Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Most expats, foreign visitors and also some affluent Vietnamese will sooner or later find themselves in a situation where they need to transfer money abroad for whatever reasons. For their first time, they will face a wall in their banker’s denial to make the transfer. The main reasons provided range from:
- an abrupt ‘No’ (to transfer your own money), without any reason
- Maybe, but it is difficult: please provide us xyz documents
- Yes: a- no problem, b- yes but later… c- yes, please provide xyz that may not be impossible because not relevant to your situation
This is part 1 of a 2 part series on transferring money in and out of Vietnam.
Vietnam government enforces strict currency control on transfers of money abroad
Vietnam is not a tradable currency therefore foreign currency is controlled. When your money has ‘no tradable exchange value out of your own country, any currency coming in is precious because it will allow the government -and legit companies in need of USD, EUR, GBP, JPY etc…) to purchase products they need to import from abroad to run the economy. Think about importing a German MRI scanner for a hospital at US$3Mio or a fleet of aircraft from Boeing USA when no one accepts VN Dong as payment. The Vietnamese government needs the currency to stay inside the country!
Note that as some periods in the past, it was notorious that the Vietnamese government faced currency crunch (less coming in than their need to fork out for importing necessary goods or equipment) resulting in directives from the State bank to the retail banks to be more scrutinous on transfer of money abroad.
Principles for Expat or foreign visitors to transfer abroad
Here are the basic principles you should know for foreigners or locals:
- Any money imported to Vietnam should have proof of provenance
- Any money transferred out of Vietnam should have proof of origin
- Any money transferred out should have proof of income or corporate tax payment
- Vietnamese are not allowed to transfer money out of Vietnam, except for a few specific reasons, to be approved by the government or bank officers.
Which means if you bring in money to deposit to your bank: declare it.
If you transfer money from abroad to your account: keep it inside your account should you plan to transfer out.
If you transfer to invest, open an investor account at the bank and read the conditions to get the profit money or dividends back out of Vietnam.
If you work in Vietnam, make sure you have a work permit and the money remitted and you have proof of PIT Personal Income Tax payment.
If you are a freelancer or service contractor, for work less than 3-month during any one calendar year, a FCA Foreign Contractor Agreement should be signed and currently, a 20% withholding tax will apply on your gains from your services. The money can then be transferred abroad.
You can consult for the latest tax rates for PIT, dividends, contractors and transfers abroad tax applicable at the day you need it.
How can I transfer money out of Vietnam?
You should know that the Vietnamese government controls currency transfers; If you are a foreigner, you need to have declared imported funds or tax paid income so you can transfer out via à bank. As a Vietnamese you can not hold assets abroad only a few imperative reasons allow transfers out of Vietnam.
Foreign companies, joint ventures and private investors who want to transfer money out of Vietnam
For companies and investors, we believe you have done your homeworks and due diligence before investing in Vietnam. Having said that, some SME have outgrown their one-man-show operation creating an adhoc company in Vietnam and sometimes overlooking taxations and foreign currency controls in Vietnam. It may not be too late to get the principles and the 5 ways to send money out from your profits.
Here are the 5 possibilities for companies or investors to transfer money abroad. Those procedures involve board decisions, accounting closure, tax department with proper documentation to submit to your bank for remittance abroad:
- Dividends payments after tax from your profits declared
- Services agreements
- Loan repayment from parent company
- Salary payments
- Claiming expenses incurred in your business dealings abroad
NB. Some services available in Vietnam are not accepted for payment abroad. Better check ahead with your bank if your contract is eligible and what documents they will require you to submit.
Reasons and Conditions for Vietnamese to transfer money abroad
For the reason of currency control -and to avoid ‘currency evasion’- Vietnamese citizens can not hold bank accounts, assets or transfer money abroad.
Here are the rare possibilities they have:
- Hospital treatment costs
- student tuition fees
- costs of living as short-term stay as Expat worker or student
- for corporation duly authorized (MPI and MOF) Investment and working capital
You should consult the latest tax advice and rates.
The foreigners ‘making money’ in Vietnam needing to transfer legally
Let’s be clear about what money can be transferred abroad by Expat or foreign company investors. Your revenues should come from an officially declared activity:
- your salary declared with paid social security and income tax
- your company profits, tax paid and declared dividends to shareholders
- dividends paid may attract an income tax
The bank role in controlling your currency transfers for Individuals
The bank role is to apply the directives of the State bank on foreign exchange and money transfers beforehand, by checking proofs:
- the source of your income
- social security was paid (Employer 21.5% / Employee 10.5%)
- Personal Income taxes are paid (from 5% to 35% for bracket above VND80Mio/month)
- limits are respected -for instance you can not transfer more than you earned-
- any other official or nonofficial state bank checks
Note that some bankers may be unaware of the latest regulations resulting in à certain randomness in transfers abroad: call it luck or human failure
As a company here are the conditions for money transfer abroad
The bank will want to check documents showing:
- Corporate income tax has been paid
- the board of directors decision to distribute dividends
- registered loan agreement for interests payments
- contract agreement on royalties and license fees
- contractors/freelancers agreements a FCT Foreign Contractors tax is levied currently
Vietnamese can not transfer money abroad, only under strict imperative reasons
For a Vietnamese to transfer money abroad, in the cases of medical costs, tuition fees or living expenses for duly residency the bank would check documents like:
- work contract / University fees / hospital bills
- proof of residency
- relationship with the recipient person or account
Note that some countries consider Vietnam as prone to money laundering for: corrupt politicians, no banking/tax bilateral agreements on bank account disclosure or lowly controlled illegal trades or too many credit card frauds. Therefore, they may reject any bank transaction coming from Vietnam based accounts.
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What are the options to transfer money abroad?
Obviously many people can testify or hearsay having transferred ‘no problem whatsoever’. It is usually a myth, a lucky circumstance or an old expat tale before bank computers were linked to the State bank clearing and checking transactions center. Just dig deep into their story. Or simply ask your senior banker -avoid the rookie intern at the front desk-.
Legally transferring via banks
Getting your documents in order is key to receive or deposit money into your Vietnamese bank account.
You should think ahead of any transfers into your account if you will need to transfer out back to an account abroad. Depending on your legal status:
- business visitor
- NGO or company employee
- active investor in non-listed company
- stock market investor
Each status has its own procedure to send money back abroad, simply ask your bank.
Transferring legally as debt, purchases and shopping
Some common cases of legitimate or lucky ‘transfers’ can happen:
- when you contracted a loan contracted then had to repay the interests or the capital
- when you paid for some purchases by credit card (some may use paypal) and it went under the bank ‘human’ radars
- Corporate people may have succeeded in a transfer abroad due to confusion by the bank employee between the company and the personal transaction.
- The intricacies of credit card or e-wallet compensation centers are currently developing at a fast pace, therefore the government agencies are not tracking all transactions as they do with ‘1.0 written instructions’ at the bank teller.
NB. some limits and checks may apply above VND50Mio
Some advice on 1-off transfers Vs regular needs
We suggest being extra careful and check thoroughly each person’s situation who affirm they have transferred money abroad. Their circumstances may be totally different and past achievements may not apply to today’s restrictions.
For 1-off transfers, or below US$5000, some may have been lucky using all types of ‘services’: paypal, Vietnamese account, paypal, crypto, Western Union, swap between countries, even hand carry.
But luck is not a strategy for legit currency transactions.
For regular transfers consult a lawyer or à senior banker ahead of having the money into your account so you can prepare the relevant account and documentation to provide your banker. Most times, foreigners do have the money in cash and can not deposit or worse have the money into their account and can only spend it inside Vietnam or when traveling via their debit card.
Doing some Internet searches or just asking around, you will discover many bad experiences of ‘transfers’ never reaching the recipient.