There are two ways (that I know of) if you are teaching in Vietnam: With or without the right paperwork.
You can come here with a tourist visa (as I did) to look for work. That visa is good for three months and you *can* work on it, but only for the three months. When your time is up, you are meant to move on. However, there are loads of people here who follow the letter of the law and not the spirit… they leave every three months and return on another tourist visa to continue working in small centers or teaching private lessons. It’s a grey area, and some people have been busted for it. But there are loads working this way.
Why would you choose to work this way?
Well, there are a few reasons.
First of all, I’m sure there are a lot of people here that are teaching without the credentials that Vietnam requires in order for you to sort your paperwork. You need to be from a country where English is the first language, a university degree from one of those countries, a TEFL or CELTA certificate (or equivalent – and with the TEFL you need an in-class component or they may not accept it) and a clean criminal record check.
Also, there is a lot of freedom working this way. You can make your own schedule and take time off from it just by dropping classes or arranging cover. You aren’t bound to one school, program, or location. You also end up making more money because you don’t pay taxes… a reason why the government really doesn’t want you working this way!
It is also VERY easy to find this kind of work. Hell, we were in our local supermarket and a lady came up to offer us work. We only didn’t take the job because she was only offering $17 an hour.
Yah, “only”. If you are fully certified up, like we are, getting $20-25+ an hour is the average. The money here for foreign teachers is sincerely excellent. To the point where you may feel guilty, as the salaries for the Vietnamese is not nearly as good. Not even close.
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The other option is to go legit. If you have the paperwork you need, there are plenty of established companies that will help you (although rarely financially) with getting your residency and what-not.
Why go legit if it ties you to one company and ends up potentially being less money thanks to taxes?
Well, for us, not getting deported was key. I’d like to be all honourable and shit and say that it is because we want to be legal and pay taxes and stuff, but that would be a lie. Because we have our cats, and they will be difficult to get out of Vietnam, it would be disastrous if we got turned away at the border trying to re-enter on yet another three month tourist visa. We couldn’t risk it, so we both looked for (and found!) jobs that would help us get the right paperwork.
Even if we didn’t have the cats, we didn’t want the expense of having to fly to Bangkok or whatever every three months.
That “expense” is sometimes as low as about $60, with all the airport fees.
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More importantly than the expense of the visa run (which is actually more than just the flight – you also need a visa letter and stamp fees, as well as transport to the airport, and then there is all the shopping I would do in Thailand, etc), there is the stress. You need to sort the visa letter. Depending on your schedule, you may need to arrange cover for your classes. And, of course, there is the increased risk of incident if you are flying so frequently. If you worry about that kind of thing. We just didn’t want the headache every three flipping months. We are looking to be (or at least feel) a little more settled than that.
I’m not condemning the pop-in / pop-out lifestyle of working here. I think for many it is the only option, and for others the most suitable option. For us, we just didn’t want the hassle or stress. In the end, you have to choose what is right for you.