Living in Vietnam: 10 Laws Expats Must Know

If you are an expat living in Vietnam, you must know and comply with Vietnam laws. Here, we present 10 most important ones.

With beautiful sceneries and tropical lifestyles, it is no surprise that Vietnam is an attractive location for many expats. As an expat living in Vietnam, you must know that expat life in Vietnam is very distinct from life in many other popular regions due to its different political structure, geographical location, economic structure, social norms, and quality of life.

Find out: Start your Own Business in Vietnam

What many do not realize is that even laws might be very different from other countries around the world. Sometimes, these rules may be too stringent for expats, and people in Vietnam tend to ignore them. However, you should be aware of what is acceptable and what is not, to avoid yourself to be put behind bars.

Expats who consider moving to Vietnam or currently live there, check out the following laws to enjoy your stay in Vietnam and do not put yourself at any risk.

Expats in Vietnam: 10 Must-Know Laws

1. Drugs

The Vietnamese government has reinforced the penalties for drug possession and usage over the years (the most recent updated regulation can be found in Decree 60/2020 ND-CP). Thus, do not ever think about getting or using drugs in Vietnam – the severe punishment for people who possess heroin is the death penalty. For drug traffickers, the prison sentence will be long as well. Once again, illegal drugs are a big no-no in Vietnam.

2. Work Permit

Even though starting a company in Vietnam is not all that difficult, the bureaucracy is obvious. You will need permits for almost everything related to running a business and as for foreigners – working or starting a business without a work permit is illegal.

According to Article 22 Decree No. 95/2013 / ND-CP, foreign citizens who work without permits will be deported immediately; and for their employers, the fine can be up to 75 million VND with the possibility of their operations being suspended from 1 to 3 months.

3. Prostitution

Despite prostitution establishments with mainly underaged workers exist in Vietnam, it is illegal, and all sex work will be criminalized under the Law of Vietnam.

The Government and police in Vietnam are now conducting raids and trying to crack down on all sex-trafficking, sex works. The punishment can be serious if you are found to be part of it.

Prostitution Prevention and Combat can be found in Order No. 10/2003/PL-UBTVQH11

4. Visa

Visa requirements can be a complicated matter. Make sure you know them, apply and hold a correct visa and follow up with the immigration officials with the most up-to-date information. More often than not, the visa application, especially for your stay and residency in Vietnam, involves a great deal of bureaucracy, extensive paperwork, and long delays.

However, do not be discouraged. Apply well in advance, consult a visa agent in Vietnam, and be patient. In any case, make sure that you do not violate visa conditions by working without a work permit or overstaying a tourist visa.

Related: Can You Renew Your Work Visa in Vietnam?

5. Nudity

Do not be surprised that with so many beaches, there are absolutely no nude beaches in Vietnam. In general, locals are tolerant of expats with revealing clothing in tourist areas, but the culture in Vietnam is still relatively conservative.

Do not even think about being naked anywhere apart from your own bedroom. So be aware and take particular care to avoid anything that could be seen as offensive and get you into trouble.

More detailed information about nudity can be found here.

6. Buy a Property, Not Land

As a foreigner living in Vietnam, you may purchase property or houses in the country. However, if you have ever thought of buying land and building your dream house on it, it is almost impossible. According to Land Law No. 45/2013/QH13 dated November 29, 2013, lands are assets that belong to the country, so you can only buy the structure built on the land, but not the land itself.

In other words, the house belongs to you, but the land that the house is on does not, according to

As the owner of the property, you can enjoy the right to use the land for up to 50 years in the form of a land lease. The lease can be renewed without the rent being increased. The property is yours indefinitely as long as you lease the land.

Check out Buy Property in Vietnam as a Foreigner: Why and How

7. Capital Required to Start a Business

Apart from the start-up capital, in order to get a license and start a business in Vietnam, there are no other financial requirements. However, it is highly recommended to have at least US$25,000 in your bank.

8. Register Yourself with the Authority

As an expat, once you have moved into a residence, you need to register yourself with the local police. If you are a foreign tourist, your hotel or accommodation will do this on your behalf. The reason for registering yourself is that the police know you live in that place and you will be held accountable for any violation of regulations.

9. Exporting Antique

It is not new that you cannot bring any antique home from Vietnam. All antiques and cultural artifacts will need approval from the Ministry of Culture in Vietnam before they can even leave the country. No matter how much you love an antique you have seen somewhere in Vietnam, it is illegal, and no way for you to export antiques from Vietnam without a permit.

More detailed information about Exporting Antique can be found here.

10. Protected Species Trade

Vietnam is a member of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. The government is trying its best to stop the illegal trade and prevent it from threatening the biological heritage of Vietnam and Southeast Asia. As a result, you will face a long jail time of up to 15 years and a fine of 15 billion VND (USD $654) possibility if you are found guilty of hunting or trading endangered or protected species.


Being an expat living in Vietnam is not always easy. However, if you know the laws of immigration procedures and are willing to comply without fail, Vietnam can definitely be a wonderful place to live and work.

For better understanding, seek professional advice from advisors such as InCorp Vietnam and do detailed research before you move. With that, you are guaranteed not to end up on the other side of the law once you are there and you can enjoy your life as an expat living in Vietnam!

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Ian Robin Comandao

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Ian Robin Comandao

Ian Robin Comandao is the Head of the Business Consulting Department of Incorp Vietnam. He is a Sales and Marketing professional with 15+ years of experience in key accounts management.