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You Asked ( 10-07-2012)

Update: July, 10/2012 - 08:57

Dear Editor,

I have three questions:

1. Can foreigners buy homes in Viet Nam?

2. Can foreigners start their own businesses in the country? If yes, which legal procedures should I follow?

3. Can foreigners get permanent residency?

John Lay , jrlay@xnet.co.nz

Dear John:

Based on our consultation with lawyers Phung Quang Cuong and Rebbeca Davies of Ha Noi-based NH Quang & Associates, we can give you the following general answers:

1. Under Vietnamese law (Directive No 19/2008/NQ-QH12 of March 06, 2008), foreigners are permitted to buy an apartment or condominium unit in a commercial housing development in Viet Nam if (1) the foreigner is performing direct investment activities in Viet Nam in accordance with the laws on investment or are persons employed by Vietnamese enterprises to hold management positions in such enterprises; (2) the foreigner works in a field requiring university qualifications or special knowledge and skills of which Viet Nam is in need; (3) the foreigner is married to a Vietnamese citizen; or (4) the foreigner has made contributions to Viet Nam recognised by a medal or certificate of merit from the President or Prime Minister.

There are no legal provisions which permit foreigners or foreign-invested companies to buy houses or own land in Viet Nam. Foreign-invested enterprises which seek to provide housing for their employees will be permitted to buy one or more units in a commercial housing development project.

To buy a condominium in Viet Nam, foreigners meeting one of the above criteria must be living in Viet Nam and have been granted a residence permit of at least one year by the Immigration Department or the local police. They must enter into a purchase contract in Vietnamese, witnessed by the public notary. The title to the property will be issued by the provincial People's Committee within 30 days from the date of receiving the valid application documents which include the application form, papers proving the ownership rights of the seller, the residential permit of each party, and the notarised purchase contract.

2. Vietnamese law allows foreign individuals and organisations to start their own businesses in Viet Nam via foreign direct or indirect investment. They can choose the field and form, area of investment, and method of raising capital in accordance with Vietnamese law and international commitments to which Viet Nam has acceded, such as WTO agreements.

Direct investment includes establishing a business entity, e.g., a wholly foreign-owned enteprise or a joint venture with a Vietnamese enterprise, or acquiring an existing business entity. Indirect investment includes buying shares or investing through securities investment funds or other intermediate financial institutions.

Foreign investors must obtain a Certificate of Investment, either by completing a registration procedure for projects worth less than VND300 billion (US$15 million) and not in a conditional investment areas, or an evaluation procedure for projects worth VND300 billion ($15million) or more or in a conditional investment areas.

Foreign investors are normally required to provide the following legal documents: valid personal identity card or passport and papers proving financial capacity. Foreign enterprises are required to provide a certificate of incorporation, a company charter or articles of association, audited financial statements for the past year, and a valid personal identity card or passport of the enterprise's authorised representative. Other relevant documents may be required in accordance with regulations.

3. Under Provision No 13 of the Ordinance No 24/1999/PL-UBTVQH passed by the National Assembly Standing Committee in 2000, foreigners temporarily residing in Viet Nam can be considered for permanent residence. For more details, you could check the following links, where we have already addressed this question: http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/Opinion/You-Asked/222701/you-asked – 27-03-2012.html or http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/Opinion/You-Asked/222335/you-asked – 20-03-2012.html

The Editor

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