20 Laws Every Expat in Vietnam Needs To Know

By: Sivaraj Pragasm

Every country has its own sets of laws and regulations, and while most of them are there to ensure the country doesn’t descend into chaos, there are some laws that are highly questionable. Vietnam is no exception to this, with some laws that are similar to most other countries in the world, but also a select few that may seem strange to some.

Laws Every Expat in Vietnam

Before we delve into this, take note that Vietnamese society operates on the Confucian concept of ‘Asian values’ and some of these laws run parallel with this ideology. So what may seem strange to an American or European may be very normal to an Asian. With that in mind, let’s move on to the list.

1. Register Yourself!

Whether you’re an expat or just a tourist, as long as you’re a foreign citizen, you are required to register with the local police when you move into a residence. As a tourist, your hotel/hostel usually takes care of this for you. (That is why they ask for your passport.) But for expats who are here for the long haul, your landlord is required to do it. Why? Simply so they know you live in that place and that you’re accounted for.

Also, stay out of trouble. If you’re the only foreigner in the neighbourhood, you’ll stick out like a lighthouse in a dark sea in the middle of the night.

2. Having More Than Two People on a Bike

More than 2 people on a bike

This should be more of a common sense entry than anything, but if you’re walking down the street and see a motorbike with an entire family of four (and their dog) on it, it is illegal. According to Vietnamese law (and common sense), it is illegal to have more than two people sitting on a bike. Plus, you also need a licence to be able to drive or ride a bike on the road, just like in every other country in the world.

3. Stay Away from Funky Balls

Nitrous oxide, or N2O, should only be allowed to be traded and produced for industrial production and not to be licensed for human use, the ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

The ministry said N2O was not included in the list of banned and restricted chemicals for medical use. At the same time, it was yet to receive any registration for drug or medical equipment that required this gas.

Nitrous oxide is capable of inducing feelings of euphoria due to its impact on the neurological system, and so can be used as a recreational stimulant. But overuse may lead to memory or sleep disorders and a tingly sensation at the extremities, among other effects.

At the moment, nitrous oxide is still listed as a chemical regulated by the Ministry of Industry and Trade with practical applications as an anesthesia in medicine among its uses. Violating regulations relating to its production or sale could result in fines of VND12-25 million ($515-1,070).

4. You Actually Need a Work Permit...to Work

law in vietnam

Contrary to popular belief, it’s actually technically illegal to work in Vietnam on a tourist visa. You’ll need a full-fledged work permit if you’re a foreign employee, and the maximum validity of one is two years. The work permit is usually handled by the company that hires you. To aid your application, you’ll need a degree, a letter of referral from a respected company, proven experience in your field and a valid health check.

5. You Need Money for a License to Start a Business

Of course that goes without saying for all businesses, but we’re not just talking about start-up capital here. According to Vietnamese law, you will need at least US$30,000 in the bank before you can get a license to start your own business.

law in vietnam

Now this will be a major issue for start-ups and online retailers who don’t need so much money to begin with, but that’s just the way it is here. Of course, there are some who start their business before registering and then pay once they have that amount sorted out, but this is playing with fire. All it takes is a jealous business rival and you’re in trouble.

When planning your business, it’s highly recommended to make sure you are in contact with a lawyer well-versed with Vietnamese law who can advise you on what to do and, if possible, speak to a CEO in the same field about his/her experience. For more helpful information, check out this site.

6. You Can Buy Property but Not Land

Ever dreamt of buying a nice plot of land to build a house, or a three-storey mansion so you can sit on your verandah sipping wine and reflecting on life? You can’t do it here.

Buying in Vietnam

According to Vietnamese law, you can buy a house but not the land. So you can still live that dream to buy a house, or a mansion, but the land wouldn’t belong to you and you will have to lease it. Land leases in Vietnam last a maximum of 50 years, after which you can renew the lease without the rent being increased. So yes, you can own the property as long as you lease the land but you can’t own the land.

7. It’s Illegal to Overwork Yourself

According to Vietnam’s Labour Code introduced in 2013, you are officially not allowed to work for one employer for more than 48 hours a week. This amounts to a maximum of 8 hours a day, or if you don’t work everyday, a maximum of 10 hours a day without being paid overtime.

If you are reading this now at 8:00 p.m. on a weekday on your office desktop, there’s a high chance you’re breaking the law. In other words, you should go home now.

8. Yes, the Legal Drinking Age Is 18

Drinking in Vietnam

This entry was made to clear any confusion about the legal drinking age in Vietnam. Yes, it is 18.

9. Know Your Probationary Period

Speaking of work, if you have just taken up a new job, your probationary period cannot exceed 30 days of employment with a position that requires professional or vocational qualifications and 60 days of employment with a position that requires a college-level qualification or above and just six days for all other cases.

You will be paid a minimum of 85 percent of that position’s official wage, so if you’re reading this and realise you’re being shortchanged at your current job, you know what to do!

10. You’re Not Allowed to Gamble

Gambling in Vietnam

Gambling, except in government licensed casinos, is illegal in Vietnam. Anyone found to be in violation of this law is subject to steep fines and/or a severe prison sentence. Access to licensed casinos is restricted to holders of foreign passports.

Alternatively, you could use that money for other not-so-illegal things.

11. Don’t Bring Your Pornography Over

It is illegal to import pornographic materials into Vietnam as pornography itself, including the production, distribution and possession, are all illegal in this country. Enforcement of this law really depends on your luck and the punishment varies between fines and detention. To be on the safe side, it’s better not to be walking around lugging DVDs of the dubious variety. The rationale behind this law is that pornography harms traditional Vietnamese values.

Laws Every Expat in Vietnam

12. You’re Not Allowed to Export Antiques

Fancy that vase that you saw in Da Nang that has been around for about 200 years? Bad news: you can’t bring it back home. Well, not unless you get a permit from the Ministry of Culture. It is illegal to export antiques from Vietnam without a permit, so your best course of action is to speak to the ministry to get further advice on what you can do if you really like that vase and can already picture it in your living room back home.

13. Don’t Do Drugs, Not Even in Vietnam

There seems to be a rather relaxed and nonchalant attitude about drug usage in Vietnam. After all, it’s not uncommon to catch a whiff of marijuana smoke wafting in the neighbourhood. But don’t be fooled – penalties for drug offences in Vietnam are severe!

Drugs in Vietnam

Under the Vietnamese penal code, a person caught in possession of even a small amount of heroin can be sentenced to death. There are actually foreigners in prison now serving life sentences or facing the death penalty for drug trafficking, and Vietnamese authorities have tightened their stand recently against drug-related offences.

14. Prostitution Is Illegal

This might surprise a number of you, but prostitution is actually illegal in Vietnam! It’s very common to see ladies of the night canvassing for customers, though – usually male tourists walking alone – and sometimes you’ll get the occasional shady-looking middle-aged man on a bike asking you if you want a massage. Yes, all those are illegal and chargeable offences.

On a more serious note, the Government is trying to crack down on sex-trafficking, especially when it involves the underaged. Although it will take time to eradicate this due to the numerous syndicates around, it is still a work in progress.

On a side note, I’ve discovered a simple trick to brush away those pesky bikers who keep harassing me for a massage – just yell “I’m gay” and watch them scoot off into the night immediately. You’re welcome.

15. Maternity Leave Entitlements

If you become pregnant, you are entitled to up to six months of maternity leave, with two of these months marked as compulsory. You will get 100 percent of your salary paid during that time and if you are carrying more than one baby, you are entitled to take an extra month of leave per child.

Maternity leave

Imagine having quadruplets – you’re pretty much not going to the office for almost a year.

16. No Drugs, No Weapons, No… Used Car Parts

There exists a list of prohibited items that you should avoid bringing into the country. Some are straightforward like drugs and pornography, like I mentioned earlier, but there are also some other additions to that list, and some are strange.

For example, no weapons, ammunition and explosive materials; no military equipment; no reactionary and “depraved” cultural products which could include T-shirts with a beer brand’s logo on it; no fireworks; no second-hand consumer goods (yes, apparently); no second-hand electrical and electronic household appliances; no goods that can cause environmental damage; no second-hand spare parts; no waste and disposable materials; no money amounting to more than US$5,000 without declaration; and, my personal favourite: no children’s toys that can detrimentally influence a child’s personality, education, social order, safety or disturb the peace.

However, you are allowed to bring no more than 400 cigarettes, no more than 100 cigars, no more than 500 grammes of tobacco, no more than 1.5 litres of liquor at 22 percent of volume and above (spirits) and no more than 2 litres of liquor below 22 percent volume (beers and wine). So it’s not all that bad, I guess.

17. Be Careful What You Shoot

For those of you into photography, or just like taking pictures in general, do take note that photography of, or near, military installations is generally prohibited. You might get your camera confiscated and be subjected to some serious questioning. Also, why would you be taking pictures of military installations in the first place?

Shooting in Vietnam

Another big no-no is taking pictures during demonstrations. If you’re taking a picture of a non-state sanctioned event, you’re unwittingly putting yourself into a situation of being part of the demonstration which can get you in serious trouble, especially if you’re a foreigner; we’re looking at potential detention or deportation. So just stay away from demonstrations, let alone take pictures of one.

18. Things to Not Bring on Your Way Out

Now that you know what not to bring in, here’s what you can’t bring out of Vietnam: weapons, ammunition, explosive materials, military techniques equipment and effects; antiques; drugs of all kinds; toxic chemicals; wood, logs, timber, preliminary processed wood of all kinds; rotten materials (why would you even?); wild, or precious, and rare animals and plants; and money amounting to more than US$5,000 without declaring it.

19. Legal Age for Marriage Is…

Twenty for men and eighteen for women. Of course this information was added just in case…

laws in vietnam

20. Don’t Linger Too Close to the Border

Earlier I mentioned that you’re not allowed to hang around near military installations. This law also applies to an area that is close to the border. If you’re planning to visit a village, commune or ward that is close to one, you may need to get permission from the provincial police department. Also always ensure that you have an ID with a photograph of you. This is not a suggestion, it’s an actual law.

So there you have it – 20 Vietnamese laws that every foreigner in this country should know. Always remember to err on the side of caution when dealing with any of these issues. There have been cases where foreigners got detained and their passports confiscated, and prisons in Vietnam aren’t exactly the best environment for one’s physical or mental well-being. So stay safe and stay out of unnecessary trouble.

Banner Image source: chiasemeohay.com


Gateway Thao Dien: Raising the Bar for Luxury

By: Aleksandr Smechov

Gateway Thao Dien is Ho Chi Minh City’s answer to high-end, exclusive living

Investors may be surprised by the level of commitment Gateway Thao Dien has shown. It seems delays and misinformation are common complaints for anyone investing in property in Ho Chi Minh City. Luckily, Gateway Thao Dien has delivered on its word, and even provided added value for its investors - something rarely seen in the local real estate market. There are four ways Gateway Thao Dien has kept its commitment to its demanding home buyers.

On Point and On Time

To date, Gateway Thao Dien has reached all of its milestones on time. Construction has been carried out in a timely manner. From the beginning of October, the status of the project has been going along smoothly: Tower A (The Aspen) and Tower B (The Madison) are expected to complete level 20 and 22, respectively, this November. This means the projects is on track for its expected completion of date of the last quarter of 2017.

World-Class Partners

Backing Gateway Thao Dien are a number of highly reputable contractors and suppliers. These companies all have outstanding track records, and were carefully chosen for their professionalism. Gateway Thao Dien put much effort into acquiring the support of these partners - and buyers can clearly see the results in the quality of the residential complexes, the timely execution, and the customer support given throughout.

Cofico: Since 1975, Cofico has been renowned as one of the leading contractors for both civil and industrial projects in Vietnam. Honored to be appointed as the main contractor for Gateway Thao Dien, the team at Cofico is making every endeavor to satisfy the developer’s requirements for progress, quality and safety. The company’s brand name will act as a guarantor for the construction quality of the project.

Mace: In charge of construction management and supervision of the Gateway Thao Dien project, the Mace Group is a global consulting and construction firm employing 4,600 people across 70 countries. Their management and supervisory team are actively ensuring that the high quality products selected by Gateway Thao Dien are given the proper level of treatment during installation.

Searefico: This company is responsible for providing Gateway Thao Dien with integrated mechanical and electric solutions, as well as equipping the project with modern, high quality products and utilities. Lifts have been installed from world-renowned Swiss elevator company, Schneider; Daikin air-conditioners and Mitsubishi generators have also been added to ensure quality airflow and uninterrupted power. Using Building Information Modeling (BIM), SEAREFICO helps minimise problems in the construction process, ensuring quality installation and quicker progress.

Arup: Known for their intelligent, sustainable structural design, among other high-quality services, Arup is an international firm with 13,000 staff across 42 countries. They have been responsible for some of the world’s most famous structures. They have assisted Gateway Thao Dien with the tower blocks’ structural design, as well as the project’s penthouse floors. Gateway Thao Dien is one of the tallest residential buildings in HCMC, and Arup ensures all the buyers this will be one of the safest places to stay, in terms of structure.

Eurowindow: High-end windows are supplied by Eurowindow. The high-tempered glass is soundproofed up to 40bB, with powder-coated aluminum frames. Complying with AAMA2604 standards, Eurowindow will offer a 20 year warranty for all of its products.

A Surprise Upgrade

Buyers will be delighted to know Gateway Thao Dien’s developers have upgraded many of the appliances that were initially agreed upon. In particular, most bathroom appliances from Kohler and Toto have been promoted to Duravit and Hansgrohe. Teka kitchen appliances have been upgraded to the German Bosch brand. Digital door locks have been changed from Samsung/Yale to Häfele from Germany. Entrance and internal doors will be provided by Sunwood, with the same specifications as for their Marina One project, one of the most luxurious multi-purpose high-rises being built in Singapore.

Steep Rise in Property Value

Metro Line 1 (Ben Thanh to Suoi Tien) is the first metro line in HCMC, with a total span 19.7km and a budget of US$2.49 billion. After the development of Line 1’s master plan, numerous projects began to spring up in the vicinity of the train line. As Line 1’s construction nears completion, property values will rise for anything in the line’s vicinity - that includes Gateway Thao Dien, which is right by the metro.

Contact information:

Website: www.gatewaythaodien.com.vn

Hotline: +84 9 3205 7979

Addresss: Gateway Thao Dien Sales Gallery, 53 - 55 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, D3


Ibis Saigon Airport: A New Flagship for AccorHotels in Vietnam

By: Arik Jahn

The First International Brand to Open an Airport Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam — With an electrifying event, ibis Saigon Airport, AccorHotels’ brand-new hotel sitting right next to Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport, celebrated its grand opening on 24 March 2017. Ibis Saigon Airport is the latest addition to AccorHotels’ vast hospitality network in Vietnam.

Ibis hotel

Over a hundred guests, including Ho Chi Minh City officials, representatives from AccorHotels and the hotel’s owner company Hado Group attended the event, which paid tribute to ibis Saigon Airport with an opulent buffet, contemporary dance performances and a rooftop party.

“A Milestone for the ibis Brand”

The ibis Saigon Airport’s major asset is its strategic position: a mere 500 metres from Tan Son Nhat International Airport, the gateway to Ho Chi Minh City and all of Vietnam. Xavier Cappelut, Accor’s regional Director of Operations for Middle Scale & Economic Brand Hotels, praised the hotel as “a significant milestone for the ibis brand” thanks to its one-of-a-kind location.

Ibis Saigon Airport is a haven of hospitality tailored to corporate travellers and all those looking for “Value for Money”. With its functional and stylish travel-themed design and an outstanding 24-hour food and beverage service at the in-house Oopen restaurant, this hotel truly honours ibis’ slogan, “Well-being at the best price”.

ibis

As the first international airport hotel in Ho Chi Minh City, ibis Saigon Airport goes beyond the usual amenities of the economy sector. Its room typology – standard rooms, family rooms, studios, as well as one and two-bedroom apartments – is unrivalled in the budget segment, catering to the individual needs of each and every guest, from corporate clients to travelling families, from short-stay to long-stay visitors.

INTERVIEW WITH ORESTE TRAETTO, GENERAL MANAGER, IBIS SAIGON AIRPORT

Question: What makes ibis Saigon Airport the first choice for business travellers in Ho Chi Minh City?

Mr. Traetto: Our hotel is strategically tailored to business travellers. Our Oopen restaurant is open 24 hours and we are the only international hotel chain offering a breakfast service from 4 o’clock in the morning until 12 o’clock [in the afternoon]. So if you have an early flight to catch, you will be able to grab some food, get a coffee, hop on our free shuttle to the airport and you’ll be there in five minutes.

ibis oopen

Or imagine you are a businessperson, and had a hard working day. At ibis Saigon Airport, we provide you with all the facilities to truly reenergise you. What is very important to us is the ibis ‘sweet bed’ that can give you a really good rest. We have incredibly good feedback from our clients about it. And all that, I believe, shows how we really cater to the customers’ needs.

Question: You are very proud of ibis Saigon Airport’s in-house venues. Can you tell me a bit more about them?

Mr. Traetto: Today, travellers, even though they stay for a short amount of time, they want to optimise their stay. Now, with The Hub, ibis Saigon Airport has the only rooftop bar in  Tan Binh District. When you finish your work, you go upstairs, get a beer and enjoy the view of landing airplanes. We have a pool, we have a steam bath, we have a sauna, we have a gym – this is definitely what gives us the opportunity to attract a specific segment of clients. We provide our guests with a place to relax.

We are, if I may say so, part of the new generation of ibis hotels.

ibis hotel view

INTERVIEW WITH XAVIER CAPPELUT, DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS FOR MIDDLE SCALE & ECONOMIC BRAND HOTELS, ACCORHOTELS

Question: AccorHotels is home to many brands. Why did you choose the ibis brand for this particular project?

Mr. Cappelut: I think this is a very unique location. The guests who choose to stay close to the airport have very specific needs. They might be in transit for a few hours, they might be spending their last night in Vietnam after a trip. We believe the level of comfort provided by ibis is just the right amount for these specific customers.

And the beauty of a brand like ibis is: you can travel anywhere in the world, you will find the same layout, the same service, the same comfort. Guests choose ibis because they know exactly what they can expect. That’s a guarantee that we provide to our customers. And they appreciate it.

Question: Vietnam is a country with an immense potential for tourism. How does ibis Saigon Airport serve this very particular market?

Mr. Cappelut: Vietnam is very important to us as a group. We, AccorHotels, have been in Vietnam since 1991. Back then, we were the only international hospitality company in Vietnam. That shows how committed we are to Vietnam as a business location.

And today, this country is developing at a dizzying pace. Last year, there was a 26% increase of international visitors and a 9% growth in the domestic market in Vietnam.These are incredible numbers.

And of course, we try to attract Vietnam’s domestic guests. The ibis brand perfectly caters to them because it is a functional, but full-service product that offers “Value for Money”.

Ibis Saigon Airport is quite simply the right product in the right place at the right time. And it is highly visible. In fact, we couldn’t be more visible than here at the airport. In that sense, ibis Saigon Airport is Accor’s flagship in Vietnam.

ibis hotel room

AccorHotels’ journey in Vietnam is far from over. In the next two years, the group plans to open another 12 hotels all over the country, which will bring its total portfolio to 36. But thanks to its eminent location next to one of Vietnam’s most important travel hubs and its many amenities, ibis Saigon Airport is undoubtedly a go-to for all Ho Chi Minh City-bound travellers.

 


Designing a Luxury Hotel with KAZE Interior Design Studio

By: Katie Kinnon & Molly Headley

Create a concept; mood and function first

Planning a project at KAZE Interior Design Studio, District 2

How to Create Comfort in KAZE Interior Design Studio’s Projects

The Finished Interior Design Project

Creating an Interior Design Concept in Vietnam

What do you want to feel when you walk into a top hotel? This is one of the first questions that the team at KAZE Interior Design Studio asks themselves when they start creating interior design and architectural concept for a new project. Is the hotel meant to create a mood of bespoke luxury or minimal tranquility? Who are the expected guests and how will the lighting, furnishings, flooring and colour scheme transport them?

A hotel is, after all, part of a journey, a place to get away, whether for business or pleasure. A good interior design studio creates that journey from the first sketch to the moment that the final piece of artwork is placed on the wall.

KAZE Interior Design Studio

KAZE Interior Design Studio in Ho Chi Minh City is the leader in luxury interior design in Vietnam and Cambodia. In addition to a broad design portfolio including residential, food and beverage establishments, and office spaces, the studio has taken on massive hospitality projects, which have brought numerous awards to the studio. Vinpearl Resort & Spa Long Beach in Nha Trang, Renaissance Riverside Hotel in Saigon and Courtyard by Marriott Phnom Penh are a few notable names on a list of more than 100 projects.

Fong-Chan Paw Zeuthen, Founder of KAZE Interior Design Studio, was brought up and educated in Denmark where, she explained, the design approach is very different to that of Vietnam. For a hotel designed for a Vietnamese market, she said that she would avoid using too minimalistic of an approach because the clientele would feel like something was missing. Instead, she tries to give finished projects a Vietnamese flair that local clientele will also enjoy.

First Steps in the Design Process at KAZE Interior Design Studio in HCMC

The Client Brief

Fong-Chan explains that with her years of experience she has come to quickly understand her clients psychologically and often knows what they want more than they do. She will offer recommendations on how the concept can be improved after receiving the brief. Fong-Chan will then return to the KAZE headquarters where the whole team will sit around the large table in the meeting room and discuss how to implement the project, always focusing on a “function first” approach. This approach means that aesthetics are only considered once space’s use is decided upon.

KAZE Interior Design Studio

The Planning Process

This is when the ideas go from the brainstorming phase to reality. The office becomes a hive of energy as project designers sketch plans and junior designers figure out how to create the right ambiance. Fong-Chan explains that her team is passionate about what they do and that’s why KAZE is a success. “Being a good designer comes from inside, you put your heart and soul into things you care about”, she reiterates.

Fong-Chan states there are four parts to every project, the statement of purpose, layout, ambiance, and storyboard. When executed correctly, interior design can make people feel a certain way. For example, the purpose of a reception area in a hotel is to welcome guests and so the way furniture is positioned, the brightness of lights and even the scent (which are often created specifically for the brand) create an ambiance of warmth, comfort and relaxation.

KAZE Interior Design Studio

3D renderings are essential for each project. They need to be self-explanatory and easy to understand. However, they can be difficult to get right due to the level of precision needed. It can be hard even for good designers to see things in 3D. A designer needs to be able to describe what the space will look like down to the tiniest detail, like where a coat hook will go. This helps to create a full picture of how everything will be pieced together. The 3D renderings are literally the map that will be used to build the project; therefore, nothing should go into the rendering that cannot be created in reality.

How to Create Comfort and Beauty; The Vietnam Hotel Design Challenge

Every designer has a different way to approach a design. Fong-Chan tries to use a modern holistic approach when she designs any space. This is especially important when it comes to a project like a hotel where the success of the project is tied directly to how guests feel when they are within the space. Her design projects focus on what makes people feel good, using psychological experiences rather than just aesthetics.

Designers need to work out the proportions of the room as well as what will be in it so that when it is built an individual can walk around a room without bumping into anything. The team also research how people will interact with the space, ensuring it is ergonomically friendly in every detail. For example, if a guest wants to flick on the lights, where should the light switch be? If it is at the right height and in an intuitive location then the designer can choose a subtle design so that the switch doesn’t ruin the aesthetic of the wall design. If the switch is too hidden and in the wrong place, guests won’t care about the beauty of the design, they will be too caught up in their feelings of frustration. Some designers get so caught up in their vision that they create functionality problems that will end up marring the hotel’s TripAdvisor page with bad reviews based around comfort, soundproofing, and the user experience.

KAZE Interior Design Studio

KAZE interior design studio puts a lot of love and care into the materials they use. The way Fong-Chan describes her process is akin to that of a chef creating their favorite dish. She becomes excited when speaking about why wood is used in one instance, but plastic is used in another and the different finishes that are available for each material. It is important for Fong-Chan to use local materials because construction workers know how to work with them and look after them properly. This also helps the project’s sustainability as expensive materials don’t need to be imported.

Completing a Hotel Interior Design Project in Vietnam

Fong-Chan explains that KAZE only works with people they know and trust. From construction workers to cleaners “when people have a good relationship with each other they will go the extra mile.” This is important because the biggest hurdle to completing an interior design project is to meet final deadlines.

KAZE Interior Design Studio

During the construction process, KAZE interior design studio office often goes into a frenzy of activity, with project plans and Gantt (production timeline) charts being thrown into the bin and new ones being created. Sometimes, Fong-Chan admits, the end of a project can feel like an unattainable dream. However, when the hotel or resort is finally finished and Fong-Chan walks through the completed space with the client, she always feels a sense of pride at what the team at KAZE Interior Design Studio has achieved.

Image source: KAZE Interior Design Studio


The Foreign Investor Guide to Real Estate in HCMC

By: Eric Le Dreau

Are you a foreign investor and want to know about real estate laws in HCMC? Confused by the new Property Law? Indochina Legal clears up the confusion:

One of the most notable changes introduced by Vietnam’s new 2014 property law and its regulations is the revision of the right for overseas Vietnamese, foreign individuals and organisations to own residential houses, as follows:

Overseas Vietnamese (or Viet Kieus) can now own residential houses in the same way as Vietnamese citizens without further residency requirements or any limitations on the type or quantity of houses, or the terms of ownership. They must hold a valid passport with an entry verification stamp marked by the Vietnamese Immigration Department (VID) and a document evidencing their Vietnamese origin.

Foreign individuals have the right to own residential houses, subject to certain restrictions as compared to Vietnamese citizens and Viet Kieus. In order to own houses, a foreigner is required to have a valid passport with an entry verification stamp marked by the VID and cannot fall under diplomatic or consulate preferences and immunities. Requirements of residency, investment in Vietnam, work permit, social contribution and/or marriage to a local Vietnamese is not necessary for residential housing ownership. However, as to ownership duration, foreigners married to Vietnamese citizens or to Viet Kieus are entitled to an indefinite term, whereas foreigners who are not can only own residential housing for a period of 50 years. This can be extended for another 50 years, subject to approval by the provincial People’s Committee where the house is located. Unlike other foreigners, those who are married to Vietnamese citizens are also exempt from notifying the housing administration authority at the district level prior to leasing their houses to others. Apart from that, the new legal framework grants foreigners the same rights of Vietnamese in the cases of subleases, mortgages, etc. of residential housing.

real estate in hcmc

Photo by: Manh Hai

Foreign organisations are allowed to own houses provided that (i) ownership term shall not exceed the period stated in their investment certificates issued by Vietnamese competent authorities, including any extensions; (ii) use of the houses is for residential purposes only, for their personnel; and (iii) lease-out of the houses is not permitted.

It is worth noting that foreign organisations and individuals shall not collectively own more than 30% of the total number of apartments in an apartment building or not more than 250 separate houses in an area where population is equivalent to that of a ward. In addition, house ownership beyond real estate projects (e.g. a villa built by individuals) is not allowed. For national defense and public security purposes, foreign individuals and organisations cannot own houses in certain areas. With respect to these limitations, the local Department of Construction will publish on their official website the projects where foreigners cannot own houses, detailed numbers of apartments or separate houses eligible for foreign ownership, and the number of houses where foreign ownership has been recorded. To our understanding, the database is not yet completely developed for all cities and provinces in Vietnam. Meanwhile, payment for purchase or lease of residential houses shall be made via credit institutions operated in Vietnam. So far there has been no specific instruction on foreign exchange control for relevant inbound and outbound foreign funding of residential housing.

Despite certain remaining limitations, the NHL has provided a more open approach to ownership of residential housing for foreigners. The hope is that these changes will ultimately defreeze the real estate market and create a new wave of foreign investment in Vietnam.

Website: www.indochinalegal.com


Can Vietnam Ever Become Green?

By: Michael Sieburg

Citypassguide.com met with Solidiance’s Michael Sieburg to determine whether Vietnam, and in particular HCMC, can ever become truly green. Here is the transcript of Michael’s comments:

Solidiance is a consulting firm that works with clients across industries. There are three industries we focus on. One is simply called industrial, which includes construction, chemicals, and all that. That’s the core of what we do. Then there is healthcare, especially in Vietnam. And what we call technology. In total we have 12 offices across Asia.

Within the industrial stuff we do, our research in green tech and buildings are really driven by two things: our personal interest and by our belief that this is where the country is going. We think Southeast Asian countries will be using these technologies more and more - green cities, clean cities, however you want to describe them. Our CEO is personally interested in this. He’s doing an online course with Harvard University to learn more about this subject. I don’t know when he sleeps. “When there is that mismatch of the developer and the user of the building, it can be harder to make it green because the immediate incentive is not there”

We are also a consulting company - we have clients who want to be where our other clients are - large multi-nationals. These companies are at the forefront of developing more efficient air conditioners, elevators, eco-friendly paint, smart grid technology, electric cars and batteries. Our clients are often innovating and making these technologies, and part of these projects involves green building output. They want to sell their products and part of their line is more energy efficient stuff.

School of The Art - Singapore

Most of the certified green buildings in Vietnam have been factories. And it’s not like there are thousands of green factories, but they are the biggest component, and I think part of it is that when you’re a company developing a factory, you’re also using that factory and they consume a lot of energy. It makes sense to find ways to save on that, even though electricity prices are low here, for now. A lot of these companies also have global standards that they must adhere to. “Our research in green tech and buildings are really driven by two things: our personal interest and by our belief that this is where the country is going”

One of the biggest factors in pushing green building practices is electricty prices. The government is currently subsidizing, which won’t go on forever. I think it needs to be balanced with low-income residents. For example, energy prices in Cambodia and the Philippines are high. And that hurts manufacturing investment there. Once electricty prices rise, there is a point when wind power become profitable, and at some point (economists figure out this point) you see further adoption of energy efficient machinery.

Calling for a country to raise electricity prices where many people cannot afford it is a difficult thing to do, which is why the government treads slowly.

Green Building - France

The cost of making a building is a bit more expensive - how much? That depends on what you’re doing. I think the real issue in buildings going green is when property developers create buildings for somebody else. The developer’s incentive is to keep costs down and cut corners where they can, because operating costs are somebody else’s problem.

When there is that mismatch of the developer and the user of the building, it can be harder to make it green because the immediate incentive is not there. You can argue that there is an incentive that you price the units higher when you sell them - President’s Place proved that correct.

Vertical gardens at Parkroyal, located in the heart of Singapore's Central Business District. Photo credit: Straits Times

At the moment there are not really well-defined mandates in Vietnam. In Singapore there are mandates - any new building must meet green standards. Everything here is left up to the developer, if they want to build green or not. If you talk to the architects around here, the younger generation is getting it, but not yet necessarily at all levels. What you do see here is that a building might not be certified green, but the water heaters are solar. There is a move towards that. A lot of hotels are doing that - they probably have some hybrid electric-solar water heater when it’s not a sunny day, but as a way to save electricity costs. “The younger generation is getting it, but not yet necessarily at all levels.”

So factories also have that. The biggest solar plant in Vietnam at the moment is Intel’s factory, which is saying something. Vietnam is a sunny place; you can’t run the whole country on solar, but is there a gap between what there is and what there could be? Definitely.

Green Building - China

Young people are interested in sustainable development, which is good to see. Saigon in some ways doesn’t have to follow the same practices as other countries - they have the luxury of learning from others’ mistakes, one would hope.


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