We have jobs! In Vietnam! I can’t wait to eat pho! Crap, how do we get there?!
I quickly googled ‘moving to Vietnam’ to start the process. I thought, great, three documents each, I can handle this. I love processes, organizations, and Leslie Knope-style binders of information. However, this was a beast I had never even pondered about before this move. When I was in the PeaceCorps, the US Government took care of that for me and when Joe studied in Costa Rica, his University took care of that for him. We knew our sponsor (the obvious term I had only heard in step 3 of the process) was limited in their knowledge of how to do this, and we were basically on our own after the email.
As I googled how to move, the floodgates opened and poured out uninteresting information all over my computer. There were no clear step-by-step processes unless I paid a business to take the process over for me. I am too stubborn and frugal to let that happen (they were charging anywhere from 249 to 425) in addition to the cost to get the paperwork needed. I thought it would be helpful for me to catalog our journey to help someone else.
This was the information we were provided by our future employer:
To apply for work permission, some documents are required for you both as follows:
- Criminal Record (Criminal Clearance Certificate)
- Health check
These documents must be first legalized by the Ministry of Foreign Affair of Us Government and then by the diplomatic or Consular Mission of Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate in US.
So, I quickly went to the Vietnam Embassy webpage and this is what they wrote:
A regular dossier to be legalized/authenticated includes:
- a) Request Form for legalization/authentication of documents (Form below);
- b) A copy of your ID (Passport, Drivers License, Green Card, etc.);
- c) Documents to be legalized/authenticated must be first Authenticated by the Secretary of State where the Notary Public is licensed (before sending to the Consulate of Viet Nam for final authentication, which can be accepted by all Vietnamese authorities).
I was confident in our ability to get this done. Someone had said it took roughly two months for this process and I was bound and determined to beat that time so I was off. We had our diplomas in lovely frames on the wall, just recently been to the doctor, and have avoided being a criminal thus far. First was first, determine who could notarize what, how that could be done, and then figure out what the “Department of State” process entailed. I wrote about the entire process below, and you can click on each header for more details.
The health record was a simple letter that cleared us for working in Vietnam. We didn’t need a specific form required, but just a document from our physician saying we were healthy enough to work. We made an appointment, asked for the letter, and then ran into some issues with getting the letter notarized, but you can read about that in the longer explanation.
By far the easiest step. I googled ‘criminal background clearance’ and looked for the Pennsylvania form, downloaded and completed it, got a cashier’s check for it, and requested it to be notarized. The process was simple and efficient and I was thankful one step was completed. It only took about 10 days from the beginning of the process to receive the clearances in hand. Let’s hope you have a clean background. The challenge could be that you need several clearances (including state, federal, fingerprinting, and each country).
By far the hardest step! We live in Pennsylvania, and my Master’s diploma was issued in Minnesota. I went to my University’s website and they had clear steps on how to get a notarized diploma (thank you MSU-Mankato). I followed the steps, mailed it and called to ensure they had gotten it. Joe’s diploma was a little different. He works at the place where it was issued and a couple conversations to see what he needed to do got the job done. Thanks to my homeland folks and Joe’s colleagues, we saved some money on this step. I’ve broken down the cost later on, and you’ll see what it could have cost and by some exchange of politeness and kindness, we were cost-free.
All Documents Collected and Notarized
It was a rat race to the finish line, but all originals were in hand. As a reminder, this included criminal clearances, medical health records, and diplomas. The criminal background clearances, once issued were notarized, the medical health records were notarized a couple days after we received them, and then the diplomas. Next step was to get them to the Department of State (DOS) to be authenticated. We could go to the Pennsylvania DOS to get the documents authenticated. The night before we went; however, I read somewhere that documents need to be authenticated by the state DOS that it was notarized in. (head spin) That meant, my Minnesota diploma had to go back to Minnesota, rather than be authenticated by the PA DOS. We shipped it out immediately (after a quick google), and then went to Harrisburg.
It got a little sticky because the employee was good at her job. She was detail oriented and one of the PA notaries did not have the date. She almost declined it, but we pleaded, bargained, and mostly, whined. She conceded, but only after a strong talking to and that dreadful “I’m disappointed” look.
Once we had all of them authenticated, we made copies of the front and back of all the documents for ourselves and a copy for the embassy. We also printed out the Legalized form on the Embassy website. On to the Embassy we go!
We went to our closest Vietnam Embassy in NYC. You can also mail in the documents, but we didn’t know the price and we wanted to ask questions so we decided to drive the documents in. The NYC and Washington, D.C. websites are slightly different but here they are:
(on our way to the Embassy for our first visit)
We got to the Embassy, and our excitement turned to anxiety. We had the form they needed, all of our notarized and authenticated documents, and our passports. This is where the boring paper hunt turned into an even more tedious bureaucratic process. The documents have the authentication stapled to it. Do not separate, or it doesn’t count. We were worried that each piece of paper would cost a specific amount but a document means what is stapled together (document and authentication page), not individual pieces of paper. The workers were nice, but nonsensical. They didn’t have time to answer our questions, because of course, we weren’t the only bright-eyed travelers they were dealing with. We were in and out within 20 minutes because they needed a couple days to translate the documents. You could pay for expedited documents; however, they said it was way too much if we didn’t need them that day. We didn’t bother because we didn’t want to pay double the price, and we were happy to come back the following week.
I went back the following week to collect the documents and it was an easy breezy process.
Still with us? We’re almost done in the process, I promise!
Once we had the documents legalized, we could then send it to our employer who would then be our work visa sponsor in Vietnam. I was worried about sending all of our precious documents off and hoping they would land where they needed to land. We used the Priority Mail Express for international shipping that cost a pretty penny but would guarantee their arrival in one week.
We shipped them off (please note excitement below) and they arrived. After that, the sponsor worked with the documents we had through the Ministry of Labor, Invalids, and Social Affairs to confirm our ability to work. Once we got the approval letters, we went back to the Vietnam Consulate with visa paperwork, copies of our passports, our passports, and the letters to apply for a visa. Very simple process! We didn’t make copies of our passport photo, and they let us take a selfie there and send it via email. We waited for about an hour and we received our visas. Elated that we had taken on this task, we celebrated with champagne and pho.
(Mailing all of our documents)
- Hindsight, what would have been helpful was to determine what would take the longest and start there. An example would be that my diploma would have to be sent back to Minnesota. I should have done that as soon as I got the job offer email.
- Everything could be expedited if a person is willing to pay for it.
- We spent a lot of money on mailing documents or driving down to get them. I love a good USPS visit, but it was time consuming so you’ll need to backwards plan from the date you hope to leave.
- If you can’t find what your specific place needs or how to do a process (such as diploma notarization), check out other websites first. The University of Scranton didn’t have it on their website, but MSU-Mankato did (and many other helpful Universities).
- Notarization needs to be authenticated in the state it was notarized in. We couldn’t get my Minnesota diploma notarized in the Pennsylvania Department of State. We could have gone to the National Department of State, but we didn’t know that at the time.
Overall, we spent a little over 1,000.00 for us to get work visas for one year. To us, the costs were relative. What you think is expensive may be very reasonable to someone trying to work in another country and who does this or pays for it to be done. On the other hand, we did not anticipate the costs very well (another reason to lay this out for someone else) and were surprised at some of the fees. We also know that we did not have to pay for some parts of the process (i.e. notaries) and overpaid for some other parts (i.e. mail).
(Mailing receipts only)
For a full breakdown of the costs, click here.
We spent a lot of time and money on this process. I get exhausted all over again thinking about it. I’m also very reflective that this is a privileged endeavor and why some people would not want to do it or cannot afford it.
I wanted to get this information posted on our site promptly, so please forgive the typos/grammar errors, I’ll be doing a sweep of it shortly to clean it up.