Vietnam’s Entry Procedures For Foreign Employees Amid The Pandemic
Vietnam on March 22, 2020, suspended the entry of all foreign visitors including those with visa exemption certificates in a bid to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. Subsequently, it suspended all international flights by March 25, 2020, effectively locking out visitors and business professionals except for Vietnamese nationals returning on special repatriation flights.
Vietnam’s government, however, has allowed diplomats, officials, business experts, managers, highly skilled workers, and students to come to Vietnam provided they meet the necessary requirements.
While Vietnam contained the pandemic better than most countries in 2020, the fourth wave of the pandemic has proved challenging with strict movement restrictions in most of the country. While the entry ban on foreigners remains in effect the government has also asked the relevant authorities to facilitate the entry of investors, technical experts, high-skilled workers, managers, officials, and diplomats. Nevertheless, Vietnam remains closed to foreign tourists as of now.
Foreign employees that want to enter Vietnam should ensure they have a sponsor who can assist them in obtaining the necessary paperwork and communicate any changes to them.
Since the authorities have not specified any time limit for processing, employers should obtain all the necessary approvals and documents as far ahead as possible so that any delays are limited.
Most recently, on July 5, 2021, the government issued Official Letter 5322/CV/BCD guiding the entry of foreign experts by sponsoring companies during the pandemic.
Guidance For Employers
We highlight some of the important steps that employers can undertake to facilitate the arrival of their foreign employees:
- The employer is required to submit a letter to the local provincial people’s committee with specific details about the employee job details as well as their travel plans;
- The local provincial people’s committee is then expected to make a decision and then submit the request to Vietnam’s immigration department; and
- If the application is approved, the employer would also need to submit a letter and necessary documents to the immigration department including the local provincial people’s committee decision on the approval.
- The application must include the quarantine plan, written commitment by the sponsoring company on COVID-19 protocols, including testing requirements and health insurance and any other documents if any; and
- The employer will then apply for an entry visa for the foreign expert along with the written approval of the provincial people’s committee and the Ministry of Public Security.
The Vietnam government issued Official Dispatch No. 3949/CV-BCD on July 24, 2020, issuing additional requirements for foreign workers entering Vietnam. As per the directive:
- Foreign workers will have to test for COVID-19 three days before entering Vietnam using the real-time PCR technique. The tests must be done at testing centers approved by their government or at test centers approved by the World Health Organization (WHO);
- All incoming travelers, including Vietnamese nationals, will be required to pay for quarantine as of September 1, 2020. International arrivals who opt to stay at government facilities will be required to pay at least VND 120,000 (US$5) per day; and
- Foreign workers should have international health insurance, or their sponsor will be required to pay for treatment in case they are infected with COVID-19.
Mandatory Quarantine For All Other Incoming Travelers
It is important to note that anyone entering Vietnam is subject to a mandatory quarantine. On August 4, the government issued a directive reducing the mandatory quarantine period to seven days from the previous 14 for fully vaccinated foreign arrivals.
Arrivals must also test negative for the virus within 72 hours before arrival and would then be required to self-monitor for another seven days after the quarantine period. In addition, those infected with COVID-19 and have certificates that they have recovered from the virus within six months would also have their quarantine period reduced. The government is yet to provide further details and date for implementation.
The quarantine is typically at a centralized government facility or a designated hotel. Testing for COVID-19 is done at least twice during the quarantine period. After serving the mandatory quarantine, the individuals may be under medical surveillance as per the health authorities.
The government is keen to allow foreigners for business purposes to enter the country. Officials in Hanoi, Da Nang, and Ho Chi Minh City have approved several hotels including Le Meridian Saigon, Holiday Inn, IBIS Saigon, and Norfolk to serve as paid quarantine zones.
Quarantine Measures Waived For Short Business Trips But May Be Impractical
On August 31, 2020, the Ministry of Health issued Official Dispatch No 4674/BYT-MT waiving the mandatory 14-day quarantine for foreign experts, investors, managers, and diplomats if they enter Vietnam for less than 14 days. If after 14 days they wish to stay in Vietnam, they can do so without quarantining, provided they test negative for the virus. However, we are yet to see practical examples of foreign experts entering for such a short stay due to Vietnam’s strict entry measures and increasing cases.
Short-term travelers must comply with all other health measures, which include:
- Remain at designated accommodation and follow the scheduled itinerary of the business trip;
- Install and use the Bluezone contract tracing app during their stay in Vietnam; and
- Wear face masks and maintain personal hygiene.
Plan Ahead And Expect Challenges
Due to the pandemic, this is the first time that such strict travel restrictions have come into play and as such, there is no precedence for similar restrictions.
We recommend that investors and businesses use a professional firm to navigate the intricacies and administrative procedures to help secure an entry permit for their foreign employees.
Besides, with several countries easing travel restrictions, regulations are likely to change quickly. We, therefore, recommend that businesses follow us and check this space for any updates or changes to the current regulations.