Southeast Asia has emerged as a sought-after destination for expatriates in recent years. The region's rapidly growing economy and tropical climate are its primary attractions. Vietnam, in particular, stands out as one of the most enticing countries in Southeast Asia. After visiting Vietnam for the first time, many individuals contemplate relocating here. Continue reading to discover how to legally establish long-term residency in Vietnam and obtain citizenship.
Pathways to Vietnamese Citizenship
There are three routes to a Vietnamese passport:
- citizenship by birth
- citizenship by descent
- citizenship by naturalisation
Please note that the Socialist Republic of Vietnam currently does not permit dual citizenship. To obtain a Vietnamese passport, you will be required to renounce your original citizenship. Nevertheless, there are certain exceptions to this rule. For instance, individuals who have made significant contributions to the state of Vietnam may be allowed to retain dual citizenship.
Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tron Le (Unsplash)
Citizenship by Birth
- Children born in Vietnam to Vietnamese parents are automatically granted Vietnamese citizenship.
- If one parent is a foreigner but their children are born in Vietnam, they are still eligible to acquire Vietnamese citizenship. In such cases, the parents must make a decision regarding the nationality they wish to pass on to their children and formally declare their choice in writing during the birth registration process. For example, if the mother is a Vietnamese national and the father is American, the children will be able to acquire only one citizenship.
- Children born in Vietnam to a Vietnamese national and a stateless individual are also eligible to obtain Vietnamese citizenship.
- They can also obtain a Vietnamese passport if the mother is Vietnamese but the father's identity is unknown.
- If both parents are stateless or if the mother is stateless and the father's identity is unknown, children have the right to apply for Vietnamese citizenship. However, this process requires one of the parents to have a permanent residency in the country, and the children must be born in Vietnam.
- A Vietnamese passport can be granted to children who are found abandoned in Vietnam or whose parents are unknown. However, there is a possibility of losing Vietnamese citizenship for children under the age of 15 if their parents are found and are determined to be foreign nationals. This rule, however, does not apply to children who are 15 years old or older, as they can retain their citizenship regardless of the circumstances.
- Children born to foreigners in Vietnam are not eligible to obtain Vietnamese citizenship, even if their parents have been residing in the country for an extended period and possess a permanent residence permit.
Halong Bay. Photo: Anmol Bindra (Unsplash)
Citizenship by Descent
Children born to Vietnamese parents regardless of their place of birth automatically receive Vietnamese citizenship.
However, if children were born abroad and one of the parents is a foreign national, they can apply for citizenship of Vietnam only after coming of age.
Citizenship by Naturalisation
Foreigners can naturalise in Vietnam under the following circumstances:
- Be 18 years of age or older;
- Have resided legally in Vietnam for a minimum of five years.
- Respect the Vietnamese constitution, laws, traditions, customs, and habits of the ethnic Vietnamese people.
- Successfully pass the Vietnamese language exam and demonstrate sufficient proficiency to integrate into society.
- Possess a sustainable source of income to support their livelihood in Vietnam.
- Have no criminal records in their country of origin.
- Be willing to adopt Vietnamese surnames that are clearly indicated in the citizenship application.
- Have renounced their original citizenship.
Hanoi. Photo: Josh Stewart (Unsplash)
What Are the Options for Staying in Vietnam Long-Term?
You can initially enter Vietnam on a tourist visa, which is typically valid for 30 to 90 days. It is possible to extend this visa multiple times; however, the total duration of stay on a tourist visa cannot exceed 12 months. If you are denied a visa extension, an alternative option is to do a visa run to one of the neighbouring countries, such as Laos or Cambodia, and apply for a new visa at the Vietnamese consulate or embassy there.
If you exit Vietnam while holding a valid visa, the visa will be invalidated, requiring you to obtain a new one upon your return.
While in Vietnam on a tourist visa, you have the option to apply for a residence permit if you secure an official job within the country. To do so, you will need to submit the following documents: a valid employment contract with your Vietnamese employer, which should have a minimum duration of three months, as well as your university or college diploma.
If you have an official job offer prior to your arrival in Vietnam, you can apply for a work visa and subsequently obtain a residence permit after entering the country.
Marrying a Vietnamese citizen is an alternative route to attain legal residency in Vietnam. Although it does not grant you citizenship, it does provide the opportunity to obtain a permanent residence permit.
There are several additional options to obtain a permanent residence permit in Vietnam, including investing in shares of Vietnamese companies, establishing your own business, or pursuing education in Vietnam.
Holders of a residence permit in Vietnam have the ability to purchase residential and commercial properties. It is important to note that, firstly, this is only possible with a valid permit, and secondly, acquiring real estate does not automatically grant the right to apply for a residence permit. Additionally, it is important to be aware that even if you successfully purchase real estate in Vietnam, it is prohibited for non-citizens to rent it out. The property can only be utilised as a personal residence or office for the owner.
Furthermore, possessing a residence permit enables you to temporarily leave the country, but for a maximum duration of three months. Going beyond this limit can result in the forfeiture of your permanent residence permit, and the government may seize your property without the possibility of reclaiming it upon your return.
It is important to note that Vietnamese citizenship laws are rather crude and subject to exceptions. The authorities evaluate each case individually, and there are exceptions to almost all of the rules.
Golden Bridge on Ba Na Hills. Photo: Andreea Popa (Unsplash)
In a Nutshell
If you are not a Vietnamese citizen by birth, you have the opportunity to acquire Vietnamese citizenship by residing in the country for a minimum of five years and successfully passing the language examination. However, it is important to note that Vietnamese law prohibits dual citizenship, so you would be required to renounce your original citizenship.
Cover photo: Ho Chi Minh City, Peter Nguyen (Unsplash)