Everything You Need To Know To Set Up a 100% Foreign-owned Company in Vietnam

Take your first step to enter Vietnam's thriving market by learning how to set up a 100% foreign-owned company in Vietnam.

Vietnam has turned into a utopia for foreign investors, thanks to the government’s extensive assistance and trade agreements, the growing middle-income groups, and evolving consumer attitudes. The country’s promising economic opportunities act as a catalyst for foreigners to form and register businesses in the country.

This small Southeast Asian country is one of the few that recorded a GDP growth during 2020 and 2021 whereas much more developed countries suffered from COVID-19-induced economic recession. 

Thinking about setting up a business in Vietnam? Let us help you.

Over the first half of 2022, Vietnam has made considerable progress in recovery with sharp increases in new and returning businesses, as well as commendable efforts from the government to stimulate the economy. 

Foreign investment is a key element in Vietnam’s economic growth and capital generation, facilitated by a sustainable supply chain premise and attractive incentives from the government. 

Can a foreigner own a business in Vietnam?

Yes, foreign citizens are entitled to expand to Vietnam and incorporate a foreign-owned company in the country. However, there are certain restrictions: 100% Foreign Invested Enterprise in Vietnam can be started only in the form of Limited Liability Company (LLC) or Joint Stock Company (JSC).

If you are a foreign investor interested in expanding your business to this dynamic and quickly evolving young economy, you must first learn about business formation. To start doing business in Vietnam, you need to create a compliant legal entity. This should take anywhere from one to three months, depending on the entity type.

Choose an appropriate business structure/entity for Company Setup 

The Law on Investment and the Law on Enterprise are two important laws that govern the formation and operation of both domestic and international businesses in Vietnam. 

Foreign investors have four options to set up a company in Vietnam, depending on their market entry strategy, scale of operations and other business-related factors.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

This is the most common company type and is the ideal solution for most foreign investors of small-to-medium businesses. LLCs can be started with just one member, or up to 50 members. 

Fundamentally, for each investor of an FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) LLC, their liability is tied to their contribution in the capital. LLCs are also chosen for their reduced paperwork responsibilities as well as high transparency. They also have quick processing procedures, so you can get started in only 45 days. 

Joint-Stock Corporation (JSC)

Alternatively, JSCs would be more suitable for starting larger businesses, as there is no upper limit to the number of shareholders. You would need at least three shareholders to establish this type of entity, however. 

Shares can be transferred, sold or bought, and the company will continue to exist despite the death of any shareholder. Establishing a JSC would also unlock the potential to be listed on a public stock exchange when the company reaches a certain size.

Representative Office

If you are expanding your business to Vietnam instead of starting a new one, you might want to do market research and establish a footprint before fully committing. This is where a Representative Office comes in. 

A Representative Office can also allow for participation in events and promotional activities, recruitment, and TRC sponsorships. However, it does not have the ability to generate income or function as a validated business. 

Branch Office

Usually the next step to take after testing the business waters of Vietnam, a Branch Office operates under and alongside its parent company abroad, removing the need for a separate legal entity. 

This means that you can start generating profit with full business activities, as the Branch will become part of your brand’s international network. You would need to employ a Legal Representative to establish one, however.

Check out our podcast if you want to learn more about the process of foreign company registration in Vietnam!

The formation process of a foreign company in Vietnam

Each of the four legal entity’s formation requires different procedures and might take anywhere from one to three months.

Generally, there are three main elements to such a process, which are listed below. 

LegalAccounting & TaxHR & Payroll
Includes registration paperwork, company seal & bank accountIncludes tax registration, tax submission & FDI auditsIncludes taxes, insurance & consultation

International investors should closely follow all of the steps below for complete compliance with Vietnam’s foreign company registration procedure.

  • Submit your company and/or personnel’s documents
  • Register an office address & find a Legal Representative 
  • Obtain Investment Registration Certificate (IRC) from the Department of Planning and Investment 
  • Obtain Enterprise Registration Certificate (ERC)
  • Engrave an official company seal (required to authorize any issued document)
  • Open a bank account with your investment capital
  • Submit Tax Registration & obtain E-Signature (for e-invoicing)
  • Obtain any other business license necessary for your specific sector

We made the most detailed step-by-step guide to setting up a business in Vietnam for investors, now available as an interactive checklist.

vietnam business setup checklist venture capital

Required documents to set up a foreign-owned company in Vietnam

Completing the set-up procedure for business registration in Vietnam involves a lot of paperwork. Depending on the kind of business chosen by foreign investors, additional documentation may be required.

First, coming to Vietnam, you will have to file for an IRC as mentioned above. For this you will have to enquire with the appropriate local authorities. 

After that, starting an official business requires an ERC, which certifies your company’s legitimacy in the country. Here are the required documents to submit:

  • Application for enterprise registration: The application should include the enterprise name, the address of a registered office, business line, charter capital of the owners, types of shares, number of employees, details of relevant partners/representatives, and tax registration credentials;
  • List of board members;
  • Company charter/ articles of association;
  • Copy of passport/ID card or other valid personal identification documents of individual members;
  • Copy of IRC, as specified under the Law of Investment.

Read more: Required Certificates for Foreign Investors in Vietnam

Recent legal updates for FDI companies (2022)

As of 2022 and beyond, foreign investment companies are to undergo an annual audit, also known as the FDI Company Yearly Audit. This will be conducted internally as well as by an independent party. The audit includes: 

  • Corporate information;
  • Board of General Directors’ report;
  • Independent Auditor’s report;
  • Audited financial statements, with a balance sheet, income statement, cash flow statement and other notes.

Deadline to submit your FDI report: Match 31st, yearly

Cost of Setting up a Business in Vietnam

The costs vary depending on the types of business structures that investors opt for. Following are certain costs you will need to take into account:

  • Costs for registering a company and obtaining business licenses;
  • Minimum capital requirements (vary according to the selected business sectors);
  • Cost for co-working space/ local offices and relevant facilities and management fees;
  • Tax Registration & Accounting
  • Other possible types of charges: Salaries for employees, compliance costs for maintenance of the company, or hiring a Vietnam accounting service to keep your business free from hassle;
  • HR & Accounting must also be factored in.

The average cost of incorporating a fully foreign-owned company in Vietnam is USD 2,800. For the full business setup, see our business cost calculator page.

RELATED: Market Entry in Vietnam: Succeeding Through a Successful Strategy

How quickly can you set up a company in Vietnam?

Setting up your business in Vietnam can take up to 60 days if you set it up from scratch. However you a faster option includes buying a shelf company, which gives you an entity in a mere 7 days.

Setting up a new foreign-owned business entity

If you choose to set up a company from scratch in Vietnam, the registration process will take a maximum of 40 to 60 days in total. The time required for the process will depend on the preparation and availability of the required documents. These companies will be fully owned by the investor(s).

Buying a ready-made business

Apart from starting a company from scratch, you can also purchase a shelf company and start doing business in a matter of days. A shelf company is a local, ready-to-go company where all required documents and procedures have already been taken care of. Therefore, this is the fastest method to set up your investment and start generating profit. Once you have obtained the entity, it can also be converted into a 100% foreign-owned company.


Bottom line

There are a few types to choose from when setting up a foreign entity in Vietnam: Limited liability comapny (LLC) for small to medium companies, Joint-stock company (JSC) for larger companies and corporations, Representative office for maintaining a presence in the country (without making profit), and Branch office for doing business under a foreign parent company.

To set up a company, you must first obtain an Investment Registration Certificate (IRC), then an Enterprise Registration Certificate (ERC), open a bank account, and submit tax registration. There might be other sector-specific certificates you need to obtain.

Apart from the incorporation process, startups might also want to consider outsourcing the business processes, such as accounting, tax compliance, HR and payroll.

Starting from 2022, foreign-owned companies also have to conduct a yearly FDI audit.


This article was originally published in October 2021, and was updated with recent legal requirements and more accurate information in September 2022.

Originally published: 15 October 2021, latest update: 4 November 2022

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FAQs

Investment Registration Certificate (IRC), Enterprise Registration Certificate (ERC) or Business Registration Certificate (BRC), company owner(s)' personal documents, and financial documents for capital investments.

The most common company types are Limited Liability Company known as LLC and Joint Stock Company known as JSC. Both types are suitable for foreigners with an LLC being recommended to smaller companies with a few owners while a JSC better fits big businesses or those that plan to go public.

The process of starting an LLC or JSC in Vietnam takes approximately 40-60 days. In case, you wish to open a business as soon as possible, we recommend purchasing a shelf company from Cekindo. As such we can transfer the management control to you within a few working days.

Yes, foreign citizens are entitled to expand to Vietnam and establish a 100% foreign-owned company in the country. However, the process is longer and more expensive then setting up a local company or a partnership.

A limited liability company (LLC), which is the fastest entity to set up in Vietnam, takes around 30-40 days to establish. A joint-stock company (JSC) might take up to three months. You can also purchase a shelf company, which is a local, ready-to-go business, and start generating profit within a few days.

Yes, foreign citizens, with the necessary documents, can set up a 100% foreign-owned company in Vietnam. They can choose from either a limited liability company (LLC) or a joint-stock company (JSC).

Verified by:​

Thanh (Tim) Ta

Tim Ta is the Head of the Business Consulting Department of Incorp Vietnam. He is a seasoned professional with more than 6 years of consulting experience in Vietnam for market entry, incorporation, and real estate investment.