VietnamCommon Laws to Know as Expats in Vietnam

Common Laws to Know as Expats in Vietnam

Whether you’re coming to Vietnam for working or just a quick visit, the cultural differences may leave you a bit startled. Getting yourself familiarized with these common laws in Vietnam for expats can help you start your new life in Vietnam more easily with as little culture shock as possible.

Visa and Registering Yourself – Common Laws to Know as Expats in Vietnam

a. Essential Coronavirus Update for Obtaining a Vietnam Visa

  • Entry for foreigners to Vietnam is still suspended since March 22nd. This measure excludes diplomats, officials, foreign investors, experts, and skilled workers, who must obtain a Vietnam visa and undergo a 14-day quarantine at a quarantine camp or a hotel upon their arrival in Vietnam.
  • Foreigners who have been in Vietnam since March 1st can get an automatic visa extension till July 31st, meaning you can leave the country without extra penalty or paperwork within that time frame.
  • From July 1st, foreigners can change their visa purpose (i.e from a tourist visa to a work visa) without leaving the country.

b. Applying for a Vietnam Visa: There are three ways to obtain a Vietnamese visa

The traditional method: Applying for the visa to the Immigration Office
E-visa is now an official element of Vietnam Immigration Laws, allowing visitors from 80 countries to obtain a Vietnam e-visa.
Vietnam visa on arrival: most major international airports offer visa services for foreign visitors.

c. Registering yourself:

The Vietnamese government requires everyone to register themselves to the local police when staying at a local residence. If you’re staying at a hotel, the chances are that the receptionist will take care of the process, but for staying at a rented apartment or house, have the landlord help you register.

The registration is crucial for getting a criminal record by the local police when you apply for a work permit in Vietnam.

Check prices and reviews of top hotels in Vietnam:


Working Legality – Common Laws to Know as Expats in Vietnam

International employees must obtain a work permit sponsored by a company in Vietnam to work legally. The entire process should take around 15 – 30 days, so it is advisable to apply for a Vietnam work permit 1 month before starting at work. Foreign citizens working without a work permit in Vietnam can get deported if detected.

Once you’ve received the permit, you need to get a work visa and Temporary Residence Card (TRC), which acts as a proof of identity and is valid from 2 – 5 years, depending on your occupation and the visa type. A TRC is also needed for opening a bank account or getting insurance.

Since July 1st, 2020 foreign nationals residing in Vietnam no longer have to exit and re-enter the country to change their visa’s purpose.

For expats staying in Vietnam for more than 183 days (6 months) within 12 months or signing a rental contract of more than 183 days, you are subject to filing for personal income taxes. An international bank in Vietnam can be a great help in dealing with your taxes.

More on Statistics about Expats in Vietnam

legal office laws for expats in vietnam

Legal procedures in Vietnam is getting more and more simple since most of the steps can be done electronically or via a professional service

Starting a Business – Common Laws to Know as Expats in Vietnam

The Vietnamese laws require at least USD 30,000 in the bank account for an expat to start a business in Vietnam. The visa type and the duration of a TRC depend on the amount of money you invest in the company.

There are many types of business you can choose, whether it is a partnership with a local Vietnamese or a fully foreign-owned enterprise. You may need consultancy from a quality lawyer or accounting service for the registration process and the tax payments afterward.

It is by the Vietnamese laws that the maximum working hours is 48 hours per week. Do keep this in mind whether you are applying for a job or hiring employees.

Common Laws for Driving in Vietnam

Aside from the fact the Vietnamese drive on the right and the driver’s seats on cars are on the left, there are other notes to bear in mind when driving in Vietnam to avoid accidents and fines.

a. Valid Driving License

A valid license is required for driving in Vietnam. In case you’ve already had a license from your home country, have it converted to a Vietnamese version which can be one of these following common types:

A1: for riding motorbikes from 50 cc – 175 cc
A2: for riding motorbikes from 175 cc and other vehicles regulated for the A1 license
B1: for driving cars having up to 9 seats or minivans 3.5 tons

More on: Different Types of Motorbikes in Vietnam and How to Get a Vietnamese Driving License

legal office laws for expats in vietnam

Everyone needs a license for driving in Vietnam

b. Other regulations for driving on Vietnam’s streets (that can get you pulled over if you don’t comply):

helmets laws for expats in vietnam

Wearing a helmet when riding a motorcycle is mandatory

  • Stay on your lanes, don’t invade the car’s lane when you’re on the motorbike’s lane and vice versa
  • Always turn on the signal lights when you want to make a turn
  • Always carry your driving license and the vehicle’s registration card
  • Keep the speed limits around 40 – 60 km/h
  • No drinking and driving
  • Have no more 2 people on a bike

street laws for expats in vietnam

Driving on Vietnam’s streets is never a dull moment

For getting to know the scene of Vietnamese streets, join a private motorbike tour led by local professional guides.

Check out our private motorbike tours with professional local guides
for fun and insightful trips in Ho Chi Minh City!

family outing in ho chi minh city motorcycle

Buying Property in Vietnam as Expats

Expats are allowed to buy houses and apartments in Vietnam, but not land, and the leasehold period is 50 years but can be renewed. Having a Vietnamese spouse can ensure a freehold tenure. Foreign citizens are also not allowed to own exotic pets (especially those in endangerment) or exporting valuable antiques without a permit.

housing in vietnam laws for expats in vietnam

Accommodations can vary greatly from affordable rental dorm rooms to luxurious apartments or pet houses

Marrying a Vietnamese as an Expat

After spending a good number of years in Vietnam, you may fall in love with a lovely Vietnamese local and decide to tie the knots. Apart from the Vietnamese wedding’s traditions that you need to get accustomed to, the legal procedure to have your marriage recognized by the Vietnamese laws is also crucial:

  • Both people have to be unmarried and have certifications to acknowledge the status (affidavit of single status and a certificate of no marriage records).
  • Applying for a marriage registration in Vietnam, a record of good mental health, a biographic information sheet, a certified passport copy, and a TRC if you’ve been living in Vietnam.
  • Gay marriage is permitted in Vietnam, but there are currently no laws to protect the legal rights of the spouses in gay marriage.

Other Things that Cause Legal Problems

Other than the aforementioned regulations, there are other critical common laws to know as expats in Vietnam that you should take notes of:

  • Possessing, selling, buying, and using drugs (including marijuana and laughing gas), pornography images, and videos are illegal.
  • Along with pornography materials, sex toys are also banned in Vietnam. You might get detained and/or customs or the authorities will confiscate the items. Therefore, calculate your risks carefully when bringing them to Vietnam.

More on What Not to Bring to Vietnam

  • Traveling or even wandering around border areas (for example, Ha Giang, Lao Cai, Tay Ninh, etc.) without permission granted by the authority can lead to a fine or detention by the local police.

See more on Vietnam Land Border Crossing

Ha giang river laws for expats in vietnam

The border areas in Vietnam have stunning sceneries, but may cause you a fine for traveling without a permit

  • Taking pictures in restricted areas such as military-based premises or some governmental departments is not allowed.
  • Gambling is illegal in Vietnam, apart from government licensed casinos.

Check out Casino Hotels in Ho Chi Minh City and Casino Hotels in Hanoi

  • Prostitution in Vietnam is highly illegal.

Unwritten Rules of Social Conducts in Vietnam

Public display of affection (PDA), revealing clothes, and nudity are greatly frowned upon in the Vietnamese society
Discussion of politics and religions: Vietnam is a one-party government with strong political dogma while the people have deep-rooted religious beliefs, so be mindful of these topics. Sharing materials or judgments against the national political and cultural values can lead to legal problems.
Don’t talk and laugh loudly in religious sites, or pointing at objects that considered sacred.

temples laws for expats in vietnam

The Vietnamese have rich religious and spiritual lives

Final Takes on Common Laws to Know as Expats in Vietnam

Though it is undeniable that Vietnam is one of the most hospitable countries in Asia with ample opportunities for foreign nationals to build their careers, there are still particular distinctions in the rules and regulations that you need to get used to. Having said that, just pay a little bit of attention to how the locals and your international colleagues go about their daily lives and you’ll soon adapt to this wonderful country just fine.

Get the world-leading travel insurance for your adventures in Vietnam:


More information on:

Where to Seek Legal Advice
Information for Expats in Ho Chi Minh City
Expat Tours in Vietnam
Legal Age in Vietnam

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