Vietnamese expats get vastly expanded house ownership rights

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Certain categories of overseas Vietnamese will have the right from September 1 onwards to buy as many houses as they want under amendments to the Housing Law and Land Law approved by the parliament Thursday.

These include those who still retain their Vietnamese citizenship; those who have made direct investments in Vietnam; those recognized as contributing to national development; scientists, cultural experts and those with special skills working in Vietnam; and those having a Vietnamese spouse currently living here.

The amendments aim at giving the above-mentioned Viet Kieu, as overseas Vietnamese are known in Vietnam, the right to own houses for themselves and their relatives to reside in the country.

Meanwhile, those that currently have a Vietnamese visa exemption and permission to reside in Vietnam three months or more can own an apartment or a house.

The amendments also halve the residency requirement for Viet Kieu property purchasers to three months from six, and grant other land rights including allowing them to rent out houses they purchase, according to the Vietnam News Agency.

The amended laws regulate that overseas Vietnamese have the right to sell, lease or authorize others to manage the house, and the land it stands on. They are also allowed to use the house as a financial contribution or as a valued property in other deals, and receive compensation if the state reclaims the land.

The National Assembly (NA) Standing Committee said it could use tax policies to prevent the new provisions from encouraging or leading to speculation that will cause unfavorable disturbances in the local property market.

Up to 70 percent of three million Viet Kieu have Vietnamese citizenship. However, during the three years since the Housing Law took effect in 2006, only 140 have bought houses in Vietnam.

In 2007, 70 percent of US$6 billion in remittances from overseas Vietnamese was invested in production and business, including property trading; and 20 percent was used to buy houses in Vietnam under the ownership of their relatives and friends.

A government report on the issue had estimated that the number of overseas Vietnamese buying houses in Vietnam will go up to around 1,400 a year if the amendments are approved.

The National Assembly, Vietnam’s legislature, will end its month-long session today.

FOREIGN INVESTORS TO CONTRIBUTE 51 PERCENT OR LESS IN FILM PRODUCTION

Also Thursday, the National Assembly (NA) passed the amendments to the Cinema Law, under which foreign individuals, organizations and Vietnamese expatriates are allowed to establish joint ventures with Vietnamese filmmakers. The foreign partners are permitted to hold no more than a 51 percent stake.

The percentage is in line with Vietnam’s commitments to the World Trade Organization (WTO), said Chairman of the NA Culture, Education, Youth and Children Committee Dao Trong Thi.

The newly passed amendment also states that the film censor boards of TV and radio stations will be established by heads of the stations, and the Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism will regulate their organization and activities.

However, the amended law does not increase the ratio of foreign films shown on television, which currently stands at 30 percent, aiming to protect the fledgling local cinema industry.

According to the NA Standing Committee, a proposal to increase this ration would be feasible only after local film production capacity increased.

Reported by Bao Van

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