visit the property.
Another useful way to save money when renting in Vietnam is to only consider unfurnished properties. The difference in cost would justify buying new furniture and appliances for your own use over the next year and more. If you start by getting the basics, you can cheaply collect more possessions when expat friends head home or to their next destination. There are some surprising things even furnished homes won’t offer, such as an oven, because the local population doesn’t use them.
Once you have found the property you want to live in, you and the landlord must sign a tenancy agreement. This is your legal protection should things go wrong. Make sure the contract sets out who pays all the various costs and what they are. As a legal minimum under the housing law, the lease must set out:
• Names and addresses of landlord and tenant(s)
• Description of the property
• The tenancy start date and duration
• Rights and obligations of the two parties
• Any undertakings
• Signature of all parties, to be dated
You need to consider all the extra costs that renting a particular property incurs. Electricity, water, cooking gas, TV and internet access are some of the many extra services which must be covered. Air conditioning units make summer temperatures bearable, but they use a lot of electricity. If housekeeping is provided, you will be paying for it somehow. Don’t assume any of these costs are included in the rental rate unless they are specifically included in your tenancy agreement. Internet speed can be very good in some city locations, but you may need to investigate data packages if you live further afield.
Rising rents is an issue in Vietnam which expats may not realise they have signed up for. The state owns all land across Vietnam, which means that real estate sales are only for the leasehold properties sitting on the land. However, property prices have risen dramatically over the past decade. Since 2015, restrictions on foreign ownership of property have largely been lifted, but there are strict limits of the number of properties migrants can buy in each local government ward or individual apartment block. Otherwise, anyone living in the country or elsewhere can purchase leasehold property in Vietnam. This is likely to keep the market buoyant in areas popular for investment. Landlords try to capitalize on this by increasing the rents, sometimes even monthly, to a point where the tenant is prepared to move on.
Does your tenancy include a break clause? If something happens to your family back home, or your employment position changes, you will be legally required to keep paying the rent for the rest of the tenancy term unless you have one of these in place.
If your tenancy will last less than six months, the agreement does not need to be notarized. Otherwise, housing law requires this to be done.
Landlords in Vietnam typically ask for three months’ rent in advance. This is quite a sum for most people to find.
Unfortunately, some expats have fallen prey to scams at this stage. Some bogus landlords have rented out properties which aren’t theirs, or rented out properties flagged for demolition. Other landlords have returned signed leases because they have found new tenants willing to pay higher prices. It is difficult to mitigate against these risks, but talk to Vietnamese colleagues and friends about your rental plans in case they have relevant local knowledge, and always walk away where a situation feels wrong. Problems getting access to view an apartment, requests for reservation payments in cash, or the promise of rent which seems unbelievably cheap are all red flags. Always make payments from your bank account so that an electronic record exists in case you need to take court action or contact the police. Avoid making any cash payments at all to a landlord or real estate agent.
Your residence must be registered with the local police, and a copy of the tenancy agreement submitted; the landlord will normally do this. This involves an inspection of your passport. The landlord is expected to have checked your right to stay in the country before accepting you as a tenant.
Throughout the duration of the tenancy lease, you have legal right to live in the property as long as you continue to pay the agreed rent at the agreed time. This applies even if the property is sold to a new landlord.
Vietnam has recently enjoyed strong economic growth. In addition, significant changes have been made to laws regulating property purchases by migrants in the country. These two factors mean that many expats have taken the step of buying their own home in Vietnam.
No one other than the government can own land in Vietnam. This is a blanket rule that applies to everyone in the country regardless of nationality or residence. However, land can be leased for 50 years, with options to extend this further. Properties that sit on leased land can then be bought and sold as leasehold properties.
In July 2015, significant changes were made to the laws regulating who could obtain leasehold real estate in Vietnam, removing the outright ban on foreign investment. Now, any expat who is legally living in the country or who has a tourist visa allowing a three-month stay is allowed to make a property purchase, although this is subject to a number of specific conditions.
Firstly, only a 50-year leasehold can be purchased by expats in these situations. There are options for this to be extended at a later date, and it is possible that further changes to the property market may have happened by then.
Secondly, only 250 homes in any local government administrative ward can be bought by migrants. This is unlikely to matter in rural locations, but Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi are popular destinations for expats to live and work in, so at some point the allocation limit will be reached.
Finally, only 30 percent of any apartment block can be owned by expats.
Therefore, before you begin your search for the ideal home in Vietnam, you need to start by finding out if the allocation limit for your preferred destination has already been reached. There is no point looking at properties if your purchase will later be blocked by law.
On a positive note, housing laws in Vietnam provide good levels of protection to the owners of leaseholders. Once your investment has been correctly registered by your notary, you have the same legal rights as owners with Vietnamese nationality.
Vietnam experienced a sharp increase in expensive homes which ended with the global financial crisis in 2008. For several years, unfinished resorts in particular were visible symbols of the collapsed property market and absence of investors.
Since late 2014, the market has started to rise again. Most of this increase is due to rising wages and continued urbanisation, as people move from rural areas into cities and large towns. Urbanisation is expected to continue for several decades, putting pressure on city accommodation to meet demand. This would be likely to significantly increase purchase and rental prices in the long term. Added to this, the total population in Vietnam is expected to increase by approximately 25 million people over the next 25 years or so.
In Ho Chi Minh City (HCMH), each district has a distinctive character. Districts One and Three, on the west side of the river, are the business core of the city. Skyscrapers and luxury hotels sit alongside expensive apartment blocks in District One, while a little further out, the apartment blocks of District Three are conveniently placed for trendy socialising spots. District Two is popular with expat families, given its proximity to international schools, retail provision and upmarket restaurants. It sits across the river from the business centre; the connecting bridge gets very congested at busy times of the day
Hanoi is a political centre rather than a business city. As such, it doesn’t boast the skyscraper developments seen in HMHC, and the expat community is smaller. However, there are a number of international schools located there, and it boasts a wealth of cultural and social amenities. Tay Ho is the most upscale area, whilst Hai Ba Trung will be more affordable for many expat families.
Da Nang is Vietnam’s third largest city, and is a popular destination for those seeking city living that is also by the sea.
The Unesco world heritage site of Ha Long Bay joins other coastal regions such as Nha Trang, Mui Ne and Phu Quoc island for popular property investment opportunities. Many of these areas are aimed at rental for the tourist market, and second homes for city dwellers.
If you are buying a new property from a developer, you need to exercise caution. As in many other countries, if the funds run out, the developer will cease work, and many factors may delay completion.
When local Vietnamese families are looking for a property to buy, they will ask around their friends, families and other contacts. With the arrival of expat investors, real estate agents are getting established in the country. Very few international investors speak Vietnamese, meaning that real estate agents usually speak fluent English. The estate agent will charge you a percentage of the purchase price for their services, which should be agreed and set out in writing before you visit any properties.
Real estate agents in Vietnam set up their own websites, giving you contact details and the details of properties on their books. These websites will be as good as those available in the US and Europe, with searchable databases to identify those properties within your price range. They will also have a wide range of photographs and information to give you a good impression of the property on offer, but visits in person are always recommended before considering an offer.
The purchasing process is bureaucratic, so you will need a competent notary to act for you. Finding a reputable notary within Vietnam who can speak English fluently will help the process run more smoothly.
Regardless of whether you are buying a new property or a resale, asking for a full report from a reputable building surveyor is a good investment. They will spot any major structural issues as well as more minor repairs to be undertaken before you hand over the purchase price.
You will have to pay a registration fee of 0.05 percent of the property value, plus VAT of five percent. The land tax due will depend on your property’s size, but will be between 0.03 percent and 0.15 percent of the value.
In the event that you decide to rent out your Vietnamese property, you will be expected to pay 20 percent of the income in taxes.
When the time comes to sell your home, under current rates you will be charged 0.15 percent capital gains tax on any profit you made.
Recent years have seen a big rise in the popularity of golf in Vietnam. This is driven by a combination of rising tourist numbers, an increase in managerial expats and a growing domestic interest in the sport. As a result, new courses are springing up, and bringing with them quality homes aimed at a particular lifestyle. These may be of interest to you if you are an expat looking to buy property in Vietnam.
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
Vietnam has enjoyed strong economic growth over the past few years and the stable, modern banking regime in the country has supported that process. Expats arriving here can confidently expect banking services – in branch, over the telephone or online – on a par with their home country.
Migrants are permitted to open bank accounts in Vietnam. Using a debit card in Vietnam or withdrawing money from ATM machines can incur fees if you hold a foreign card. If you are going to live in Vietnam for any length of time, the costs saved by using a domestic ATM or debit card will justify the administrative work required to open a Vietnamese bank account.
You may find foreign owned banks such as HSBC and ANZ Bank are more willing to accommodate expats through their transition process, accepting hotels or guest houses as a valid home address at least for the first three months. However, if you are likely to live outside Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, opening an account with a Vietnamese bank such as Vietcom Bank, Vietin Bank or ACB (Asia Commercial Bank) will give you better access to ATMs and local branches.
The currencies you wish to bank in will also affect your choice of bank. Vietnamese banks will deal in Vietnamese Dong (VND), US Dollars and Euros, so if you wish to have accounts with other currencies you should look at foreign owned banks. This is relevant if you have outgoings back in your country of origin, or are generating a source of income from there, whilst living in Vietnam. Alternatively, you may wish to use international money transfer services such as those offered by TransferWise, which uses the mid-market exchange rate without a mark-up, but instead charges a clearly advertised transaction fee for its services.
Branch opening hours vary between banks and branches. Generally, financial establishments will open at 8am, and close for lunch at 11.30am. In the afternoons, they may be open from 1pm until 4pm. Many branches will be open on a Saturday morning, but all banks close for the rest of the weekend.
Opening a bank account in Vietnam is normally free. Monthly account fees are a normal part of account conditions in Vietnam. However, if you are prepared to transfer a specified amount of money into your account and then maintain a minimum amount, some banks will waive their monthly fees.
Vietnam’s banks are required to meet international standards of checks to prevent money laundering and other criminal activity. Therefore, you should expect questions about the source of large deposits and your income.
When applying for an account, you will need to prove your identity and right to be present in the country; a passport, visa and your employment contract will need to be produced. As long as you have these documents and they are in good order, the process will be fast and efficient, regardless of whether you apply online or in a branch.
Alternatively, you can ask your current bank to open an account for you in Vietnam if they operate there. This would mean that your account is ready when you arrive in your new home.
It is possible to take out loans as an expat in Vietnam. Banks will do thorough checks to ensure they will receive their money back. They will look at your credit history, income and any likely changes in your circumstances, such as returning to your home country.
In Vietnam, the official currency is the dong. You will see this abbreviated as VND (Vietnamese Dong). Each dong is worth a fraction of a US cent or UK penny, so it takes tens of thousands of them to make a meaningful amount of money. Because of this, you may hear local people dropping the thousands when discussing money; 10,000 will be referred to as 10, for example.
Notes start at 10,000 VND; after that comes 20,000, 50,000, 100,000, 200,000 and 500,000. Coins are available in 200, 500, 1,000, 2,000 and 5,000 denominations. Local businesses will normally prefer notes, but many will be reluctant to accept the larger denominations.
The 20,000 VND looks very similar to the 500,000 VND note, as does the 10,000 to the 100,000, especially in poor lighting. You may wish to keep the larger note in a separate part of your wallet to avoid error.
The US dollar has long been accepted as a viable alternative to local currency. However, the government is trying to discourage this practice. Therefore, you will find all price lists offered in VND, while the number of people willing to accept US dollars is rapidly declining.
You can exchange currencies in a number of locations. Banks and airport currency exchanges, along with some smaller hotels, often charge higher rates. Jewellery and gold shops can offer a competitive solution.
ATM machines are within easy reach of city and town dwellers in Vietnam; those heading out to rural areas will have restricted access. A six-digit PIN is usually required to use these machines. Some will charge a fee, depending on agreement which the bank that owns the machine has with your own bank. Be aware that the screen might not tell you how much the fee will be. Each machine has a strict limit on how many VND may be withdrawn. Check the notes are in good condition, as torn ones are likely to be rejected when you try to spend them.
Debit and credit cards are a normal feature of smart Vietnamese business, but you are likely to be charged a transaction fee. Small traders, bus drivers, taxi drivers and street food traders will usually only accept cash, so you will need to keep some money on you for most transactions. Card Chip and PIN machines are not widely used; the magnetic strip is more likely to be electronically read. Contactless payments are not used.
Whilst restaurants and department stores have fixed prices, small shops and businesses expect each customer to haggle. Although this is unfamiliar for Westerners, with practice you will achieve better prices. In tourist areas, sellers will be less flexible with prices as they know that inexperienced tourists will come along later and pay over the odds. Do be careful to clearly agree prices; it can be easy to confuse 15 and 50 for example, and once you have agreed, the discussions are at a close.
Vietnamese people are warm and welcoming. However, much of the population live on very low wages and in various degrees of poverty. If you leave valuables, such as smartphones, lying on a table, they will make easy pickings for thieves. Stealing from sleeping passengers on overnight buses is a well-known trick, and wealthy migrants withdrawing large amounts of money from an ATM can make themselves targets for pickpockets and muggers. Keep cash withdrawals hidden and avoid dark places, especially after a night out. Expats generally enjoy safe and untroubled life in Vietnam, but protecting yourself against petty theft applies anywhere.
Metered taxis, which are clean and professionally presented, will get you safely to your destination. Mai Linh and Vinasun taxi services come highly recommended. Unfortunately, there are bogus taxi drivers happy to scam unwary migrants. They lock the doors, demand high rates of payment, and can become very aggressive. It is worth paying higher fares with reputable taxi companies than finding yourself in a threatening situation for the sake of a few dollars.
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 (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
The majority of people in Vietnam speak the country’s official language, which is Vietnamese. This is the national language that dominates business, mainstream communities, public life and state education. TV and radio productions made in Vietnam will be in Vietnamese.
However, there are also several minority languages spoken by particular communities, usually as a second language to Vietnamese. Sometimes these reflect the countries their speakers’ ancestors have left. For example, the descendants of Chinese people may speak Mandarin, or more typically Cantonese, because these languages have been spoken at home. In some cases, these languages will also be taught at school. Tày and Muong are regional minority languages spoken in the north of the country, while Cham, Khmer, Nùng and Hmong are other regional languages spoken by tens of thousands of people in their distinct communities across the country.
For more than seventy years, Vietnam was part of the huge French colony of French Indochina. Despite this colony only having come to an end in 1954, you are unlikely to meet many people in Vietnam who are able to speak French, unless they are working in some capacity with French tourists or have studied the language. In this respect, Vietnam is very different to other ex-colonies, such as in the African country of Morocco, where French is a second language spoken by a significant percentage of the population. In Vietnam, French can be offered as a foreign language subject at school, which can be furthered with study at University, but other languages may be offered instead.
Other languages spoken by small numbers of people in the country include German, Russian, Polish and Czech, reflecting the wide range of nationalities who have made Vietnam their new home.
English is widely spoken in the tourist areas of Vietnam and is taught in a lot of schools. Waiters, hoteliers and other staff working with Westerners will invest their time and money in learning to speak fluently with their customers, to raise their job prospects or improve their business. Menus and price lists may be in Vietnamese and English in these areas, along with clear signs.
In cities, expats and well-educated Vietnamese people will often live in the same neighbourhoods and share common cultural pursuits. In global companies, expats may find themselves working alongside Vietnamese professionals who have learned English to a fluent level and have travelled for either leisure or university studies. You are therefore likely to come across many English speakers.
However, fluent English cannot be taken for granted. If you are going to live in Vietnam for any length of time, learning some basic Vietnamese will help you settle more quickly and earn respect from those you meet.
Vietnamese is not an easy language to learn, not least because the vowel sounds are so unfamiliar. However, there are a number of factors that can help.
Firstly, the language uses the familiar Latin alphabet, albeit with additional accents and symbols. This is a legacy of the French colonial system, which replaced the difficult Chinese-style lettering with a new alphabet to be used consistently across the country.
Secondly, much of the language has simpler forms than that of its European equivalents. There are none of the male and female nouns of French and German, there are no plurals or different tenses for nouns. A word means the same in any context, so it doesn’t change because it happened yesterday or because there were two of them. Nor are nouns introduced with words equivalent to ‘the’, ‘a’ or ‘an’.
Verbs do change to reflect different tenses, but this is done by placing a word in front of the verb. There are several of these tense setting words, but only five are commonly used, and many sentences make sense if they are skipped.
Vietnamese words are typically descriptive, which means you can understand what someone is talking about without learning a whole new word, plus the straightforward grammar cuts out unnecessary words. There is, therefore, simply much less that you have to learn before you can competently communicate with someone in Vietnamese.
In Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, you will easily find a number of language schools running Vietnamese language lessons for migrants. They give you the chance to be heard and corrected in your speech, as well as ask questions about the use of the language in particular settings.
Alternatively, there is a wealth of online resources which you can use to build up proficiency. Duolingo, for example, is free and includes both written and aural language tasks to learn at your own pace.
In the busy city streets of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, it is possible to find imported magazines in English and the occasional imported newspaper. However, for up to date information about news and events in Vietnam, there are a number of online resources in English. Viet Nam News is an English language, online, daily news site. They cover the latest politics, law, society, economy, lifestyle, sports and environment news.
Vietnam Net has a more magazine style, whilst the English online site Voice of Vietnam has a distinct focus on the country’s industry and business news. Meanwhile, the Tuoi Tre News website is produced for expats living in Vietnam, and for the Vietnamese living abroad by the Tuoi Tre Newspaper.
You do not need to obtain a TV license in Vietnam. The state broadcaster, Vietnam Television (VTV), transmits six channels all in Vietnamese, as do other regional broadcasters.
Cable TV, which can help you get used to hearing Vietnamese being spoken, can be supplied by Vietnam Cable (HTCV) and Saigontourist Cable Television Company (SCTV). You will need to take out a contract with them, and pay both an installation fee as well as a monthly fee.
In Vietnam, the television transmission standard is PAL (Phase Alternating Line) which is also used in most of Western Europe except France, South Africa and Australasia. This is different to the NTSC (National Television System Committee) standard used in the US and Canada. Televisions, DVD players and games consoles can only be used by both systems if they are specific multi-standard items. If you are moving to Vietnam from the US for the long-term and are intending to bring all your possessions, this may a factor to consider when packing electronic items.
Going to the cinema is a popular leisure activity in Vietnam, and there are a number of cinema chains operating around the country. These are often modern venues offering food and drink in addition to the latest movies from Hollywood and China, although IMAX technology has yet to take off here. More basic venues will be very cheap to attend but may lack the state of the art visual and audio equipment.
The majority of films will be screened in their original language, with Vietnamese subtitles added. One exception to this is animated films, which are dubbed to reflect the fact young children make up a significant portion of the audience. Cinema websites will normally state which language a film is to be screened in, along with subtitle information.
Choose A School
Vietnam offers a good range of private and international schools preparing children for top universities and careers for those expats who are able to afford the tuition fees. The most highly regarded of these are located in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, in an English-speaking environment.
Educational facilities at these establishments are modern, well-designed and equipped with the latest resources. Modern health and safety standards are incorporated into school building designs, which provide clean and modern environments for children to learn in. High quality sports fields and gymnasiums are complemented by well-stocked libraries and learning resource rooms. Some private schools offer large indoor or outdoor swimming pools. Science, music, art and drama may be supported through modern laboratories, a range of specialist teachers, well-resourced art blocks and purpose-built theatres.
Class sizes tend to be fairly small, with 20 to 25 pupils. Teachers from Europe or North America often work in these schools, providing an authentic English-language learning environment.
Most of the international schools will accept nursery pupils from the age of three, and will educate these children right through to the age of 18, although typically the secondary school campus will be on a separate site away from younger pupils.
The first International Baccalaureate (IB) course to be offered in a Vietnamese School was introduced in 1996. Today, there are 12 schools offering this programme of study, delivered in English, which is recognised by all international universities.
The schools offering IB courses in Ho Chi Minh City are:
• American International School
• Australian International School
• British International School
• Canadian International School
• European International School
• International School Ho Chi Minh City (ISHCMC)
• Renaissance International School Saigon
• Saigon South International School
The following schools in Hanoi offer IB courses:
In addition to the IB schools, a number of other private schools in Ho Chi Minh City also deliver quality education according to an international curriculum.
In Hanoi, some of the other private school options include:
• Concordia International School. Established by the US Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS), this is an English-speaking school.
• Lycée Français Alexandre Yersin (LFAY), which delivers a French education leading to the French Baccalauréat.
• Wellspring International School. Established by Vietnamese Real Estate and Education group SSG, this bilingual school has an international outlook.
Quality Schools International also runs a school in the northern city of Haiphong, delivering a US curriculum in the English language.
It is possible for the children of expats to attend state schools run by the ministry of education and training. Vietnamese will be spoken at all times, except for foreign language classes, so a family’s individual circumstances will determine whether this is the right choice for their child.
Literacy rates in Vietnam are high and continue to improve despite the absence of universal free education. Primary school is compulsory for all children aged six until the age of eleven. There are no social or regulatory barriers to prevent girls attending school. The government provides subsidy for primary schools, but in some areas the poverty of local people means they struggle to afford the uniform, text books, pens and other items required for their children to attend.
Second school is not compulsory, and parents are nearly always charged tuition fees. For families in poverty, especially in ethnic minority areas, the choice between receiving extra income and help now from child labour or paying out for school costs in the hope it pays off at some point in the future is easily made.
Kindergartens and pre-school nurseries in Vietnam accept children from about eighteen months until school starts at the age of five. These are privately run facilities, and so tend to be based in middle-class urban areas.
At the age of six, all children start primary school, which they will attend for five years. This is followed by four years of intermediate education.
In late August, the new school year begins with semester one. There is a break in December. Semester two runs from January until late May.
Pupils who are able to achieve high scores in academic tests may be offered a place at one of the grammar schools known as trường trung học phổ thông chuyên (specialized secondary schools).
At the beginning of secondary school, some prestigious schools offer specialist classes for high ability children who pass exams in maths, English, literature and a chosen subject. The workload is heavy and pushes children to achieve learning targets at least a year ahead of their peers.
Pupils take the national high school graduation examination, which is administered by the ministry of education, at the end of secondary school.
Higher education is seen as a valuable route to professional employment in Vietnam. As a result, entrance is highly competitive, even though there are more than four hundred universities, institutes and colleges offering diplomas and degrees. National high school graduation exam scores are used to determine which higher education institutions will accept students on to a degree course. Since 2015, separate university application tests have been removed.
However, Vietnamese degrees are not internationally recognised unless they have been issued by an international university that has a campus in the country. For expats whose children are thinking about university study in Vietnam, this factor must be considered.
The school system in Vietnam is unpopular with some parents, due to its emphasis on test results and competitiveness. As in Singapore and many other countries around the world, high rates of stress and unhappiness are reported by pupils who feel under constant pressure to excel at school. Additional academic tutoring after school is common, and poorly paid state school teachers will often work very long hours to bring in additional tutoring income. It is alleged that tests sometimes include content which is covered in private tutoring time, so those pupils who only attend school are at a genuine disadvantage. This helps perpetuate the practice of additional tuition.
Schools and educational bodies in all sectors are aware of the effects of exam stress on young people, and debate continues as to the best way to help pupils prepare for adult life.
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