No solace for foreigners caught in work permit limbo

There will be no respite for foreigners currently employed in Vietnam yet unable to obtain work permits prior to August 1 before new regulations will allow the expulsion of unregistered foreign employees.

According to Deputy Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Nguyen Thanh Hoa, the Government has issued Decree No. 46 amending and supplementing some articles of Decree No. 34 on managing foreigners seeking to work in the country.

Six months after the new decree takes effect on August 1, foreign workers who have not received a work permit or have yet to apply for a permit will be expelled from the country. These people will also be barred from future visa applications to work in Vietnam.

The new regulation also relates to foreign workers who come to Vietnam as part of the workforce on foreign invested projects. During the tendering process, an investor will be required to employ both Vietnamese and foreign workers. State owned enterprises, enterprises operating under Enterprise Law and foreign invested projects operating under the Foreign Investment Law are allowed to recruit foreign workers, but cannot exceed a three percent threshold in terms of their total current employees. New businesses will be obliged initially seek Vietnamese employees.

Hoa claimed that shortcomings on the management of foreign workers in Vietnam existed.

According to Hoa, the regulation that allowed foreigners who work in Vietnam for less than three months to be free from needing a work permit has created the opportunity for enterprises and contractors to take advantage of supposedly ‘untrained’ workers.

“The new circular attempts to put a brake on the use of low-quality foreign workers,” he emphasised.

MoLISA is also considering applying stricter punishments to employers who have unlicensed foreign workers. He optimistically claimed that it would take only ten working days for a foreign worker to get their work permit, promising a halving in processing time, despite anecdotal evidence pointing to the process taking months to complete.

Institutions and enterprises that receive foreigners who come to study in Vietnam must also file a report to the MoLISA, he added.

Despite government concern over the numbers of foreigners working in the country, Vietnam currently only employs 74,000 workers from 60 countries, 58% of which originate from the Asia, according to unofficial statistics.

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