Revision of Immigration Regulations in Vietnam: The Introduction of New Favorable Conditions for Foreigners

The number of foreigners entering Vietnam has grown consistently in recent years, both for tourism and business reasons. Vietnam received nearly 16.3 million foreign visitors in the first 11 months of the year, increasing 15.4% year-on-year. The Law on Entry, Exit, Transit and Residence of Foreigners in Vietnam needed amendments which were debated in October by the National Assembly Committee. This is only one of the 11 new laws promulgated in December by President Nguyễn Phú Trọng, that were adopted by the National Assembly during its last sitting. The amended Law introduces revisions to 17 articles and supplements three others, which are all set to take effect from July 1, 2020.

The amended Law stipulates the issuance of e-visas for foreigners entering Vietnam and visa waivers for foreigners staying in coastal economic zones, such as Phu Quoc and Van Don island, for less than 30 days. This will allow a 30 day visa exemption for foreign visitors. The government will decide which other coastal economic zones are eligible for such a visa exemption.

Probably the most relevant improvement, is the authorization for visitors to be able to change their visa status and prolong their stay in Vietnam without having to fly out of the country. The regulation would help foreigners who were eligible to stay in Vietnam to change their visa purposes to look for jobs and investment opportunities in the country. Visitors who can prove they are investors or representatives of foreign organizations will be permitted to have their purpose of visit switched during their stay in the country, their family members will also be able to enjoy the same advantage. Foreign workers who receive job offers in Vietnam or enter the country on e-visas will be able to change their visa status as long as they have a work permit or confirmation that they are exempt from obtaining a work permit. These amendments mark a huge change in policy, as foreign guests must currently fly out of the country if they want to renew their visas.

The revised Law also allows foreign investors with an investment of over USD 4.3 million (VND 100 billion) to reside up to 10 years in coastal economic zones, instead of 5 as stipulated in the previous version. Meanwhile, investors with an investment of less than USD 130,000 (VND 3 billion) are permitted to stay for less than one year in Vietnam.

On the tourism related side, Vietnam will continue waiving visa requirements for citizens of Russia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Belarus until December 31, 2022. Citizens of these countries will not need to apply for a visa if their stay does not exceed 15 days.
The visa exemption for the aforementioned countries, first introduced in 2015, would have originally expired at the end of this year. Nationals from the UK, Germany, Italy, France, and Spain are also exempt from applying for a visa when visiting Vietnam until June 30, 2021.

The revised Law aims to enshrine the policy of granting e-visas for foreigners entering Vietnam, thereby facilitating the entry and exit of foreigners and helping to promote socio-economic development. The revisions aim to create more favorable conditions for foreigners in Vietnam and to promote economic development.