Family ties require visas too

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The discussion of business visas for foreigners neglects transnational marriages

A foreign teacher at an elementary school in Hanoi. Photo by Ngoc Thang

There is a group of foreigners that are in a very difficult position in Vietnam and the Vietnam government has not considered them in the rules governing workers here.

 We are a small, but growing group, that have married a Vietnamese national and have established a family here. In my case I have been married for over 8 years, now have one son going to school and I support family members that have found themselves out of work as the economy has worsened over the past few years.

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The current visa system does not allow me to work or even have the long term security to stay with my family. With the visa exception system, I have to renew my visa every 3 months and every time I go to the immigration office, I am quizzed on what I am doing in Vietnam. For some reason Vietnam officials expect me to get married and then run away to my home country.

 I believe that we are like any Vietnamese couple that gets married and wants to establish a life for themselves and their family. Why should I not be able work and support my family? I am a highly skilled person with many years experience in my field. But local and foreign companies want to hire me as a local employee and in many cases refuse to sponsor my work permit because they do not want the hassle from the government. I have been offered a work permit by the 'black market' at a ridiculous price, with the fear that if caught, I could be deported. I continue to refuse this route and look for a way that I can work in a legitimate manor and provide my family with the proper security.

I write this because the Vietnam government should recognize this group and assist in helping us support our families.


A decree on managing foreign labor which took effect on November 1 and supplanted a 2011 one scraps a provision allowing foreign manual laborers to work for up to three months without a work permit. This privilege will henceforth be extended only to those who come to handle complicated technical or technological issues that are beyond the foreign experts already based in Vietnam.

It also enlarges the category of foreign workers exempt from obtaining a work permit. Those added to the category are teachers at foreign institutions sent to work in international schools in Vietnam managed by foreign agencies, volunteers, those with master's degrees and advising, teaching, or researching at Vietnamese tertiary or vocational institutions for a maximum of one month, and foreign workers who come here under international agreements to which state agencies are a signatory.

Earlier, the exemption had only applied to members or owners of limited liability companies, lawyers registered with the Ministry of Justice, those dispatched by foreign companies to work in their offices in Vietnam (in 11 designated sectors), heads of foreign representative offices, and project managers and individuals authorized by NGOs to work in Vietnam.

But while the decree enlarges the category of foreign workers exempt from obtaining a work permit, it also then burdens them with more red tape by requiring them to apply for a certificate saying they do not have to obtain one.

By MARC (*)

* The writer is an expat who only revealed his first name as Marc. The opinions expressed are his own.

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