5 Steps for Moving to Vietnam

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Up until the last decade, Vietnam was seldom thought of as a place for Americans and expats to move when they retired or decided to relocate overseas. Over the years however, it has increasingly become quite the popular place to move. Tourists and new residents alike seem to really enjoy the beautiful coastline as well as the expansive meadows and woodland areas of the country. Vietnam is considered a safe place for expats to live and more and more take advantage of this year after year.

If you want to make the move to Vietnam and need to know when the best time of year to move is, what you should bring with you or how to get your belongings moved quickly and easily, be sure to take a look at the following Vietnam moving tips:

  1. Time the move. Start planning your move at least 1 year ahead of time if that is at all possible. Advance planning will allow you plenty of time to really check out the different areas that you may want to consider moving. It will also give you some time to speak to shippers and get everything coordinated for transport as well as give yourself extra time to save for fees that are associated with moving overseas. You should also know that moving anytime between November and April are going to be the best months for moving to Vietnam. The weather is usually a little cooler and you will find far less rain during these months. Nothing is worse in Vietnam than moving when it is rainy and extremely hot and humid. When you are making the move, be sure to not only take time to get to know the area around you, but also take time to meet your neighbors and get to know them. After all, you may be seeing them frequently so getting to know them could be very beneficial.
  1. Visa and Passport. Unless you are Vietnamese and returning to the country, you are going to need to have a passport as well as a visa before you can move to Vietnam. If you will be staying less than 3 months (90 Days) you may be able to obtain an exemption from having to get a tourist visa as well. For American citizens as well as citizens of other countries, you will need to apply for a resident visa before you can enter the country if you plan to remain as a resident. Diplomats are exempt and will not need a visa as long as their passports show they are a diplomat. For anyone that needs a visa, you really need to apply for one at least a couple months ahead of time because it can take 30 days, and sometimes longer, for the visa to be approved.
  1. Money. Money. There is probably not much that will be as important as having the right kind of money when you get to Vietnam. If you will be staying in a large, national hotel or a tourist destination you will most likely be able to use US dollars. Anywhere else, including grocery stores, retail shops, restaurants and other businesses will need to have the Vietnamese dong to pay for goods and services. Many of the large hotels as well as banks and gold shops will be able to exchange your US money for Vietnamese money. Something that you should definitely keep in mind when it comes to your money is that there are many pick-pockets, especially in the business districts, and you need to have a money clip or money belt that you can wear underneath your clothing so you can keep your money as well as passport, visa and other important paperwork safe from thieves that may target you for your money.
  1. Shipping Your Belongings. This is going to be the most important aspect of getting your personal property and even your personal car to Vietnam. In general, most of your household items can be legally shipped to Vietnam. There are of course restrictions on items that would be deemed fire hazards or illegal such as weapons, drugs and food. You need to know that all motor vehicles that are imported in Vietnam for personal use need to be left-handed driving only and must pass emissions and physical safety inspections. Diplomats are exempt from paying import duties but all others will be required to pay a duty fee of up to 150% of the vehicle value before it will be released by customs. Many people ship motorcycles to Vietnam as they are easy to travel on and have low fuel costs. All motorcycles must have engines that are 125cc or smaller. Anything larger will be denied entry.

The first step to having your vehicle shipped to Vietnam is going to be to hire a reliable international auto transport company that has the experience necessary in transporting automobiles to Vietnam. You need to hire a company that knows the customs regulations of the country and will be able to help you with knowledge about mandatory documents as well as the possible import tariff and other fees that you need to pay. It may be best to ship your personal household goods in the same container as the vehicle if at all possible. If you are only shipping a vehicle and plan to purchase new home goods when you arrive, you may want to ship with RORO shipping instead of with a container.

RORO Shipping is the easiest way to ship a motor vehicle and is the most common way that vehicles are shipped worldwide. It is the least expensive shipping option and vehicles are easily driven onto a flat ship and secured in place for the overseas trip right on the deck. Many people think of RORO ships as large, ocean going ferries that haul motor vehicles.

  1. Customs Regulations. You really need to know as much as possible about customs regulations and what you can, and cannot, bring into the country when you move. If you bring household items in that you will be using in your new home, they will, for the most part, be tax free to import. For importing a car however, you will need to pay tariff’s and import fees and must have the following information to bring the car to Vietnam:
  • Passport
  • Work Permit
  • Household Registration Book (Obtained from the Ministry of Public Security of Vietnam)
  • A Visa that is for no less than 3 months
  • Original Vehicle Title
  • Original Vehicle Registration

You also need to file an application form to import the car to Vietnam and obtain an import license. Customs agents will need to see the Bill of Lading and you will need to file a customs declaration to import the vehicle. All motor vehicle owners importing a vehicle must pay a 50% tax which is based on the value of the car at the time it is imported. If the person has diplomat status they are exempt from paying import taxes.

After the vehicle has been cleared with customs and is once again in your possession, you will have 3 business days to apply to transfer the registration to a Vietnam registration. This means that the vehicle will need to undergo safety testing to make sure it is street legal in Vietnam and that the car passes all environmental testing. Once this is complete you will need to obtain auto insurance and take your insurance proof as well as your visa and work permit, passport and registration and the certificate showing that your car passed the inspection to the local customs office.

As long as everything checks out right with the inspection and other necessary paperwork, you will be given a temporary license tag that will be valid for 20 days until your new Vietnamese plate comes in the mail.

As an expat living in Vietnam you will not be able to purchase land for your new home, but you will be able to purchase a 50-year lease for land where you will be legally able to build a home. Try not to rush things when you arrive at your new home. Getting to know people as well as local shops, restaurants and places to go for entertainment will take time. Be sure to move to a location that has an internet connection or locate a local business that offers internet to guests. You will really want to make good use of applications such as Skype to keep in touch with family and friends from back home. Staying in touch will not only help keep you from getting homesick but it will also help you make the transition to Vietnam go smoothly.


by Angela Caito

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This entry was posted in Exploring Saigon, Guest Post. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to 5 Steps for Moving to Vietnam

  1. Beth says:

    I’m currently waiting on paperwork. I’d include getting all the proper paperwork on that list. It’s crazy, the most I’ve needed for any country I’ve worked in.

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