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Working in Vietnam?

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Alain Nguyen

Living in Vietnam, from France

"The business contacts I made through InterNations, especially with other expats in Vietnam, proved to be invaluable."

Sneha Gupta

Living in Vietnam, from India

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Vietnam at a Glance

Working in Vietnam

Do you consider taking advantage of Indochina’s developing job market and start working in Vietnam? Vietnam’s business world has some confusing odds and ends, which our Vietnam Guide will help you figure out. Read on for information on the economy, work permits, and social security!

If you are planning on working in Vietnam, it is essential that you understand the country’s cultural values and traditions. Only then can you successfully develop strong business relationships. After all, cultural values are strongly reflected in the business environment.

The country saw a large degree of economic turmoil in the second half of the last century. The US-Vietnam war and the US trade embargo have left their mark.  However, although the country faces some troublesome problems resulting from the international economic recession, it is enjoying a period of economic growth and as such, working in Vietnam offers many rewards.

Vietnam’s Business World

While working in Vietnam, be it in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh, you will soon find that Vietnamese companies function in a defined hierarchical manner. Decisions are made at the top, and more often than not, it’s the oldest person in the company who is the decision-maker. For that reason, you have to make sure to pay respect to your coworkers and partners, especially if they are older than you.

Status is an important element of Vietnam’s business world and society. You achieve a certain status not through age alone but also through education when working in Vietnam. Although the business universe in Vietnam was once dominated by men, the country is moving toward a sexual revolution with increasing numbers of women populating senior positions. 

The Economy

Vietnam has one of the world’s lowest unemployment rates, placed at just 1.9% at the end of 2013. The largest sectors Vietnamese people are employed in are the agricultural and service sectors. The main agricultural products are rice, coffee, rubber, cotton, tea, pepper and soy beans.

Many people working in Vietnam do so in one of the manufacturing industries like machine building, food processing or garment and shoe production. Shoes and clothes are also among the most common export products, aside from marine products, electronics, crude oil, rice and machinery. Vietnam’s economy still relies largely on the export of goods.

Although Vietnam was wounded by the recession in recent years, the government has taken measures to introduce a more market-based economy. These measures aimed to trigger significant economic growth and transform Vietnam into an attractive destination for foreign investment, leading to more people working in the nation.

In 2011, the country reached one of the highest inflation rates, pushing officials to shift its economic focus to steadying Vietnam’s economy. As it continues to face severe challenges, Vietnam’s government has increasingly focused on alleviating the restrictions placed on privatization, public investment, and the banking sector. The banking sector remains the biggest thorn in Vietnam’s economic potential, with a high number of bankruptcies, low domestic demand and dangerous debts. However, the country is performing well and has received international praise for its handling of the economic crisis. Moreover, the Vietnamese GDP is expected to have grown by 5.4% at the end of 2014. 

Work Permits for Vietnam

To begin working in Vietnam, expats need to secure a work permit. To do this, foreigners need to have a work contract and an employer who is willing to arrange the details for them. They will apply to the local Department of Labor, War Invalid & Social Affairs in their city. The documents expatriates must provide are as follows:

Furthermore, foreigners have to fulfill certain requirements to be eligible to work in Vietnam. They must be at least 18 years of age and also be able to prove they are fit to do the work they have applied for. The government also expects expats to bring at least 5 years of experience or technical and professional qualifications to the table before they can start working in Vietnam.

While in recent years, many expats have entered the county on a business visa and started working without applying for a work permit, this practice now finds little tolerance from officials.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

InterNations Expat Magazine