Can I stay in Vietnam as a dependent spouse if my partner (wife) is teaching English?

After taking lots of small trips around the world as vacations, we’ve fallen in love with Southeast Asia and have decided to go there to teach English. Well, sort of - my wife is certified and will be teaching. I plan to use the time to develop an app that I have been trying to work on during nights and weekends up to this point. I figure I can live modestly and work on it full time for a year and see if I can get it “done” enough to actually launch after a year’s work!

I don’t plan to make any money while there, and I don’t want to get a job (poor me…) just to enable me to stay - I just want to work on my app (unpaid) full time. I plan to try to get a TT visa (, and she will hopefully be on the LĐ visa (

Here’s the wrinkle: most advice I find online (admittedly geared toward those travelling solo) tends to recommend going on a tourist Visa and finding a job, housing, neighborhood that you like in person, and then getting your employer to sponsor your work permit, then using that to get the business (LĐ) visa. Indeed, a lot of resources say it can be hard to find a reputable language school to hire you and sponsor your visa before entering the country.

If we both went on tourist visas, and she found work and was able to get a work permit, could I then convert my tourist visa to a TT (dependent spouse) visa? Is there any way to be sure that this is going to work besides just going and hoping?

As a follow up if that plan sounds too sketchy, should I get certified to teach English just in case I need to get my own job? I’d like to avoid it if I can, the certification and training is pretty expensive.

Worst case scenario, how many times can I do a visa run and stay on a DL (tourist) visa? Maybe I’m just bad at researching, but I can’t find a really good resource for this kind of information.

I hope this isn’t asking too much. Even a link to some more in-depth resources online would be greatly appreciated - I can’t seem to find any definitive information on people using the TT visa in Vietnam.

Thanks in advance!

I forgot to add, we are both Americans currently living in USA.

I just finished 3.5 years in Vietnam as an English teacher. Yes, you could live in Ho Chi Minh City off of your spouse, but she’d have to be working on a full time contract (at least 20 - 24 contact teaching hours per week).

Living costs are pretty cheap, especially if you shack up with others. My first place was a house share in district 3 with 4 other people. it was a 4 story house, we each had our own bedroom and bathroom and it cost around $275 per person per month. Utilities are cheap.

What kind of a certification does your spouse have? In order to even be considered for a job with decent pay, she’d at least need a bachelor’s and a CELTA teaching certification (DELTA would be best). If she doesn’t have a CELTA or if you decide you want to teach, obtaining it there is a great idea, since it’s cheaper to do it there (around $1500 if I remember correctly). You could teach part time and still have plenty of time to work on your stuff. My partner actually taught part time while we were there and she only worked 2 - 3 days a week in the evenings.

If your spouse works on a full time contract, they will get her the right visa and eventually a residency permit. If you’re working part time (depending on the school) you’ll probably have to pay for it, but they will still handle your visa situation. You can go there on your tourist visa and the HR dept. will work with the authorities to change your status. This may also depend on the school, but both places I worked at did this. If you don’t have a job, visa runs are possible, but to be on the safe side, maybe just teach part time. It’s a great experience! I don’t think you could stay on your partner’s visa, but also know that those rules tend to change often. Don’t worry about it and just go on tourist visas. Figure it out as you go.

A recommended school for someone starting out would be ILA Vietnam. I got my CELTA there and then was hired full time. It was a great experience. I then lucked out and got a job at RMIT University Vietnam. It’s an Australian satellite campus for the Melbourne based university. It pays the best. If your spouse can teach academic English (anyone can!), apply there. Full time at ILA paid about 18k per year as stated on my contract, but I worked over time sometimes and made extra. RMIT payed about 36k per year during my first year and 55k per year my last year. Definitely go for RMIT if either of you has a masters in anything. Don’t worry if you feel under qualified compared to any of the job descriptions. Go for it!

Living costs in Ho Chi Minh City were $700 - $800 per month. I ate out very often and was pretty social. Hanoi was more expensive, but I lived extravagantly at about $1,200 per month. District 7 in Ho Chi Minh City is the best and most expensive area, but pretty impractical for work unless you work for RMIT as it’s far from the city center. Tay Ho in hanoi is the best place overall.

Ho Chi Minh City is more modern, industrial/commercial, has more to do and is cheaper. It also has a large American influence. Hanoi is more expensive, but has more of an artsy culture with more of a French influence and lots of green nature and lakes. Crime was also lower and it had a much better music scene in my opinion. Everyone in HCMC has a negative bias toward Hanoi, but don’t let it scare you. They have no taste!

Some other schools (I’m sure there are more now) in order of reputation: British Council, ACET, Apollo, Wall Street Institute, VUS, Language Link.

For your first month the best place to stay is in a guesthouse. The best one in Ho Chi Minh City for getting set up is California Guesthouse. I think it was like $350 for a month. Book ahead!

Vietnam is a great place to get started as cost of living is very low and has the best pay in SE in terms of English teaching salaries; however, there are some caveats. It is definitely behind the times compared to places like Thailand. It was difficult to adjust, but I managed. Go with an open mind.

I hope this helps =)

Thank you so, so much for all the amazing information! This is a thoughtful and detailed reply and I’ve spent the morning browsing the schools and locations you recommended. People sharing their experience like this is what makes it possible for people like me to make the decision to travel - much of the information online about working as a foreigner in Vietnam is so dodgy and contradictory!

To follow up on a few of the finer points:

She is going for the TEFL / TESOL. As she’s already enrolled and is starting the training next week, I don’t think there’s any changing that (your answers got me thinking that I might want to enroll, too - they still have some spots open, and it’s about 1/3 cheaper than the CELTA course). Anyway, do you think she can still find work on the TEFL? I have seen some job ads for teachers (usually teaching children, which is fine) that list TEFL as a requirement, so I’m optimistic - we don’t need lots of money or a fancy way of life, just enough to live reasonably in Da Nang.

Regarding my visa, I was specifically asking about the TT visa, which is for families of foreigners coming to work in Vietnam. It sounds like the perfect one for my situation, but with all my research I have been able to find exactly ZERO reports online of someone using it. You can imagine my hesitation. Do yo know how one can get definite answers on visa questions such as mine? Should I contact the Vietnamese embassy here in the US?

I think she’s going to stick with the TEFL course and we’ll just have to hope that we can find her a position at a language center in Da Nang. I’ll do some soul searching and decide if I should sign up too.

The other stuff still totally up in the air is the fact that it’s technically illegal / not possible to convert a tourist visa to a working visa any more as of Jan 1, 2015 (laws here). Did you run into this at all? Did you encounter anyone who had problems along these lines?

Thank you so much for taking the time to write back - it means a lot. If you decide to respond to this one too, I’ll consider it a bonus!

An overview article on Teaching English, written for travellers considering it. I think it is fairly good, but I’m biased since I wrote parts of it:

No worries! I’m happy to help =)

I would strongly recommend doing the CELTA. Anything less tends to be inferior and might ultimately be a waste of time and money especially when you can’t even get an entry-level job. There are a lot of official sounding teaching certificates that are scams, so just be careful. If you don’t get the CELTA you’ll most likely end up at a badly paid/managed, second rate school and wish you had just gotten the CELTA. ILA is known worldwide in the the English teaching industry for being a very good place to learn.

Da Nang has some great schools too. Both ILA and Apollo have learning centers there (they will only hire CELTA graduates). ELI is probably the best. The ILA center is great according to a buddy of my mine who went to work there after graduating from the CELTA. A friend of my partner’s also went to work in Da Nang for Apollo.

Regarding the visa situation, I do remember a lot of complaining from mgmt about the visa rule changes. For RMIT this was a huge problem actually; however, a friend of mine who was the former head of operations for ILA in HCMC said that they had adopted a strategy for dealing with the change as ILA, Apollo and the other language schools are heavily dependent on new teachers arriving on tourist visas. You might want to contact one of the schools and just ask what they recommend. Try contacting ILA: [email protected] . Just say that you’re interested in the CELTA, but aren’t sure what visa to get due to your situation. They’ll definitely give you some advice.

My intuition and vast experience with VN bureaucracy tells me that contacting the VN embassy will only provide you with a generic response that won’t factor in all of the loop-holes that the schools in Vietnam exploit and use to get around the rules. Trust me on that one! You could also check the forums here on ESL Cafe for more information from people who are still there.