The move to Vietnam can be confusing enough without worrying about which documents you’re going to need. There’s a lot of conflicting information and babble online about which documents you should bring and which ones need to be notarised in order for you to get a work permit- and if you need a work permit at all. So put your worries aside and take it from one who knows (and is the proud owner of a work visa and residence card). This guide aims to explain the work permit situation, as well as which documents you will and will not need.
The Work Permit Situation
Will I need to get a work permit or not? Better questions would be: can I get a work permit or not? Will I want to get a work permit or not?
For the former, the answer is that you are only eligible for a work permit if you have a degree. This means that some companies, who require you to apply for a work permit, won’t hire you- but don’t worry, there are PLENTY of other schools who don’t care.
As for the latter, the answer is that you won’t know for sure until you get here; it depends on who you want to work for. The big companies, such as VUS and ILA, require you to have a work permit. Often, they’ll do most of the work for you, but it’s up to you to provide the documents themselves. Most public schools and many language centres won’t organise a permit for you or require one, but allow you to do it of your own accord (which you are unlikely to want to do, because you’re effectively paying to get taxed.)
However, even if you decide now that you don’t want a work permit, it’s still worth bringing the documents I mention- though there’s no need for notarisations or affidavits if they’re not going to need approval from the Vietnamese government. Unfortunately, a lot of schools won’t even ask to see a police check- but they might want to, and you don’t want to limit your options.
Now that that’s out of the way, here are all the documents you’ll need to start teaching English in Vietnam:
A 3-Month Tourist Visa
If you’re intending to stay and teach, you should enter Vietnam on a three-month tourist visa. The easiest way to obtain one of these is to get a visa on arrival via the internet (note: this is NOT the same as an e-visa and only works if you’re arriving by air). I got mine from this website. You’ll need to bring:
- A colour copy of the letter with you to present at the airport on arrival.
- $25 for the stamping fee (or $50 if you choose a multiple-entry visa). The money should be in USD and you should bring the exact amount- the officials are not going to give you change…
- You’ll also need to fill in this visa application form. You can print it off and fill it in beforehand to save a little time, but you can also just pick one up at the airport and do it there.
- A passport-sized photo to attach to the aforementioned form. Bring a few just to be safe- you’ll probably need some extras further down the line anyway.
And what about when my three months are up? I hear you ask.
Most people will have to complete a visa run at least once- if you’re lucky and get your work permit sorted quickly, once will be enough. It’s usually just a case of a quick flight or an easy-but-uncomfortable bus ride to Cambodia to get your visa renewed.
A Certified Copy of Your Degree*
*If you have one.
Degree-holders, even if you’re unsure of whether or not you’ll be wanting a work permit, it’s a lot easier to bring a certified copy of your degree with you than to get here and realise you need one- ESPECIALLY if you’re a Brit, since the consulate and embassy here have very helpfully stopped offering that service, meaning your document has to make a return trip to London. If you’re not UK born, it’s worth double checking that your country haven’t done the same!
Sounds a bit complicated? Yeah, it is. BASICALLY, in order to obtain a work permit, your degree needs to be recognised and authenticated by the Vietnamese government. The first thing you need to do is to make a copy and have it notarised by a solicitor (not a notary public, they just cost extra). Then, you need to have it legalised by your government- this is essentially a confirmation that the document is legit. Next, you need to send it to the Vietnamese embassy in your country to have it legalised by them too and then viola, after a lot of faffing about, your hard-earned degree is finally recognised as the real deal in Vietnam. Oh, and if you have a middle name that doesn’t appear on your degree but is on your passport, you’ll need an affidavit to confirm that passport-you and degree-you are one and the same (this is the only time I have truly been thankful that my parents couldn’t be bothered to give me a second name).
This process probably varies from country to country so be sure to check your government’s website; what I’ve said is true for Brits at the moment, but the situation changes all the time!
A Teaching Certificate
Whether it’s a TEFL, a TESOL or a CELTA, you need one. You can teach without a degree, but it’s much more difficult (though I suppose possible if you’re willing to work somewhere shady) to find a job without a teaching certificate. You’re also required to submit one for the work permit, although it doesn’t matter whether it’s a gold-star CELTA or a 30-hour online course. This means that, just like your degree, you will need to have it notarised, certified and legalised for use in Vietnam- unless you complete your course in Vietnam, for example ILA’s CELTA course or the AVSE/Ninja Teacher TESOL that I chose (you can read my honest review of that course
A Police Check
I don’t actually recommend obtaining a police check from your home country before you come to Vietnam, but instead getting a local background check. Not only are the checks generally more expensive in western countries, they also have to be notarised and legalised for use in Vietnam making the process a lot more costly and time-consuming. The cheapest and simplest thing to do is wait until you get here and get a local police check for ₫200,000 (£6.60/$8.80). Since it’s a Vietnamese document, there is no need for any of the headache-y legalisation stuff. The process is as follows:
- Once you’ve found a place to live, ask your landlord to provide your proof of address- this is usually a document stamped by the police confirming that you are registered at your address. It’s free and should only take a week or two. Photocopy it and give the copy to the police, as you may need the original again, but be sure to take the original along for confirmation when you apply for the background check.
- Next, make a photocopy of your passport’s photo page and your current visa. Again, you’ll need to take your original passport for verification.
- Take a passport sized (4×6) photo.
- Go to the Department of Justice at 141-143 Pasteur Street, District 3 with your documents, passport photos and ₫200,000. Formal dress is required, although they aren’t that strict about it; if you wear your teaching clothes, you’ll be fine. Once there, you fill in a form, attach your passport photo and hand it, along with your other docs and your 200k, to the probably-unsmiling official behind the counter.
- Get a receipt and return to pick up your police check on the date shown, with your passport to confirm that you’re still you. It usually takes about four weeks from the date you apply.
And voila! That’s you sorted. Figuring out which documents you’ll need can be a bit confusing, so I hope that this guide was of some help to you. If anything’s unclear, feel free to shoot me a message!