European firms raise concerns related to getting work permits

By Vien Thong   March 7, 2023 | 07:31 pm PT
Getting a work permit for foreign workers in Vietnam is too arduous and takes months, European firms have complained.

At a meeting between the European Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam (EuroCham) and the Ho Chi Minh City administration on Tuesday the business group said since the government’s Decree 152 took effect in 2020 it has become difficult to obtain work permits.

Alain Cany, EuroCham’s chairman, said: "This is an important issue for foreign investors, especially after the free trade agreement between Vietnam and the 27 EU member states [was signed]."

Alain Cany, EuroCham’s chairman, speaks at a conference in Ho Chi Minh City, March 7, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Dy Tung

Alain Cany, EuroCham’s chairman, speaks at a conference in Ho Chi Minh City, March 7, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Dy Tung

Decree 152 requires foreign workers or their representatives to apply for a work permit at least 15 days before they expect to start working.

"However, in reality, EuroCham members have reported that it takes as long as 2.5 months to complete the procedures, and in some cases, it drags on for up to four months," Trung Khuat, co-chair of EuroCham’s human resources and training committee, said.

EuroCham also complained that the online portal to apply for work permits is not reliable, and documents uploaded on it go missing.

Processing documents takes long because of stringent requirements from officers, which entail making many adjustments to applications.

But Nguyen Van Lam, deputy director of the city Department of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs, rejected claims that it sometimes takes businesses four months to get a work permit, suggesting they were including the time it took for tasks like gathering employees' documents.

He conceded though that sometimes his department staff do not instruct applicants suitably, which then causes the need for making multiple changes to their applications.

He also admitted the Internet infrastructure needs to be upgraded.

Another complaint was about improving the educational and work experience requirements of foreign workers.

Decree 152 defines a "foreign expert" as a person with a bachelor’s degree or higher and at least three years’ experience in the relevant field.

Khuat pointed out that many experts have worked in Vietnam for many years but no longer have their university degrees or could not get experience certification since their former companies no longer exist.

The labor department promised to apprise the central government about EuroCham’s concerns.

Its deputy director, Nguyen Van Lam, said to get work permits easily businesses should prepare correct and complete documents, and accurately describe the nature of business and need to recruit foreign workers.

For instance, if a representative office is not a profit center for a company, getting a work permit for a sales and marketing director would be difficult, he pointed out.

Businesses must make recruitment information transparent, describe in detail why only foreigners could be recruited and not Vietnamese workers, he added.

In 2022 the department had received more than 15,400 applications, and issued 10,800 new work permits and extended 1,126 existing ones.

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