Expat In Vietnam


Vietnam has become a popular destination for foreigners during the passing years. In 2012, according to Ministry of Labor, Invalids, and Social, there were 320,000 alien registrations were recorded – the highest in history.

The actual number must be much larger. Many people come here with “tourist” visas but staying permanently, then get a job without working permit and renew their tourist visas every 3 months. Finding a “tourist” staying in Vietnam for years is not an impossible thing.

Why many foreigners go to Vietnam?

There are some reasons to explain this fact. First, it comes from Vietnam’s growing economy. Since Doi Moi in 1986, Vietnam has redirected itself into Market economy allowed higher participation of foreigners and foreign businesses.  Especially after 2007, when Vietnam officially joined WTO, the country economic performance experienced lots of significant changes with more active roles of a private, joint venture and foreign business sectors – areas attract the most foreigners come for work.

Economic burst puts greater demand for a high-quality human resource with an international standard of knowledge, skills, and experience in economics, trade, and commerce. Although Vietnam is now believed having a golden population for development with more than 50 million people ready to join the labor force in 2011, a very small portion of this number meets criteria of fast-growing and ambitious companies who want to go from the pond to the ocean. Therefore, recruiting foreigners with guaranteed qualifications, experience and capabilities seem to be the solution. This foreign labor force brings not only the know-how from the world but also help to boost a company’s reputation to partners, saving their faces in every negotiation with other companies.

Furthermore, thousands of foreigners come and stay in Vietnam every year without a prior job offer because life in Vietnam is sort of easy to most of them. With a low budget, one still can have a good life. A person can survive with under $500/month in cities like Hanoi or HCM City. Life in smaller cities or countryside does not cost that much. The fact is many Vietnamese live with just $200/month. It means even with just $500/month, a foreigner still can enjoy a better life than many other locals.

When it says “easy life” doesn’t only mean low living cost but also means how easy such life can be achieved. It is not difficult to come and “just stay”. Vietnam’s corrupted and inefficient administration system has made a good deal for people who know how it works. It costs a small amount of money to extend one’s visa to three months and no one will question. Working without a permit is often observed but very few people got caught and expelled. The government has admitted its inability to fix this hole in their management system. Meanwhile, lots of foreigners staying and working illegally, up to now, are still safe.

Above all, despite the limits in social management, Vietnam is, still, an attractive place to the outside world. A dynamic country, full of energy and job/business opportunities, promises to bring lots of hectic experiences that many people from developed countries are looking for.

What are foreigners doing in Vietnam?

Most of the foreigners come to Vietnam for working. They are senior managers, experienced workers or experts in certain fields either recruited here in Vietnam or sent over from mother companies in home countries. 60% of expats living and working in Vietnam are from China, Japan, and Korea. They came along with both governmental projects (such as ODA) and private companies working in industrial zones and spreading all over Vietnam from North to South. A smaller number comes from America, Europe or Australia who work for NGOs, foreign companies or International organizations having offices in Vietnam. The rest are from other countries in Africa, Asia, over-staying tourists or dependents who have a spouse or a family member working in Vietnam.


The truth is, the current status of foreigners in Vietnam today leaves the country both positive and negative impacts.

On the bright side, it is clear that with an increasing number of foreigners come and stay every year, many products and services are created to meet these people’s demands and it is indeed an economic force. Those who benefit the most are food/hospitality industry such as restaurant and hotel or imported commodities (food), entertainment industry like bar/clubs; tourism, international education, and home services.

As expected, foreigners need to bring international know-how and expertise to Vietnam, helping this country improve the local human resource. Indeed, significant changes have been observed in both hard skill and soft skill performance from young Vietnamese. Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City rank quite high among Asian cities where a lot of young people are found can speak English. It is showing that these two places are trying their best to help Vietnam integrate into the world economy by increasing their communication ability. To achieve this, Vietnamese people have spent lots of money on studying English at school and in extra classes with private tutors. English training centers are everywhere, both registered and not registered. It explains why foreigners, especially Westerners from native speaking countries, can find jobs as English teachers so easily here. It is all about high demand.

Besides language, Vietnamese staff and managers have learned a lot from having foreign co-workers or expat boss/managers. The companies usually hire a foreigner into CEO position for a term of around 5 years then replace him by their Viet leader when they think they have been gained enough experience and know-how from the foreign CEO.

However, lots of local media and social organizations recently have complained about troubles, or burdens, which they think are resulted from foreigners’ staying in Vietnam.

First, they complain that there is discrimination between Vietnamese employee and a foreign employee at the same position/job where the foreigner usually receives a higher salary. The inequality, sadly, is leaning on the Vietnamese themselves. However, what saves lots of Vietnamese at their positions without worrying that it won’t be taken away by a foreigner is the language barrier. With a job where one is required to communicate in a local language, foreigners seem to be at a weak point.

Second, this comes from a small number of expats living in Vietnam, many foreigners are not binding to Vietnamese law, and this makes some Vietnamese very upset. Young expats staying in Vietnam working without permits or riding a motorcycle without wearing a helmet are two problems got the most complaint from locals. The statistic shows that more than 40% foreigners in Vietnam are now working without a permit, but due to inefficiency in administration system, these illegal employees have not been caught and expelled (MOLISA- Ministry of Labor, Invalid and Social Affairs).

Besides putting higher pressure on job competition with locals and a little indifference to their host country’s law, expats are contributing to change Viet lifestyle into a more pragmatic and materialized way. Young Vietnamese today are attracted by Western lifestyle seems to be a tendency. This phenomenon has become stronger during the years. It worries many tradition protectors and older generations about true Vietnamese values have been wiped away by the West’s soft power. Well, their concern is not groundless. Yet, no one can deny that Vietnam will attract even more foreigners coming in the future and that is necessary for the country’s wealth. It is important to welcome them and take advantage of their expertise, both intellectual and financial power to develop its economy.

Source: Helping Business Wordpress