You are subject to the local laws of Vietnam, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. If you’re arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under ourConsular Services Charter. But we can’t get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.
Penalties for drug offences
Vietnamese authorities have strict security and investigative measures to combat drug trafficking. Penalties for all types of drug offences, including those involving small amounts of drugs, are severe. Under the Vietnamese penal code, a number of drug offences attract the death penalty. It is common for drug offences to attract a sentence of life imprisonment.
There are currently over 30 Australians serving life sentences for drug trafficking offences, including some potentially facing the death penalty.
Never carry parcels or luggage for others.
More information on the risks of carrying or using drugs is available on the Smartraveller Drugs page.
For information about carrying prescription medications into Vietnam, see the Entry and exit section.
Other legal issues
Penalties for serious crime, such as rape, espionage and hijacking, include the death sentence.
Photography of border crossings and military installations is prohibited and may result in arrest or deportation. Avoid taking photographs during demonstrations.
You could be detained if you venture too close to the border with China, Cambodia or Laos without prior written permission from the local authorities. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Vietnam for up to date information on this issue.
Gambling is illegal in Vietnam, except in government-licensed casinos. 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.
Foreign citizens suspected by local authorities to be involved in non-state sanctioned political or religious activities may be denied entry into Vietnam, detained, deported or prevented from departing Vietnam until authorities have completed investigations of their activities. This also applies to online activities.
It is against the law to export antiques from Vietnam without a permit. The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism can provide further advice and any necessary permit. Please note that this website is in Vietnamese and you may need a translator to assist in determining correct requirements. The Australian Embassy and Consulate-General cannot provide translation services.
Local laws prohibit possession of pornography, non-state sanctioned political material and religious material. Being caught in possession of this type of material will attract penalties, including fines and detention.
Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.
Marriage in Vietnam
Foreigners wishing to marry a Vietnamese citizen in Vietnam must seek formal approval from the Department of Justice in the province where the Vietnamese citizen is registered. You will also be required to obtain a Certificate of No Impediment to Marriage (CNI) if you plan to marry in Vietnam. You can apply for a CNI through theAustralian Embassy in Hanoi or the Australian Consulate-Generalin Ho Chi Minh City. Please note, the Embassy and Consulate-General will only issue CNIs for the purpose of marriage. You can also apply for the CNI from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Australia, but it will need to be authenticated by the Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate in Australia before it is recognised by the Department of Justice in Vietnam, so additional fees will apply.
Doing business in Vietnam
Increased Australian business activity in Vietnam has resulted in higher numbers of commercial disputes in recent years. If you are considering entering into a contract of any sort in Vietnam, you are advised to seek professional legal advice before entering into the contract.
If Australian nationals carrying out business in Vietnam become involved in a business or civil dispute, they may be prevented from leaving the country until the matter is resolved.
Australians doing business in Vietnam should see our advice for business travellers for general information on the potential for legal and other risks. The Australian Trade Commission (Austrade) provides specific advice on doing business in Vietnam. In addition, our Living and working overseas page provides further information.
Employment in Vietnam
Disputes over alleged misrepresentation of working and living conditions for Australians working in Vietnam, particularly those teaching English, occur frequently. If you are considering travelling to Vietnam for work, you should verify the true nature of the work being offered and make sure you have the correct visa before arrival. You are advised to seek professional legal advice before signing any contract, whether in Australia or after arrival in Vietnam.
Some points to check carefully include:
- Employment contracts: Contracts may contain unacceptable conditions. For example, conditions for early termination may state that the employee surrenders the right to a return air ticket, and pay may be withheld.
- Passports: Reputable businesses will not request you to surrender your passport for "safe-keeping". Never surrender your passport in these circumstances.
- Failure to maintain a valid visa and work permit will result in a fine and possible detention. Please check the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs website for the appropriate types of visa categories for employment in Vietnam.
If you intend to work in Vietnam, you and/or your prospective employer are responsible for obtaining all necessary work permits. The Australian Embassy or Consulate-General can provide a limited range of notarial services for some documents required for a work permit.
Information for dual nationals
Vietnam only recognises dual nationality in limited circumstances.
Our ability to provide consular assistance to Australian/Vietnamese dual nationals who have entered Vietnam on their Vietnamese passport may be limited, as local authorities may claim the person is a Vietnamese citizen. Particularly in cases of arrest and detention, Australian consular officials may not be advised, permitted consular access or allowed to provide consular assistance to Australian/Vietnamese dual nationals.
We encourage all Australian/Vietnamese dual nationals to travel on their Australian passport. Australian citizens are required to re-enter Australia on an Australian passport.
If you are an Australian/Vietnamese dual national, you may be subject to compulsory military service while in the country. For further information, contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Vietnam in Australia before you travel.
Our Dual nationals page provides further information.