Starting and operating an INGO
The VUFO-NGO Resource Centre provides information and informal advice to new international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) wanting to set up an office or work in Vietnam. For international NGOs without offices in Vietnam, and for those based outside Hanoi, a visit to the Resource Centre is often on their agenda when they first arrive in Hanoi.
The Resource Centre responds informally to queries regarding operational and programme issues for INGOs in Vietnam, including the issuing and renewal of INGO Certificates of Registration, project approvals, personal income tax and value added tax. For more information please contact the NGO Resource Centre.
From 1 June 2012, foreign NGOs in Vietnam are administered under Decree 12/2012/ND-CP. This decree replaced Decision 340/TTg from 1996.
Procedures: The Government of Vietnam issues Certificates of Registration for three types of an INGO's status: a) Operations; b) Project Office and c) Representative Office.
The Project Certificate of Registration and the Representative Office Certificate of Registration may be granted for up to five years, while the Operations Certificate of Registration may be granted for up to three years. Representative Office status has been made available to INGOs also based in Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang -- in addition to INGOs based in Hanoi. The only difference between the Project Office and Representative Office is with regard to privileges, such as importation of vehicles and/or office equipment free of tax.
Applications for registration are to be sent to the Committee for Foreign NGO Affairs (COMINGO), which brings together key Vietnamese government ministries and other bodies to assist the Prime Minister in guiding and addressing issues relating to foreign NGOs.
Upon receipt of valid and complete application documents COMINGO will respond within 45 working days to INGOs' applications for registration. The deadline to respond to INGOs' applications for extensions, supplements and amendments will be within 30 working days. INGOs with valid 'Permits' previously granted (Operations, Project and Representative Office) do not have to re-apply for 'Certificates of Registrations'. They have until 31 August 2012 to provide supplemental documents to COMINGO and their 'Certificates of Registrations' will be automatically released. The required supplemental documents may include: INGOs' consular-legalized Statutes in Vietnam; consular-legalized documents declaring INGOs' legal status in their home countries; consular-legalized judicial records of INGOs' directors/heads.
Consular legalization may be obtained through INGOs' own consulates or embassies; but also through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Procedures may differ from country to country.
Responsibilities: The rights and obligations of INGOs, Vietnamese ministries, provincial authorities, partner agencies and COMINGO (and its members) are clearly stated in Decree 12. The main point of contact for INGOs' applications will remain COMINGO. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be responsible for granting, extension, supplement, amendment and withdrawal of INGOs' Certificates of Registration. INGOs will not be required to register their operations with provincial authorities. However, some activities -- such as extension of INGOs' project areas -- will require local authorities' agreements and close involvement.
The People's Aid Coordinating Committee (PACCOM) is responsible for relations with INGOs and for mobilizing aid. PACCOM, the specialized and functional body of the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations (VUFO), works closely with INGOs both at the central level and in all 63 provinces and centrally administered cities to facilitate foreign NGOs' activities in Vietnam.
PACCOM includes the Director-General, Deputy Directors and Programme Coordinators, working in four desks (Administration, Europe, North America, and Asia-Pacific). PACCOM's headquarters are at 105A Quan Thanh, Hanoi (Tel.: 84 4 8436 936/7; fax: 84 4 8452 007). Its Southern Representative Office is at 9 Le Duan, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City (Tel.: 84 8 8250 372; fax.: 84 8 8333 436).
PACCOM has contacts in every province/city and will continue to facilitate fruitful long-term collaboration between INGOs and provinces/cities.
Reporting: INGOs are responsible for preparing written reports on their operations in Vietnam every six months and submitting them to COMINGO, with a copy to the relevant People's Committee where they conduct activities.
PIT: The Personal Income Tax on INGO expatriate representatives, staff and specialists will be subject to Vietnamese legal regulations/documents. See Chapter 1, Article 4 of the Law on Personal Income Tax, which came into effect on 1 January 2009. All INGOs with Representative Office status are exempt provided that it is declared in their Memoranda of Understanding. Those INGOs with Project Office status and those applying for the Certificate of Registration of Operations should include a clause on PIT exemption when signing their Memoranda of Understanding.
Work Permits: Foreign INGO directors/heads are exempt from the Work Permit requirement. However, all other expatriate staff working for INGOs are obliged to visit the Department of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs (DOLISA) in the province where their office is located, and register for Work Permits. Short-term volunteers -- up to three months -- should be able to stay in Vietnam without Work Permits, while long-term volunteers are obliged to follow the same procedure as full-time paid expatriates.
The Government of Vietnam will release an additional circular -- in English -- to clarify these issues further.
Fundraising: Fundraising is not covered in Decree 12, on the assumption that INGOs operating in Vietnam raise their funds outside of Vietnam. The Government of Vietnam will focus more on the issue of fundraising in coming years with the increasing involvement of Public Private Partnerships.
Documents: The official English translation of Decree 12 will be published in the National Gazette. Check this web page for further updates. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and COMINGO are preparing a guiding circular of Decree 12, which will be shared with INGOs when it is released. In the meantime, consult the official Vietnamese version of the Decree, signed by the Prime Minister.
(Word file can be downloaded by clicking the attachment icon at the bottom of the web page).
Other legal documents
- Decision 286: National Programme for the Promotion of INGO Assistance (NPP) 2006–2010
- Decision 59 (in Vietnamese): Establishing the Committee for Foreign NGO Affairs
- Decree 93: Management and Utilization of aid from international non-governmental organizations
- Guidelines for the implementation of Decree 93/2009/ND-CP 22 October 2009 on the management and utilization of INGO aid (in Vietnamese)
Other useful resources
- UN-EU Guidelines for Financing of Local Costs in Development Cooperation with Vietnam (2012) - English Version: set of cost guidelines for UN agencies and embassies of European Union member states, and the European Delegation to Vietnam.
- UN-EU Guidelines for Financing of Local Costs in Development Cooperation with Vietnam (2012) - Vietnamese Version: set of cost guidelines for UN agencies and embassies of European Union member states, and the European Delegation to Vietnam.