January, 14 2014 08:39:00

NA Standing Committee discusses visa regulations

VNA/VNS Photo Nhan Sang

HA NOI (VNS)— Lawmakers in Viet Nam are considering offering a unilateral visa exemption for foreigners planning to stay in the country for a certain duration of time.

The country currently offers a unilateral visa exemption for people from key tourism markets: Japan, the Republic of Korea, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark.

Speaking at a three-day meeting convened by the National Assembly Standing Committee yesterday, chairman of the Committee for National Defense and Security Nguyen Kim Khoa said that while the exemption had proven its effectiveness, the issue needed to be under strict supervision.

"It is reasonable to empower the NA Standing Committee to decide who enjoys Viet Nam's unilateral visa exemption and for how long," he said.

Last November, a bill proposed by the Government was included in the National Assembly's working agenda. The bill now has nine chapters with 57 articles, which means it contains one more chapter and 11 more articles than the Government proposal. Most of the articles have been revised.

At the discussion yesterday afternoon, lawmakers focused on issues of transit, people with no nationality, unilateral visa exemption, those who can invite or guarantee foreigners to visit Viet Nam and restricted areas for foreigners.

The Government's proposed definition of "foreigners" as both those with overseas nationalities or equal legal document and those without nationality granted by other countries' authorities met with general agreement.

However, others suggested that only people with overseas nationalities be subjected to the bill, while the Government would have separate regulations for those without nationalities. People in border areas who had neither received nationalities of their current countries such as Laos, Cambodia and China nor gotten Vietnamese nationality were mentioned specifically.

Since 2000, when a new ordinance on immigration, migration and residence of foreigners took effect, the number of foreigners entering Viet Nam has increased by 20-30 per cent every year.

In 2012, the number of foreigners' arrivals in the country was six times higher than that in 2000. The Ministry of Public Security reported that violations committed by foreigners mainly involved illegal immigration, undeclared temporary residence and travel without a passport or visa. This urged the NA to promulgate a new law.

Revised insurance law

In the morning session yesterday, most National Assembly Standing Committee members agreed that health insurance should be made compulsory, with the Government providing partial subsidies for the poor and disadvanaged and social welfare beneficiaries.

They discussed the draft of the revised health insurance law. According to Truong Thi Mai, chairwoman of the NA Committee for Social Affairs, compulsory health insurance would lay a foundation for the goal of universal health insurance in the future.

Viet Nam hopes that health insurance coverage will reach 70 per cent of the population by 2015 and 80 per cent by 2020.

According to the NA Social Affairs Committee report, compulsory health insurance would ensure that high-income earners would buy health insurance.

"It is similar to requiring people to wear helmets, which has been done quite successfully," said Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien at the meeting.

The revised law also suggested members of the same family could benefit from reductions if they all joined health insurance, thus encouraging more households to buy health insurance.

Nguyen Van Hien, chairman of the NA Legal Affairs Committee, said the revised law must support the need of residents to seek health treatment from the hospital or medical centre of their choice rather than the one assigned on their health insurance card, which was usually close to home.

NA Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung agreed that the revised law must be flexible in allowing users to choose the best medical treatment according to market rules instead of forcing them to go to public hospitals or medical centres in order to use health insurance.

The revised law also stipulates that the Government would manage the fund instead of each locality, as there is a surplus of funds in some provinces where a lower percentage of people participate in health insurance.

The NA Standing Committee also agreed that there must also be punishment for companies and employers in the formal sector who do not provide workers with health insurance.

The health insurance fund overspent nearly VND3.1 trillion (US$147million) in 2009, but had a surplus of VND2.8 trillion ($133 million) in 2010 and nearly VND12.9 trillion ($614 million) in 2012.

Four provinces, Nam Dinh, Tay Ninh, Kien Giang and Binh Phuoc, had a health-insurance rate of less than 50 per cent in 2012 because of poor communication and inadequate awareness by local leaders.

In December, experts warned that Viet Nam's health insurance fund would likely be overspent by VND9.8 trillion ($465 million) in 2014 due to higher healthcare fees.

The same day, National Assembly Standing Committee members also discussed revisions to the Law on Marriage and Family.

Many backed the view that the regulation prohibiting same-sex marriage in the existing Law on Marriage and Family be removed to suit the current social climate.

Meanwhile, with regards to the legal age for marriage, some members also voiced their opposition to reducing the minimum age for marriage. — VNS

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