Just a few decades ago, Vietnam was a country that was effectively closed off to the rest of the world. With a socialist economy dependent on domestic production and collective work, the small Southeast Asian nation was something of an anomaly in the region – one of the few remaining communist countries in a growing economic region.
However, the times have changed, and Vietnam is now one of Asia’s shining stars in terms of livability and openness. With a beautiful culture, a year-round comfortable climate, and a population that’s rapidly integrating with the rest of the world, many Western retirees are looking at Vietnam as the next big Asian retirement location.
Given its combination of great weather, a low cost of living, and an exotic culture, it certainly seems to fit the bill. However, Vietnam’s visa situation – like the rest of its rapidly developing economy – isn’t quite as complete as its neighbors’. Retirees that reside in Vietnam face numerous issues surrounding official visa requirements.
Does Vietnam Offer A Retirement Visa Scheme?
Vietnam currently offers no retirement visa scheme, and retirees living in Vietnam are required to make use of either long-term tourist visas, which are available for a maximum of three months at a time, or five-year long-term visas, which need to be ‘checked up’ and renewed at immigration offices every three months.
While neither of these options are ideal, they are both relatively affordable for those wishing to retire to Vietnam, and the inconvenience of reporting to the Immigration Department of Vietnam is somewhat reduced by the fact that all foreign retirees that live in Vietnam are required to do so.
Three month tourist visas can be acquired from Vietnamese embassies abroad, and are issued to all those that have the minimum funds available to travel in Vietnam – a figure that’s typically around $1,000USD per month spent in the country. While a three-month visa isn’t exactly long term, it’s an option that many retirees have been using for several years – reapplying and re-entering as their visas expire.
It’s worth noting that tourists in Vietnam, including those staying long-term using a tourist visa, are able to apply for extensions while inside Vietnam by using any one of a number of local travel agents. These agents apply directly to the Immigration Department for an extension of stay – typically a three-month visa extension.
The alternative, and one that many retirees to Vietnam pursue, is to invest in a five-year multi-entry visa, which allows for multiple entries into Vietnam within a period not exceeding five years. The requirements to apply for one of these visas are higher than those for a simple three-month visa, and may be off-putting to some applicants.
Finally, non-Vietnamese who are married to a Vietnamese citizen may apply for a long-term visa to reside in Vietnam legally. Although other visas may be applied for from outside of Vietnam, this class of visa must be applied for within Vietnam at a local State Office. The exceptions to this are several Vietnamese embassies in the United States, including the offices in San Francisco, New York, and Washington DC.
Vietnamese Residency Through Company Establishment
Vietnam offers one-year and three-year residency permits to foreigners looking to establish a company in Vietnam. Opening a company is not a simple process and is not recommended for foreign visitors simply aiming to acquire residency to make it easier to retire to Vietnam. However, for those that are serious about operating a business in Vietnam, it is a great option for remaining in the country legally.
More information on establishing a business in Vietnam can be found here, along with information on the price of operating a business in the country. Note that all foreign-owned businesses in Vietnam will need to take on local staff, although this generally isn’t a great expense.
How Reliable Is The Vietnamese Visa Process?
Many retirees in Vietnam are understandably nervous about the longevity of their current living situation. Given that many foreigners reside on short-term tourism visas and lack any source of residency, their nervousness is understandable. Given the recent ‘crackdown’ on illegal foreign workers, many retirees in Vietnam have become increasingly concerned about the stability of their living situation.
Despite the ‘bad news,’ however, Vietnam appears to be fairly relaxed about the large amount of foreign retirees and workers residing within its borders on short-term visas. A quick look at Vietnamese expatriate forums make it clear that there aren’t any difficulties reapplying for visas, or any difficulties associated with using multiple tourism visas in a back-to-back fashion.