Sunday, October 13, 2013

Getting a Vietnamese Work Permit and Visa

My year-long working visa which I was able to acquire with my brand spanking new Vietnamese work permit arrived exactly two days after I made my (final) decision to leave Vietnam in December. Yes, I am leaving and I am extremely happy about it. It will be heart-wrenching to say goodbye to my students, who I absolutely adore, but I really need to get out of here. I'm not going to rant about the many reasons (and the main reason) I have decided to leave just yet because I promised to do a Work Permit/Visa post. Two whole people have e-mailed me about it, but who knows, maybe there are more of you out there who'd like some information on this tedious process.

How I got my Vietnamese Work Permit/Visa (Hanoi)

I needed a number of documents/items:
1. Passport with valid (tourist) visa.
2. University Testamur - to prove I have the specific qualifications necessary for the work I would be doing in Vietnam (in my case, a secondary teaching qualification).
3. A national Police Check (Mine was from Australia, if you have been in Vietnam for more than six months you must get one from the Vietnamese police - have fun with that).
4. Position application form - given to me in English/Vietnamese by my employer and used only for the Working Visa.
5. A full Health Check Certificate.
6. Two passport photos.

First I had to make copies of everything and take the copies and the originals to my Embassy (Australian Embassy Hanoi). At the Embassy I showed my originals and paid the steep price of around 500,000 per document to have the copies of my police check and testamur certified.

Then I made a COPY of the Certified Copies and took everything (copies, certified copies, and originals) to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam, 40 Tran Phu, Hanoi. I don't think I actually ended up showing them the original documents but better safe than sorry.

Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 40 Tran Phu:

Once at 40 Tran Phu I was directed to Counter 1 - where I wrote my name on a list and was given a form to fill out about the documents I wanted notarised. I then waited (about 2 hours) for my name to be called. While I waited I observed numerous middle-aged Western men come in with young, female, Vietnamese friends who conveniently pushed in for them.

When my name was called it took all of three minutes to hand over my form and the COPIES of my certified copies, and for the guy to check the original certified copies and my passport. I was given an invoice and told to come back tomorrow to pick them up. A colleague of mine was able to pick his up the same day so they must have been particularly busy when I went. I recommend going as early in the day as possible.

I returned the next day with my invoice and went straight to the cashier counter to pay (only about 60,000 for both documents) . Then I went to Counter 4. There were quite a few people and I was confused as to what to do so I just copied the other people who put their invoice receipt onto a spike at the front of the counter. I don't think this was the right thing to do, but the woman working at the counter saw me do it and nodded at me and took my name off the spike and put it to one side. She called my name twenty minutes later and I was out of there, with my nice doubly-certified copies of copies. The Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs puts a red sticker/stamp on the documents.

The last thing I needed was a Health Check Certificate. Only a number of hospitals offer the health check specifically for the Work Permit so make sure you check before you pay to have one done. Because there are so few options the English-speaking places can charge ridiculous prices - I paid 2 million but I have been told that at Vietnamese clinics you can get it done for 600,000. My appointment was at 11am and the whole process took about three hours. I was ferried from ' station' to 'station' within the hospital - eye check, blood test, urine sample, chest xray, blood pressure/weight/height, and a short consultation with a French doctor. You can choose whether to return to the hospital to pick up the results after three days or to have them sent to your workplace. I had them sent to my school and it took seven days (I called after five to hurry the process along).

Finally, I had all my shit together. Or so I thought. I returned to my school and gave the office all of my documents and they sent them off to Labour and Society (they also paid the 400,000 fee) . Three weeks later they were all returned, accusing me of being two different people because my university testamur does not have my middle name while my passport and police check do. ARGH!

I then had to go back to the Australian Embassy to write a Statutory Declaration that the documents do, indeed, refer to me and only me. I also had to pay (again, I think it was about 500,000) just to have my signature witnessed. I guess even if I'm not paying off my student debt yet Australia is still getting  money off me.

So, I handed it all in and waited... with baited breath...not really, I forgot about it even when my tourist visa expired.

It took another week after that but finally the work permit arrived. Now, a work permit is not the same as a working visa - it's what you need to apply for one. Once my work permit arrived, the nice ladies in the office (who were rather sick of my shit by this stage) took the process completely into their own hands - which is what any business which has hired you with the promise of a work visa should do. I just had to sign some forms and then they sent my work permit and passport off to get the visa.

So, finally, after four tourist visas (seven months in Hanoi), and three weeks after my last tourist visa had expired, my passport arrived back at the school with my one-year Working Visa....which I will only be using 70 days of. Oh, but look at all the adventures I've had.

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