Following the trend of international economic integration, foreigners have been attracted by the benefits of doing business in Vietnam through setting up representative office, setting up company, acquiring shares in Vietnam enterprise through M&A activity.
At the initial stage, foreign entity would try to research market, undertake due diligence on its clients, buyers, clients, or other business partners therefore many will be interested in establishing a representative office in Vietnam.
The foundation of representative office of foreign entity in Vietnam is governed under Vietnam Commercial Law 2005 and Decree 07/2016 / ND-CP dated 25 May, 2016.
Advantages of establishment of a representative office:
Establishing a representative office is a tool to research the market. For the first time, foreign enterprises entering the Vietnam market, the primary purpose is understanding the market, undertaking research on clients, or due diligence on their business partners, distributors, monitoring the performance of buyers and being familiar with the Vietnam market. The establishment of representative office in Vietnam turns out to be the most effective option both of cost and time.
The representative office in Vietnam is an effective tool to promote commercial activity, seeking partners, and increasing opportunities to expand business market in Vietnam.
Representative office form in Vietnam has allowed foreign entity to receive benefits such as recruiting Vietnamese employees, foreign employees working in offices whom could apply for work permit in Vietnam, then temporary residence card in Vietnam, opening bank accounts in foreign currencies or Vietnam dong at commercial banks, and to be allowed to use those accounts solely for their operations.
According to the laws of Vietnam, the establishment of representative offices does not require the investor’s capital. Instead, setting up a company in Vietnam, an economic organization requires capital contribution as per business plan, ranging from USD 50 k to million USD. Sometime, if the investment fall under conditional areas, setting up company seems more challenging. This relieves the foreign trader from advancing too much to achieve the purpose of expanding the market before the business plan has been proved to materialize.
Further, the establishment of representative office follows more simple procedures for licensing in Vietnam than establishing entity in Vietnam. Accordingly, the process has been taken less time which is more favorable for foreign traders.
Challenges of the establishment of representative office in Vietnam?
Vietnam law provides that, in order to establish a representative office in Vietnam, foreign traders have to prove the fulfillment of the financial responsibility in their country. In practice, the foreign entity is expected to provide audited financial statements. In some countries, the financial audited report is not available according to laws. The Vietnam Department of Trade and Commerce, which state authority would grand representative office operation certificate would require documents showing the fulfillment of tax liabilities or financial obligations of the last fiscal year, or equivalent documents as proof of existence and operation of the foreign trader issued or certified by competent authorities where such foreign trader is established. This provision may initially be difficult. However, if the foreign trader has been established and operated legally in their country, the implementation of this provision is not a major obstacle.
As a large potential market such a Vietnam, as well as the current rapid reform in administrative procedures, Vietnam Government has been more flexible to encourage foreign traders doing business in Vietnam, hence the establishment of representative offices is an optimal method to consider for market research, trade promotion and a stepping stone to penetrate the Vietnam market successfully.
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