Visa

In black and white terms, a retiree who plans to live in Vietnam does confront a visa problem.  Vietnam does not issue retirement visas. The government issues tourist visas and long-term stay visas. But these long-term stay visas are only issued to diplomats and officials or for business and employment.

Tourist visas are available for a one-month stay and can be single entry or multiple entry.

What retirees to Vietnam normally do is to extend these tourist visas. The initial visa is for 30 days. Then this visa is extended for an additional three months. This process, although not officially recognised, is then repeated every three months.

Long-term foreign visitors are constantly concerned, however, that one day their renewal request will be refused. This would then require them to leave the country and reapply for a fresh tourist visa.

A business visa requires the sponsorship of a Vietnamese employer or business partner. This visa allows for multiple entries and a stay of up to one year. If you do not have a business partner, employer or other sponsor who can provide you with an entry clearance, you can also apply for a personal business visa for a stay of up to 90 days.

Immigration agents in Vietnam can be used and this does make the process much easier although more expensive. Extensions can be obtained via an agent within Vietnam.

Visas presented no issues to Sam and Rose, the English teachers in Vietnam for a year’s sabbatical from life in Australia. They had three-month visas and had them regularly renewed. They used an agent. Rose advised that it is important not to use photocopies, always bring along original documents.

Howard, who returned to Vietnam in his later years, faced a different situation.  “I am married to a Vietnamese so I am on a ‘no visa’.  I just have to go over to the Provincial capital every three months and get an extension.  I could get permanent residency here if I wanted.  And, I have to report to the police.  But everyone has to report to the police.  Everyone in Vietnam is registered.

“My dealings with the Vietnamese authorities have been very good.  When I go the capital, the officials all know me, they are very friendly, they don’t ask for a bribe and they do the thing for $10, the right price.”

There is no 12-month multiple entry visa available.  Always three or six months.  The only long term visas (12 months plus) are for diplomats and business people with company sponsorship.

Property

Foreigners can now purchase apartments with a maximum lease period of 30 years but they cannot buy land. The reality though is that no-one, not even Vietnamese, can own land in Vietnam. This is because according to the Vietnamese land law, the land in Vietnam “belongs to the people and is managed by the State on behalf of the people”.

However, although the State owns the land of the entire territory, it gives rights to use the land to individuals and entities under specific conditions, commonly called “land use rights.” Land use right certificates are issued. These allow quasi-ownership and are now renewable.

While land itself cannot be owned, Vietnamese law allows full ownership of any real estate attached to the land.

So while foreign individuals could not be granted land use rights, they were allowed to own real estate attached to the land under very strict conditions.

But as always, developers and real estate agents looked for ways around the law.

A typical arrangement to get around the law prior to mid 2015 did involve a foreigner engaging a Vietnamese nominee (a friend or an arranged nominee) to hold the land use rights on his behalf.

The land use right certificate would be issued to the Vietnamese person (the nominee). A private side contract would then be entered into between the expat and the local nominee. Tricky and more than a bit dangerous for the expat if the nominee is less than honest or dies. Like in Bali, this method is NOT legal and any issue that winds up in court left you very exposed.

All that has changed, for the good, as of July 2015.

The new housing rules allow foreigners who hold a visa to own properties outright, both condos and landed properties (houses, town houses, villas).  They can be re-leased, collateralized and inherited with few restrictions.  One important one is that a condo building can NOT have more than 30% foreign ownership. A housing development is more strict allowing only 10% occupancy for foreigners.

Occupancy rates of Grade A properties is at 92% and Grade B at 85%.  In the popular expat area of District 2 three bedroom rents range from $1,500 a month to over $3,500. In other districts rentals can be had for less than $1,000 a month US. The new housing laws have started a building boom with many more units in A and B areas coming on stream in 2018.

 

Da Nang 

Da Nang has emerged as one of Vietnam’s most significant cultural and recreational tourism destinations.  The highway where Hyatt Regency Da Nang Residences resides is a golden coastline that connects directly to the International Airport, three UNESCO Heritage sites and  several premier international golf courses.  The subtle and innovative design creates a luxurious environment synonymous with comfort.  This sophisticated three-bedroom condominium features living area of up to 100 sq. meters and spacious terrace while fronting a flawless, breath taking coastline where homeowners can enjoy a romantic walk on the beach.  See More

Hoi An

World class golf in your backyard. Vietnam’s first golf course designed by the Scottish golfing legend Colin Montgomerie. The Estates of Montgomerie Links offers golf enthusiasts a spectacular lifestyle.  All villa owners share a view of the enchanting Marble Mountain and directly front onto the spectacular 18 hole, 72 par golf course.  With access to countless amenities, including an exclusive clubhouse, gourmet restaurants, tennis courts and spa facilities, villa owners are also close proximity to the rich cultural attractions of the UNESCO World Heritage town of Hoi An and is just steps to the white sands of Non Nuoc.  See More

Lang Co

Nestled on an idyllic bay on Vietnam’s tranquil central coast, Banyan Tree Residences Lang Co is located within Laguna Lang Co, the first and largest world-class integrated resort in Vietnam.  Framed by a 3km beach and lush countryside, this premium destination mirrors the charm of a culturally rich region, and is conveniently located within an hour’s drive from the airports of both Da Nang and Hue.  Perched on an altitude of 25-86 meters above sea level, the elegant Banyan Tree Hill Villas offer breath taking panoramic views over the ocean with soaring mountains as a scenic backdrop.  

Healthcare

Healthcare is improving in Vietnam but not near the quality of Thailand or Malaysia.

‘I couldn’t afford to go to the international clinic (SOS, which is an international medical group operating clinics in 70 countries) ,’ our friend Dan said. ‘I go to a local hospital. Vietnamese doctors are very cheap. I go to Medicoast, (a Vietnamese hospital) down the back beach here, and I get full blood work done for $40.’

Dan said he really needs to give health insurance more attention. ‘I have travel insurance through my credit card but that may not be at all sufficient for a full time resident’

However, he added, ‘It doesn’t cost a lot of money to go to the doctor here.’

Ross is another gentleman we met in Vung Tau. He said, ‘Health is probably one of my biggest concerns. When I first started coming here, I had health insurance and now the price is through the roof because I have pre-existing conditions, including atrial fibrillation.

‘A couple of times I have been concerned about treatment and thought of flying home. I go to the hospital and the doctor can’t explain his findings to me. My wife’s English isn’t that good—she can’t explain what I want to say.

‘But, on the other hand, the doctors are pretty good here. One female Vietnamese doctor I go to was trained in Melbourne—she is based in Ho Chi Minh but comes to Vung Tau occasionally.

‘And services are cheap. I can go to a heart specialist here and get all the necessary tests for $70.’

However, if you are living in a country like Vietnam and have no evacuation or medical insurance and you are over 50, you are flirting with danger. What happens if the local medical service cannot cope with your injuries or illness? You will have to be evacuated by plane to another country. This evacuation costs tens of thousands and then there are the medical costs that will be incurred in Singapore, Bangkok, Australia, or wherever else you may be evacuated to.

All of this points to the need to look into some form of international private health insurance cover.

Cost of Living

Vietnam is cheap, really cheap. Rent is 50-75% cheaper in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) than in Toronto. It costs 75% less to go to a restaurant. Groceries are a third of the cost.

You can eat in a local restaurant for $3. A beer will cost you about $1. And these are the prices in Ho Chi Minh. It is even cheaper in the countryside.

John, a former lawyer, agreed: ‘It’s just so much cheaper here. Sydney is just off the planet when it comes to costs, especially restaurants. Same with Singapore and Hong Kong. That’s why I think a lot of people come here; they quickly realise they can live a lot better, then they make arrangements to stay.’

When Ian first came to Vietnam he stayed in hotels in Vung Tau. ‘In the hotel I had a serviced small suite with a kitchen at $600 a month. Then I found some friends, and worked out the best area to live in. The trouble with living in a hotel is that you end up in the bar each and every night. You have to have a lot of self-discipline here,’ said Ian.

A comfortable three bedroom apartment in central Ho Chi Minh City will cost around $1,000-$1,500 a month to rent, that’s a about 70% cheaper than Toronto at the lower end. Two people can enjoy a meal at a mid-priced restaurant in the city for $15, that’s 80% less than in a major Canadian city.

A taxi home is 76% less and to have a taxi wait is almost 98% less. It costs less than $1 an hour to have a taxi wait.

Internet is 74% less and mobile phone usage costs are almost 90% lower in Vietnam than in Canada or Australia. A retirees pension goes a long way in a country with a cost profile like this.