I’m 9 months into my second stay in Vietnam using the Vietnamese working holiday scheme for New Zealand citizens. Here are my thoughts about it, and what it is useful for. Hopefully this is helpful for New Zealanders (& Australians) considering coming to Vietnam on this scheme.
Here’s a rough contents:
- Tidbits – some random tidbits of information about this scheme
- Tips for applying for the Working Holiday Scheme
- Which visa you actually get – This has some background on the types of visas & permits in Vietnam, and which ones you get with the working holiday scheme
- Employment on the Vietnamese working holiday scheme
- Conclusion – who is the Vietnamese working holiday scheme really for?
Tidbits about the Vietnamese working holiday scheme
No body knows about it
It is very rare to meet someone who knows that Vietnam has a working holiday scheme where Australians and New Zealanders can some and live and work in Vietnam for a year.
This includes embassy & consular staff, employers, and the general public in Vietnam, New Zealand, and (I assume) in Australia too!
This is tricky, especially when it comes to employment in Vietnam. Of the two schools that I worked for, neither knew what to do with the Working Holiday Work Permit. More on that below…
You maybe able to use the visa more than once
I have used the Vietnamese working holiday scheme twice, and there are a few schemes (but not many that allow this). I suspect it is due to under-utilisation, and at the discretion of the the embassy/immigration staff.
Sadly, besides UK, USA & Canada, most of the 40-odd working holiday schemes that NZ has signed with other countries are under-utilised.
Most of the schemes have a requirement that a person can only obtain a visa through the working holiday scheme for a particular country once.
Age limit is at the discretion of the Embassy
Similar to above the. I was 32 years old when applying for the second time. I think this is at the discretion of the the embassy/immigration staff.
Tips for applying for the Working Holiday Scheme
Here are a couple of thoughts on the actual working holiday scheme application, when applying with the Vietnamese Embassy in Vietnam.
- I felt that submitting my application in person at the embassy in Wellington was helpful.
- So far myself and one other person have applied and got a visa with the working holiday scheme.
- When I applied for the first time, I was told the scheme didn’t exist. I went back to my office and printed off the whole agreement, and took it back to the Vietnamese embassy, then they agreed to try.
- When I was applying for the second time I was told that the embassy only issued short term tourist visas for foreigners. I told her re-check because I had done it before. So you may get some push back.
- I was never able to call the embassy, but found they did respond to emails.
- I also found that consular & immigration workers sometimes communicated with me their personal emails or phone numbers. I thought this was really unprofessional. But after living in Vietnam a while, I’ve found this is kind of normal, even at banks!
- Because of this I got the impression that relationships matter more than processes (Kind of the opposite of NZ). Which takes me back to the first point. Applying in person was useful.
The embassy gave me the option of having the visa issued into my passport in Wellington, or on arrival at Tân Sơn Nhất airport. I decided on getting it in my passport in Wellington, to avoid having any issues on arrival. However this meant that I lost a couple of weeks time off the visa, as I still had a few weeks before my flight.
The Vietnam immigration also gives the option of having the Working Holiday Work Permit booklet issued in Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi. I chose Ho Chi Minh City, as I already knew that was were I was planning on being.
Which visa you actually get..
Working holiday schemes come in many different flavours. After using 16 working holiday schemes, I’ve experienced a lot of variation!
There are some really well run schemes (e.g. NZ, Japan, UK, AU etc) which have a dedicated visa type for people arriving on the working holiday schemes.
And there are other countries who fit the working holiday schemes into their existing line up of visas and permits. These countries will often issue a standard business or work visa for a working holiday scheme applicant. Vietnam is kind of one of these countries.
Vietnamese visa and work permit
For a successful applicant of the Vietnamese working holiday scheme, they will get an long stay (LĐ) visa valid for 1 year, and a Working Holiday Permit booklet.
The LĐ visa is a common long stay visa in Vietnam, and gives the holder the right to enter, exit and reside in Vietnam with the ability to work.
The pink Working Holiday Permit booklet is theoretically meant to give you the ability to work with any employer for up to 3 months. There is a page that each employer is meant to fill out. However when I have shown this to employers, they had no idea what to do with it, and just gave it back to me. I’ve had the same experience trying to use it as proof of my eligibility to work with banks. It is essentially useless.
For that reason, the Vietnamese working holiday scheme falls into some grey area in the employment environment in Vietnam. I’ll go into more info about the employment environment for foreigners below, but first here’s a quick overview of the different visas and documents that allow foreigners to live and work, and how the Vietnamese working holiday scheme fits compares.
Important documents in Vietnam
For context here are some of the best documents for living and working in Vietnam. From Best to Worst:
Temporary Residence Card (TRC)
You can get this is if you marry a Vietnamese person, or own a business in Vietnam. Lasts 2-5 years. If you have a temporary residence permit (it’s an ID card) you do not need a visa in your passport to enter or leave Vietnam.
This is tied to your employer and lasts 1-2 years. Again, if you have this (it’s a booklet) you do not need a visa to stay in Vietnam. The downside is that if you leave your employer, they will cancel the work permit. If they do this before you have left the country you will be overstaying, and potentially run into trouble when leaving the country.
This is a work visa. It is a full page stamp in your passport and lets you enter and exit Vietnam. This is the visa you get with the working holiday visa for Vietnam.
Tourist (DL/DN) visa
This is a short stay visa intended for visiting Vietnam for tourism or visiting friends & family. There are a lot of people who (illegally, and semi-legally) work on Vietnam on this visa.
This is not an extensive list of all the different types of visas, but is just to give you an indication of where the LĐ visa sits in the grand scheme of things.
If you want to do things like register a motor vehicle in your name, open bank accounts with certain banks. You will generally be asked for a work permit or Temporary residence card, anything less than this is not accepted.
|Visa/Permit||Can legally work||Can change jobs easily||Can stay a year or more||Can perform legal activities (e.g. register a motor vehicle)|
|Temporary Residence Permit||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Work Permit||Yes||No (new permit required)||Yes||Yes|
Employment on the Vietnamese working holiday scheme
I’ll do a full post on finding jobs in Vietnam later, but just want to point out the grey area that you fall into in Vietnam when trying to work with the working holiday scheme in Vietnam.
Side note: you don’t necessarily need to work in Vietnam. With some budgeting skills it is possible to live and travel in Vietnam for less than NZ$8,000/year.
That said it is also possible to live luxuriously for a fraction of what it would in New Zealand. So it really depends on your budget and what you desire to experience.
My experience was with English teaching. When finding work there are many different types of schools and institutions that are looking for foreign teachers. Generally the fall into two groups:
- Well organised with immigration processes
- No immigration support
Schools with organised with immigration processes
Some are really well organised large companies or chains. They generally have their legal systems in place and have a process in place for getting a work permit etc. I found with this type of school they didn’t care that I already had a valid work visa, they wanted me to change (and pay for) changing to a work permit tied to their school.
Schools with no immigration support
Smaller schools, or institutions provide no immigration support for teachers with their visas, and often have teachers who are working on alternative visas (tourist and business visa). Therefore they also pay under the table, and do not pay income tax for their employees.
The Vietnamese working holiday scheme could work really well for startups, and digital nomads. I expect corporate businesses will take care of visa requirements for their staff.
Apart from English teachers I’ve mainly met expats in corporate managerial roles, startups or digital nomads.
With all this in mind I think the Vietnamese working holiday scheme best used for:
- Digital nomads or people involved in startups in Vietnam
- People who want to volunteer or travel long term without having to worry about doing visa runs
I myself have transitioned to working online for New Zealand companies remotely from Vietnam. As I am still an NZ tax resident, I earn and pay tax in NZ. I can also choose to work less, as my costs are lower in Vietnam.