HCMC work permit issuance remains tardy, foreign businesses complain

By Dy Tung   April 6, 2023 | 08:32 pm PT
HCMC work permit issuance remains tardy, foreign businesses complain
A Japanese engineer works on the first metro line of Ho Chi Minh City in 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa
Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) authorities say they have sped up the issuing of work permits to foreign workers, but businesses say the process still takes too long.

At a conference between businesses and the city administration on Thursday, a member company of the European Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam (EuroCham) said that the application for a work permit takes as long as two months.

Many other foreign firms attending the event called for reducing the time it takes to process applications They said it took seven to 10 days for the city merely to accept applications submitted online.

"The receipt stated the appointment date in accordance with the law," said a representative of one company. "However, due to the delay in receiving the application via the online portal, the progress of the work permit application was affected."

The city Department of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs announced early last month it was speeding up the process of issuing work permits by digitizing the process. It promised that the number of working days would be reduced from 10 to seven days for issuance of new permits, and from three to one for renewal.

A department representative said at the conference that if the online submission of an application is not accepted within one day, businesses should bring a hard copy of the application and submit it directly.

Since the department has permitted businesses to submit online applications and even outside office hours and on weekends, the number is getting is "huge" and it takes a lot of time to process them.

Nguyen Van Lam, the department’s deputy director, said some businesses do not submit correct and complete documents when applying, explaining that some companies fail to accurately describe the nature of their business or the need for foreign workers, or fail to get consular attestation and notarization.

Lam said his department would seek to reduce the processing time for two things, extension of work permits and certification of foreigners not requiring to obtain work permits, from five to three days.

He added that the department has reported to the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs some problems faced by enterprises in the process of complying with Decree 152 on obtaining foreign work permits.

The decree, which took effect in 2020, defines a "foreign expert" as a person with a bachelor’s degree or higher and at least three years’ experience in the relevant field.

However, some businesses said many experts have worked in Vietnam for a number of years but no longer have their university degrees for some reason or could not get the experience certification since their former companies no longer exist or they had graduated in one major but have worked in another field for many years.

Decree 152 also regulates that a work permit is valid for two years and can only be renewed once for up to two years. After that, the foreign employee is required to start the process again.

The Malaysia Business Chamber Vietnam proposed that the validity period of work permits should be extended. It said in Malaysia, for example, a work permit is valid for up to 60 months, depending on the employment contract and upon the discretion of the Foreigners Commission. In Singapore, experienced technologists can obtaina work permit that lasts more than five years.

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

At the 2023 Vietnam Business Forum held on March 19, Minister of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs Dao Ngoc Dung said the government is working to simplify the labor laws, and that foreign workers will be one of the top priorities when drafting the regulations for new work permits.

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