Tag Archives: immigration

To Visa or Not to Visa

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.

::SIDE NOTE::

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.

::END SIDE NOTE::

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.

::SIDE NOTE::

That “expense” is sometimes as low as about $60, with all the airport fees.

::END SIDE NOTE::

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.

Vietnam Visa on Arrival

One thing that is important to know about Vietnam is that most people will need a visa of some sort to enter the country. That’s right: Just to enter. I’ve heard that if you don’t have yourself sorted before you even check in to your flight, they won’t let you on the plane. Now, this all depends on what nationality you are, so make sure you look up the rules for where you are from. This was the process for me as a Canadian in Korea. Your process may be different. I’m obviously not a lawyer or an expert on immigration, this is just what the process was like for me.

To begin with, my purpose of going to Vietnam is to settle in for a few years and work. However, I don’t have a job yet, so I couldn’t get a work permit. That will, hopefully, be the subject of another post when I am gainfully employed. In the meantime, I need a visa.

After loads of searching around, it looked like what would work best for my situation was a three month tourist “visa on arrival” (VOA). This would let me (as far as I know!) enter Vietnam and give me time to find work. I went with a single entry option, I don’t plan on travelling out of the country in the first three months anyway.

My research took me to a VOA site that other people had previous success with. I filled out my information and paid for the VOA (total $34USD) with my UK Visa card. I immediately received an email from them saying that my payment was successful and a few hours later a message saying my application was in process. By the next day, I had my letter.

The letter you receive is two pages and your name could be on a list with others. This is, apparently, normal. You want to print this as well as the Vietnamese visa application. You’ll need these documents, along with two passport photos (the company’s email said one, but the application form said two, so I brought two and never got one back, so who really knows) and the stamping fee (it was $25USD for my visa) for when you arrive and head to immigration.

I had to show my letter to the booking counter at Incheon before she would check me in. She didn’t look at the application, just the letter.

At the airport in Hanoi, I had to go to the immigration counters. There are two, side by side. The one on the right is the one you will need first. Give that guy your letter, application, and passport. Don’t give him the money. Then wait. I was there 40 minutes when my name was called. I went to the counter on the left, handed that guy my cash, and was handed my passport with the visa in it. No questions asked, none to be answered. It was a very easy process overall.

Visa’d passport in hand, I walked over to the immigration counters. The officer did look at my passport a long time, looked like he was going to say something, but in the end, handed it back without a word. I was with him all of two minutes and nothing was said.

Welcome to Vietnam!

Korean Immigration Update

I only just realised that I didn’t update on the extension of my ARC card with the complication of the new passport.

Turns out the only complications where due to the information I got from immigration.

Now, I’m not saying the hotline lady was wrong, but I didn’t need all the stuff that she thought I needed, and I needed stuff that she didn’t tell me that I needed. Apparently, if a Korean calls, the requirements are different. I dunno why.

In the end, Mr. Money and I went to immigration together. I had to bring my passports (old and new), my ARC card (Side Note: I know technically that “ARC card” is “Alien Registration Card Card”, along the lines of an “ATM Machine” being an “Automated Teller Machine Machine”, but I don’t care. Everyone says “ARC card”, because just saying “ARC” as in “Bring your ARC” sounds hella weird.), and proof that I had my flights out of Korea booked.

That’s right. I needed to bring proof that I was leaving the country, something that the hotline lady failed to tell me.

However, those three things where all I needed to bring. There was a form filled out (Mr. Money did that for me) and then he like… invented? some sort of certificate (as in ‘hand-written’) that I signed (it was in Korean and he doesn’t speak English, so I signed that blind).

That was it. Didn’t cost me any money and the entire time in the immigration office was about 12 minutes. And now my ARC card is sorted until the end of May. Awesome.

One other thing to note: The officer at the immigration office didn’t seem to care one iota that my passport had been updated or whatever. So being beyond the “14 days” that you have to let immigration know that you’ve gotten a new passport isn’t nearly as bad a situation as hotline lady made it sound.

ARC Extensions and New Passports

For my next adventure…

So today I called Korea’s immigration helpline for foreigners on 1345 (3* for English). She was very helpful and I realise that my employer really isn’t.

New Passport

If you get a new passport, you must inform immigration within 14 days. Yikes. I’m beyond that time frame already. First, I didn’t know. I thought you could roam around with both passports. Yes, I know I should have looked into it. Bah. Second, the issue date on my passport is 24 March but I didn’t receive it until 04 April, just six days ago. I didn’t think I had proof of that, but I might… an email from the Consular saying they didn’t send it until 03 April. So I’ll print that and see if it helps. It means I’ve got to go and get all this done this week. Let’s see if I can get Mr. Money on that one.

ARC (Alien Registration Card) Extension

For this, I need a contract extension and to go to immigration. The issue with this one is that I never got a copy of my contract in the first place. I’m not sure what the dates on them are. I think they are much earlier than what I actually worked, in order to avoid having to get an extension last year. So I need to sort that out. In the meantime, I need to try and get a contract extension done and get Mr. Money to immigration. Before Friday.