What is the change? Vietnam’s new immigration law that restructures visa categories will take effect Jan. 1.

What does the change mean? Given the limited details or guidance on the new law, employers and foreign nationals assigned in Vietnam should expect changes once the authorities release further instructions following the Jan. 1 implementation.

  • Implementation timeframe: Jan. 1 and following.
  • Visas/permits affected: Work and business visas, temporary residence cards.
  • Who is affected: Foreign workers and their family members, business visitors, investors, students and interns, and others.
  • Impact on processing times: Processing delays are likely during the transition to the new visa regime. It is too early to know whether the restructuring will improve processing times.
  • Business impact: Several of the new visa categories will impact business and foreign employees, although it is still unclear whether procedures will change and whether the new system will streamline or slow down processing.
  • Next steps: Employers should prepare for the changes and anticipate some unpredictability as the new system takes effect.

Background: Vietnam’s National Assembly passed the new immigration law on June 14 with an effective date of Jan. 1, 2015. The law will restructure visas into 20 categories, prohibit foreign nationals from converting from one visa type to another and create new grounds barring entry and exit.

The most relevant visa categories for purposes of corporate immigration are as follows:

Visa Type Maximum Visa Duration Maximum Temporary Residence Duration
Foreign worker (LD) 2 years 2 years
Attending meeting (HN) 3 months None
Investors and lawyers (DT) 5 years 5 years
Working with a Vietnamese enterprise (DN) 1 year None
Dependent family of foreign workers, investors, students (TT) 1 year 3 years
Students and interns (DH) 1 year 5 years
Visiting relatives (VR) 6 months None
Tourist (DL) 3 months None

The law contains a provision that prohibits foreign nationals from changing the purpose of a visa. This is currently being interpreted to mean that a foreign national will not be allowed to convert from one visa type to another, such as entering on a tourist visa and changing to a work visa.

The third major change is an expansion of grounds for barring foreign nationals from entry or exit. Foreign nationals will be denied entry if they were deported within the previous three years, were ordered to leave within the previous six months or provided false information or documents to authorities. Children under 14 years old traveling without their parents or guardians will also be barred entry. Foreign nationals will not be allowed to exit if they owe taxes, are under administrative sanction or criminal sentence, or are a defendant or other party to litigation. Individuals in these categories will be suspended from exiting for up to three years .

BAL Analysis: This is a significant change to Vietnam’s visa system and its impact on visa procedures and processing times will be clearer when immigration officials release guidance. BAL is following these changes and will update clients as details materialize.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network provider located in Vietnam. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

Copyright © 2016 Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. All rights reserved. Reprinting or digital redistribution to the public is permitted only with the express written permission of Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. For inquiries please contact