Intra-company Transfers: Inter-company transfer of foreign employees may be exempt from work permit requirements.

The requirements to obtain the exemption from the work permit requirement as an internal transfer employee include:

  • being a manager, an executive or a technical expert;
  • the foreign employer having established a commercial presence in Vietnam and operating in one of 11 service industries under Vietnam’s WTO Commitments (business, communication, construction, distribution, education, environment, finance, health, tourism, entertainment, and transportation industries); and
  • having been employed by the foreign company at least 12 months prior to internal relocating to Vietnam.

The employer must submit an application dossier requesting the work permit exemption to DOLISA.

Under this arrangement, the foreign national does not sign any local employment contract and remains an employee of the parent entity. However, common difficulties that are encountered for foreign companies wishing to go through this mode is that the foreign national in question is often working for an affiliate, rather than the parent company of the commercial presence in Vietnam, or has not worked for at least 12 months prior to the submission date of the application for a work permit.

If the transfer falls within the exemption category,

However, each individual exemption must be approved by DOLISA.


All foreign nationals intending to work in Vietnam for longer than 3 months are required to obtain a work permit, unless they fall under certain special categories of exemptions (such as being a co-owner of an LLC, a member of the board of directors of a public joint-stock company, intra-corporate transfer of employees or certain industries etc).

All foreign nationals wishing to work in Vietnam must also be sponsored by a local employer. A foreign company that wishes to employ foreign nationals must first set up its Vietnamese subsidiary / branch / representative office. This Vietnamese entity is then required to apply for the relevant work permit for the employee before the employee commences work in Vietnam. Vietnamese employers are only permitted to legally enter into an employment contract with a foreign national after the Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (DOLISA) has issued a work permit.

1. Obtaining a pre-approval letter

As part of the Vietnamese government’s plan to limit low quality foreign labour in the employment market, pre-approval of foreign labour usage is now required before submission of a work permit application. To obtain pre-approval, a foreign national is required to meet a certain criteria of skills and qualifications. The three main categories of positions for which foreign nationals may apply for a work permit in Vietnam:

  • Managers, Executives or higher positions
  • Specialists/expert
  • Technician

The Vietnamese sponsor entity is required to provide local labour authorities with written notice at least 30 days in advance of its foreign labour usage plan. The labour authorities then review the request, and make a decision as to whether to grant pre-approval based on the provincial People’s Committee decision. If successful, a pre-approval letter will be issued, which is one of the compulsory documents for the work permit application.

Agency: Local Labour Department

Time: 15 days

2. Filing a work permit application with DOLISA

While the documents required to file an application vary according to the position that the foreign national will hold in Vietnam, his background and residential status etc, they typically include:

  • The completed application form
  • Health certificates issued in the foreigner’s country of residence or Vietnam
  • Copies of qualifications or professional certificates or confirmation of qualifications by authorised offices
  • The judicial profile issued by the authority of the resident country or the municipal office of Justice in Vietnam (if have lived in Vietnam for more than 6 months)
  • 3 colour photos (3x4cm) that have been taken within 1 year

The conditions for work permits vary depending on the categories of foreigners as mentioned above. However, generally all applicants are required to demonstrate that they have full capacity of civil act, are of suitable health certified and have a clean criminal record. In addition, they must also provide proof that they are “managers, executives, experts or technicians”.

Managers and executives must be foreigners directly involved in:

  • Management of companies, including the direction or organization of companies or directly dependent units of such organizations or companies; or
  • Supervision and control of the work of professional staff, other managerial staff, or other supervisors.

Experts must provide:

  • Documents proving that the foreigner holds the requisite academic qualification; or five (5) years’ experience in the field they have been trained in, which is suitable to the work duties in Vietnam; or
  • Confirmation of being experts issued by relevant organisations or authorities, or foreign companies.

Lastly, technicians must provide:

  • Documents proving or certifying that they have been trained on technical field for a duration of at least one (1) year issued by relevant organisations or authorities or foreign companies, and have three (3) years’ of experience in the field in which they have been trained and which are suitable to the work duties in Vietnam.

All documents submitted must be notarised and translated into Vietnamese.

Agency: DOLISA

Time: All applications must be filed at least 15 days before the intended start date of the employee. The work permit application process has an official processing time of 10 working days. However, in practice it is often much longer and companies are advised to apply for the permit at least 2-3 months in advance of the employee’s intended start date.

A work permit can be granted for up to two years but must not exceed the duration stated in the pre- approval letter regarding the use of foreign nationals issued by the respective DOLISA. They are renewable.

3. Declare Temporary Residence Status

Upon entering Vietnam, the foreign national is required to declare his or her temporary residence status at the local police authority.

The manager of the lodging establishment where the foreign national is residing is required to complete the declaration form and submit it to the local police authority within 12 hours (or within 24 hours if the administrative division is in a remote area) of the foreigner’s arrival at the lodging establishment. The foreign national will then be issued with a temporary residence card.

The duration of the temporary residence card is equal to the duration of the work permit.

Time: 5 business days