Away from home: More Vietnamese leaving for richer countries

By    October 10, 2016 | 11:00 am PT
Away from home: More Vietnamese leaving for richer countries
Vietnamese high school students attend an international education fair in Hanoi on October 26, 2014. The fast-growing number of Vietnamese people leaving the country is also believed to be closely linked to employment and education opportunities overseas. Photo by AFP
Scores of wealthy families, investors have moved overseas.

A foreign bank in Vietnam finds it increasingly difficult to hire local senior managers because there is a growing trend among highly-educated Vietnamese professionals to move their families abroad.

“More young and well-educated Vietnamese see the importance of raising their kids in a clean environment, good heathcare services and high-quality education,” said the bank’s country manager who now prefers recruiting committed employees for long terms.

According to the International Organization for Migration, nearly 100,000 Vietnamese people leave the country each year to live in a more developed nation.

The trend is apparent in the growing number of Vietnamese investors moving overseas and wealthy families deciding to emigrate, despite the higher costs of living, cultural differences, language barrier and complex visa requirements.

But for those with the means to move, all it takes is between $3 million and $7 million of investment to apply for permanent residency in the U.S., according to Chris Loc Dao, chief executive of U.S. Immigration Services company.

He said that over the past 10 years, the company has managed to advise more than 100 Vietnamese individuals on making investments worth a combined $1 billion in the U.S in exchange for green cards.

Unofficial statistics suggest that affluent Vietnamese may have invested between $10 billion and $20 billion a year through immigration programs like the U.S.’s EB5 Immigrant Investor Program.

The fast-growing number of Vietnamese people leaving the country is also believed to be closely linked to employment and education opportunities overseas.

The Ministry of Education and Training reported that 125,000 Vietnamese students went abroad in 2013 for studying, a 15 percent increase from 2012. Over 90 percent of international students of Vietnamese origin are self-funded and the total spending on overseas education amounted to roughly 1 percent of the country’s GDP in 2013.

The U.S., followed by Australia and the U.K., is by far the favorite destination for Vietnamese students. Vietnam now ranks sixth with 28,883 students studying at U.S. colleges and universities, spending nearly $1 billion, according the latest quarterly update published in December 2015 by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The World Bank said in its 2016 fact book on migration and remittances that Vietnam was among the top 10 emigration countries as of 2013, just behind China, the Philippines, Indonesia and Myanmar in the East Asian and Pacific region.

As many as 26 percent of total five million Vietnamese overseas, equal to 1.3 million people, are living in the U.S., according to the World Bank.

Migrant workers

While Vietnam is losing skilled workers to more developed countries, it is also exporting workers who are now responsible for a major source of overseas remittances.

According to the Ministry of Labor, Invalid and Social Affairs, Vietnam has sent about 500,000 Vietnamese to 40 countries and territories. On average, more than 90,000 Vietnamese workers leave the country each year, mainly for labor-intensive and low-skilled jobs overseas. Vietnam's total workforce is around 50 million.

Nguyen Van Hoang, 32, from the northern province of Thai Nguyen, has been working in South Korea for nine years.

“I can send about $1,000 back to my family in Vietnam every month," Hoang said. "In Vietnam, being a high school graduate, I wouldn't be able to earn that much.” He is helping a cousin, the seventh in his family, to fly to South Korea next spring to work. Vietnam's annual average income was around $2,100 last year, according to the World Bank.

Remittances from Vietnamese overseas remain a key source of funds for the country's economy, equivalent to about 8-10 percent of gross domestic product.

More than half of the money comes from the U.S. Vietnamese-Americans sent back home about $7 billion last year and are expected to remit $8 billion this year.

Vietnam recorded roughly $13 billion in overseas remittances last year, slightly up from $12 billion in 2014, according to the World Bank, which ranked Vietnam as the world’s 11th largest remittance recipient country and the third in the East Asian-Pacific region, after China and the Philippines.

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