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Documents Required for Moving from USA to Vietnam

Hello everyone,

I'm looking to move near HCMC in 2018 but I have literally zero travel experience and I don't have much experience living on my own.  As disastrous as that may sound, I'm actually not too nervous about it.  Luckily, I already have some good friends living in Vietnam who are happily offering me assistance when I arrive.

However, the thing I am struggling with is finding an all encompassing list of the documents I should bring with me.  The obvious things like my birth certificate, ID card, social security card are easy enough but then I see suggestions like:
-Bank Statements
-Tax forms
-Pay slips from the US
-Medical/dental/vision records
-and more I can't remember off the top of my head Please suggest any other documentation you think may be required and explain their purpose to me.  Thank you!

The bank statements/pay slips will be required for renting an apartment to show my financial capability, right?  But should I pull back months or years worth of statements?

The medical records will just be used to show my new doctors in Vietnam my history, so the transition will be easier, right?

Also, should I make extra copies or all these documents prior to traveling?  Would copies at a photocopier suffice or should I pay for duplicates from the official sources?  I'll be bringing the original documents with me as well.

I'm sure a lot of you are reading my questions and asking yourselves "This guy can't be serious.  He's gonna fail catastrophically!" but I'm confident in my ability to adapt to new situations as long as I am prepared.  This post aims to prepare me.

Any other information that can be shared about the process of moving is greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance.

Number one - I think you are thinking way too much into this, some of the most successful moves are spontaneous - we are not all critical as you may believe.
Number two - How old are you?? Do you have a job lined up??  What brings you to Vietnam??  Have you travelled in SE Asia at all in the past??
Number three - ensure you have the proper visa, if your going to work, you need a Business Visa, a tourist?? There is now a one year multiple entry visa available.
Number Four - Forget the medical records, you can get a full physical in good hospitals here for a couple hundred dollars.
Number four & a half - How will you support yourself??  Independently wealthy??  Cyber-Nomad??  Open a bar??
Number five - Relax, enjoy Vietnam, quite frankly, I had two tours during the war, I hated Vietnamese, all Vietnamese, I didn't know any better as an 18yo kid in the Army - I have been living here on and off since 2001 and love it and their culture.

You don't have to answer the questions above, I am just giving you food for thought.............Peace

1/ I'm with Tunnelrat on the first point of this matter.  Careful thinking is necessary to execute big changes in life, but it could also kill ardency and extinguish dream.  To enjoy the planned adventures in life, it's best to find a point between careful planning and spontaneous acting -- at least that's my experience. 

2/ You said, "I have literally zero travel experience and I don't have much experience living on my own", but added, "I'm confident in my ability to adapt to new situations as long as I am prepared."  From that statement, I dare to assume that you're young, either in your mid 20s or hovering near the 30s, am I wrong?  If I were to base my thinking on that assumption, then you might not "gonna fail catastrophically" as most people may think. 

Extensive travelling overseas opens a person's mind, but travelling as a tourist and living as an expat are two completely different things.  For instance, tourists do not have to concern themselves with financial documents, medical records, or friends for assistance as you're doing now.  Your youth and inexperience (again, my assumption) MAY be an advantage since you haven't seen the normalcy of the  world to be put off by the prevalent oddness that is Vietnam.  Youth is known for the bouncing back ability, so that's also in your favour.  I don't think the lack of travel experience should be a worried factor in your move.

3/ With the first two points being said, I'm going to stop applauding you and ask two very important questions, which Tunnelrat also have pointed out after you forgot to mention in your enthusiastic post:

- what type of visa are you planning to get?  Type of visa is the most important item in all of your preparation, because it will lead to the next question:

- how are you going to support yourself?  I'll not get into the details of documents and methods for getting a job in VN, partly because I have absolutely no personal experience in that matter, and mainly because it has been asked, answered, discussed, and dissected over and over on this site.

Deal with those two first, then the rest will more or less fall in place.

As per your thought that "bank statements/pay slips will be required for renting an apartment to show my financial capability", the answer is no.  No one asks for proof of finance here as they do in the States for apartment renting.  The agent/landlord will require security deposit in cash (the equivalence of one or two month rent) plus first month rent, and that's their only concern.  On the first/second day of any month that you cannot cough up the rent (also in cash) when they show up at your door step, they will kick you out.  No begging for mercy, no grace period.

One more thing to consider:  whatever your circumstances, have enough reserved money for a flight home and do not touch that stash, ever.

tunnelrat69 :

How old are you?? Do you have a job lined up??  What brings you to Vietnam??  Have you travelled in SE Asia at all in the past??

I am 30 years old and what's bringing me to Vietnam is the culture, the scenery, the people.  Southeast Asia is an area of the world I have always been fascinated by but have never been fortunate enough to visit.  In fact, I've rarely even traveled within the United States, let alone around the world.  No job lined up.

tunnelrat69 :

ensure you have the proper visa

This is one thing I'm unsure about.  I intend to earn a TEFL certificate in HCMC and begin a career teaching.  Should I apply for a student visa and then change visa types after my schooling is complete or would I be better off attending school on the one year tourist visa and going from there?

Is it even possible (or legal) to do student related things on a non-student visa?

One thing I should note is that I do not have a bachelor's degree so I will be working there illegally.

tunnelrat69 :

How will you support yourself?

My plan is to create a large network of folks looking to learn English and eventually host private tutoring sessions out of my apartment.

Ciambella :

Careful thinking is necessary to execute big changes in life, but it could also kill ardency and extinguish dream.

I could definitely see how that may happen.  I should thank you both for mentioning that.

Ciambella :

Your youth and inexperience (again, my assumption) MAY be an advantage since you haven't seen the normalcy of the  world to be put off by the prevalent oddness that is Vietnam.

Haha.  Luckily, I've gotten a heads up from some great Vietnamese friends who have been telling me all the things I will hate or be shocked by in Vietnam.  Hopefully knowing a lot of the weird intricacies ahead of time will help me.

Ciambella :

what type of visa are you planning to get?
how are you going to support yourself?

I went over some of the details above but I would love your advice as well.

Ciambella :

One more thing to consider:  whatever your circumstances, have enough reserved money for a flight home and do not touch that stash, ever.

From the very beginning of my plans, this is the one thing I made certain to remember.

Thanks so much for the replies!

Make sure you think with your big head, and not the little guy.

The unknown is a wonderful thing.

Froyo3652 :

My plan is to create a large network of folks looking to learn English and eventually host private tutoring sessions out of my apartment.

I see a big problem with this scenario: local police force. 

The name of police in VN is công an.  From the local level up, there is công an phường (ward police), which is the equivalence of your neighbourhood watch or community association if you live in a planned community in the States.  The difference between neighbourhood watc/HoA in the States and công an phường in VN is that the former can only give you a complaint if you leave the garage door open all day long or a warning if you enjoy noisy party every weekend, while the latter will knock on your door late at night to ask questions re: license to teach, permit to use your home for business, and tax number, then haul you up to the office for more questions the next day.

The next level is công an huyện (smaller district police), công an quận (bigger district police), công an thị xã (town police), công an thành phố (provincial city police), công an tỉnh (central city police), and the highest is Bộ Công an (Ministry of Police.) 

The middle management police (many with guns and rubber bullets -- not to kill, but to make their points across) can generally make your life hell if you don't tow their line.  Note that I use the word "their" instead of "the".  "Their" line is an invisible rule that can be changed, while "the" line is not written in any book.  Do you understand the difference now?  If you do, congratulations, but don't hold on to that belief, because the definition will be changed with the next shift.

Hosting private tutoring sessions out of your apartment?  You'll be living in a communist country (the official name is Socialist, but who has time to split hair?) where your movements are watched and reported, mostly because you're a foreigner, and mainly because you're not greasing the local police's palms, so do you think you will be able to hold more than 2 sessions before they come a-knocking?

Ciambella :
Froyo3652 :

My plan is to create a large network of folks looking to learn English and eventually host private tutoring sessions out of my apartment.

mainly because you're not greasing the local police's palms, so do you think you will be able to hold more than 2 sessions before they come a-knocking?

It's not as restrictive as you portray it.  Particularly if you live in an apartment and restrict your students to people who live in the apartment complex, you really are not very likely to be approached.  That said, when I had private lessons I had all the financial parts go through my wife as we knew she would just get a "slap on the wrist" if caught.  Froyo3652 will not have that option to hide behind (at least not initially.)

The practical problem with the concept is that unless he has some experience under his belt, he will not be very good at providing private lessons.  Despite any level of prior training, you really have to try the ideas out in actual classes.  I probably could have made a living just within our own apartment house but part of the demand was because people were aware of the higher level middle school where I taught during the day.  Students from my school lived in the building and word moves out from there.

I remember a while back there was an extensive discussion of  whether posters should be allowed to encourage illegal activity.  In this case, the OP's private lessons plan is possible but still illegal and without a Bachelor's degree he can not teach in schools legally.  In that case we should all just say NO to him.  Go back and get your degree, then check it out.

THIGV :

I remember a while back there was an extensive discussion of  whether posters should be allowed to encourage illegal activity.

Well I certainly won't hold anybody but myself responsible if I encounter difficulties in Vietnam.

I agree that the best thing for me to do is to take the time to earn a degree and then make my trip abroad.  Unfortunately, I am terribly unhappy with basically everything in my life.  Not in a depressed way or anything.

I currently work a part time job that many of my coworkers fear will be laying off hundreds of people in 2018.  I'm living with people I cannot stand.  I have one, singular friend here.  The idea of staying in the US and remaining miserable while I attend school for a degree is incredibly disheartening.

So when I think about Vietnam, I think of a clean break from my crappy life and a fresh start.  And yeah, I realize Vietnam is a very poor country with a major pollution problem, deadly traffic, and many other problems but I still believe I will be much happier there.

Just go for it, you never know what will happen. Change is a wonderful and we all do it for different reasons.

Then I would suggest Nha Trang on the Coast for you - there are unlimited amount of people there that want to learn "Conversational English" and beyond - I have several acquaintances there that teach Russian Kids and Parents  who live in Vietnam six months a year (guess the school year is short in Moscow)   One man has more applicants than he can handle - has asked me to join him, but I have no interest in teaching - besides, those Russian teenagers are hot, and my lil Viet lady just wouldn;t understand  me surrounded by young, blond, blue eyed girls all day (haha)    Good Luck

Have you considered Thailand??  You don't need a degree to teach in most Thai Schools, just a TOEFL certificate, and there is a huge shortage of qualified teachers in Thailand  visit:   www.thaivisa.com   for more information, and it is legal employment, not like Vietnam.   You can read my posts on teaching Vietnamese kids in our home village about the  problems I have had, and I was doing it for free - it's not worth getting on the wrong side of the Law, however dim it may seem.  and its not only the Police to worry about, local school teachers are exremely jealous, and you ar stealing their income in their eyes.  One poster said it right - It's still a Communist Country, and their laws are whatever they decide that day.

Again, Good Luck

Froyo3652 :

I agree that the best thing for me to do is to take the time to earn a degree and then make my trip abroad.

Come on man, don't give up so fast.
- Get a TEFL online before you come. It only took me 2 months and $200 in my spare time for I-to-I. Get a CELTA later if you love it. Teaching english is popular and competitive in VN because pay is higher. Pay is lower in Thailand and Cambodia, so maybe more openings per tunnelrat.
- Consider teaching english online over skype. There are websites that hire.
- Maybe after the TEFL course you will lose your enthusiasm for teaching. There are other ways to make money by doing work online and getting paid in paypal or via your bank. You don't need a business visa that way.
- Read The 4 Hour Workweek.
- Research online jobs and training. You can learn writing and other skills. Google Sean Ogle, Niall Doherty. They and others have tips and courses.
- Google 'digital nomad'.  Lots of blogs by remote workers.
- These things you can start doing now before you leave your country.
- Try to find a job locally that you can work remotely.
- Lastly I strongly suggest you save up $1500 (or start selling your stuff now) for a 2 week trip to visit SE Asia before moving here cold turkey, it isn't for everyone. :top:

I'd just come in on a tourist visa, get settled and see what develops. I've lived here for a year and a half on tourist visas.

My wife got certified online, has found online teaching jobs and has her checks auto-deposited to our bank back home. You're pretty much under the radar that way.

I live in Da Nang and my landlord takes care of any police reporting. I've not had any encounters with police other than to say 'hi' on the street. and even those occasions are rare.

Try to get paid in cash under the table; once you get in a local payroll system you're beholden to the government. You don't need that kind of attention.

The downside: You have to leave the country every 3 months to renew your visa.

The upside: I get to go someplace cool every three months.

Come and enjoy what I've found to be one of the coolest places on the planet. You'll be glad you did.

jimmythepiipe :

my landlord takes care of any police reporting.

In what way exactly?  What does your landlord do to keep police away from your "operation"?

Try to get paid in cash under the table; once you get in a local payroll system you're beholden to the government. You don't need that kind of attention.

That's very true but how do you handle the fact that we must continue paying taxes in America if you have "zero" income because you are a tourist?

Come and enjoy what I've found to be one of the coolest places on the planet. You'll be glad you did.

I absolutely cannot wait!

Thanks for the reply.

Froyo3652 :

What does your landlord do to keep police away from your "operation"?

He just means that, in the system you live under in Vietnam,  your landlord or you must register all residents with the local police. Viet and foreigners.

That's very true but how do you handle the fact that we must continue paying taxes in America if you have "zero" income because you are a tourist?

If you are paid under the table, any place in the world, there is no traceable income to report, yes?

gobot :

If you are paid under the table, any place in the world, there is no traceable income to report, yes?

Of course but doesn't the IRS eventually catch on to people who have lived abroad for decades despite reporting zero income?

Edit: On the topic of reportable income; If I were to keep my American bank account open and deposit my under-the-table earnings to it, would that cause any eyebrows to raise in the IRS?

Froyo3652 :
gobot :

If you are paid under the table, any place in the world, there is no traceable income to report, yes?

Of course but doesn't the IRS eventually catch on to people who have lived abroad for decades despite reporting zero income?

Bigger fish to fry.  I you are worried file a sufficiently small number and take the exclusion.  Documents indicating receipt of income will not be required by the IRS.  They effectively have to accept whatever number you give them.

Froyo3652 :

Edit: On the topic of reportable income; If I were to keep my American bank account open and deposit my under-the-table earnings to it, would that cause any eyebrows to raise in the IRS?

In fact sending money from Vietnam to the US is a near impossibility as has been discussed here frequently.  Your point is effectively moot.

In addition let me repeat one last point.  Teaching EFL in Vietnam without a Bachelor's degree or in rare cases 5 years experience, neither one of which you have is illegal.  Why are you worrying about US taxation when you should be working on being legal to earn the money in the first place?

Froyo3652 :

That's very true but how do you handle the fact that we must continue paying taxes in America if you have "zero" income because you are a tourist?

The IRS doesn't care how you survive in another country without a legitimate income. You could have mooching your friends or begging on the streets, as long as you FILE a federal income tax return, you're not invoking any red flag.  Note that the word I use is filling, not paying.

Froyo3652 :

doesn't the IRS eventually catch on to people who have lived abroad for decades despite reporting zero income?

The answer above reflected my experience.  They didn't care how I lived in Europe for years without an income.  What's there to "catch on"?  Many people live in the US without a reported income, have the IRS ever knocked on their doors to inquire how they buy their groceries?

Froyo3652 :

If I were to keep my American bank account open and deposit my under-the-table earnings to it, would that cause any eyebrows to raise in the IRS?

You should keep your US bank account, which is what every American expat who has at least one American credit card does, but there is no way you can deposit any money to an American bank account from VN (you can do the roundabout way though.)  Many wiser people have tried. 

Besides, wouldn't you need money to pay your living expense?  If you think you may earn so much with your unlicensed teaching sessions from your living room, to the point that extra money would be rolling around unfettered, allow me to disabuse that idea.  It's a pipe dream which you're not the first person to concoct.

To the OP, all you have been told is certainly true. But i remains the law in the USA that you report all income. Can they catch you will they catch you, very very unlikely. In fact are generous host here move to the USA and open donuts shops and other types of business' and pay not a cent of taxes. I have tried to buy some of these business over the years and ask for their records. " No problem, good business, no need to pay taxes, all cash business" they say.
I would not worry about it to much or tell many on public forums of your intentions. The US government invented the internet for a reason.

As witnessed by recent posts here on the forum if you have a medical condition requiring a prescription medication prohibited by Vietnam make sure you carry with it the Rx from the doctor. It would be wise if you checked in embassy site to see if your med is on their list of prohibited meds.
In addition you should start your Hepatitis B and A vaccines now. If not the manufactures type you started on might not be available her and you may have to start the vaccines over. But do make sure you get both vaccines.

Also if you are divorced you may want to bring a certified original copy or two of your divorce decree. Just in case you find Vietnamese women so attractive you can not resist, and you marry here. Like so many of us have!!!The decree will be required before you can marry here.

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