If you have Vietnamese ties, you might wonder what it would take to retire in Vietnam. While there's no retirement visa scheme, you may be eligible for a renewable visa that allows you to stay in the country for three to five years at a time.

Key Takeaways

  • If you have family ties to Vietnam, you can apply for a renewable visa that allows you to stay in the country for three to five years at a time.
  • Foreigners with a valid visa can buy a house or an apartment in Vietnam.
  • U.S. citizens can continue to receive Social Security benefits while living in Vietnam.

Anyone approaching retirement is faced with many decisions. One of them is where to live.

While most remain in the U.S., increasing numbers opt to live overseas. This could be to fulfill a sense of adventure, experience a new culture, or find a lower cost of living.

It could also be to go back to a country where your family has roots—the land your parents come from or where you were born. Here's a look at some considerations when retiring abroad to Vietnam when you have a family connection there.

Your Social Security Benefits

As a U.S. citizen, you can continue to receive your Social Security benefits for the duration of your stay in Vietnam. If you aren't a U.S. citizen, your eligibility to receive benefits in Vietnam depends on:

  • Your military status
  • The date you became eligible for Social Security benefits
  • If you're entitled to benefits on the earnings of a worker whose railroad service was treated as employment covered by the Social Security Act

You can use the Social Security Administration’s Payments Abroad Screening Tool for details about your specific situation.

How to Get Your Social Security Benefits Abroad

If you want to receive your benefits in Vietnam, you can visit the Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi or the U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City. You have to visit once every three months to sign for your benefits.

The U.S. Citizens Services offices of the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi and the Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City are closed on U.S. and Vietnamese holidays. Be sure to check the website for current hours. You don't need an appointment If you're picking up federal benefits checks.

Otherwise, your benefits can go directly into your bank account or other financial institution in the U.S. or Vietnam. This is through the Social Security Administration’s International Direct Deposit program. You can then access your funds abroad using a wire transfer or your ATM card (usually the cheaper option).

Medicare While Living Abroad

Medicare doesn't cover health services you receive outside the U.S. These benefits are available if you return to the U.S., but you'll end up paying a 10% higher premium for each 12-month period you could have been enrolled but were not. 

Land Ownership Laws in Vietnam

All land in Vietnam belongs to the state, according to the country’s constitution. Land-lease certificates valid for up to 50 years are granted in Vietnamese real estate purchases. That means you buy the house and lease the land.

Until recently, foreign property ownership was restricted to foreigners with Vietnamese spouses, or those deemed likely to “make significant contributions to the nation’s development.”

New laws have expanded foreign property ownership to boost the Vietnamese economy. Foreigners with valid visas are allowed to buy houses, condos, and apartments.

To protect your interests and ensure a smooth transaction, work with an experienced real estate agent and a real estate attorney.

Dual Citizenship

Under United States law, you're granted U.S. citizenship if you were born in the U.S. If you have at least one parent who is a Vietnamese citizen, you're generally considered a Vietnamese citizen, regardless of where you were born.

If you were born in Vietnam of non-Vietnamese parents, you're eligible for Vietnamese citizenship (unless your parents chose otherwise). Since July 2009, Vietnam has permitted dual citizenship under certain circumstances.

If you have questions about citizenship or your specific situation, consult a qualified immigration attorney.

Retirement Visas in Vietnam

There is currently no retirement visa scheme in Vietnam. If you're not a citizen of Vietnam, the easiest way to live in Vietnam is to get a short-term visa, valid for three to six months. Then, you can do a "visa run" to Cambodia, Laos, or Thailand to restart the clock every few months. You can extend your stay indefinitely using this strategy.

It’s possible for foreigners to get a Permanent Residence Card (PRC). These must be renewed every three years. If you have family ties to Vietnam, you may be eligible: A spouse, child,

or parent of a Vietnamese citizen who resides permanently in Vietnam can apply for a PRC.

If you or your parents were born in Vietnam or if you're married to a Vietnamese citizen, you may be eligible for a five-year visa exemption, called a Certificate of Visa Exemption for Vietnamese and Family Members. This status allows you to leave and reenter the country over the course of five years without the need to reapply for a visa each visit.

Paying Income Taxes in Vietnam

Vietnam residents are taxed on their worldwide income. Nonresidents are taxed only on their Vietnam-sourced income. If you live in Vietnam for 183 days or more during a 12-month period, you're considered a resident.

In July 2015, the U.S. and Vietnam signed their first income tax treaty for the avoidance of double taxation. If you live in Vietnam and are a citizen of the U.S., you still have to file a tax return in both countries. However, you can avoid double taxation by using certain tax credits and exclusions.

Tax laws are complicated and change frequently, so it's recommended that you work with a qualified tax accountant to take advantage of available tax credits and to ensure you receive the most favorable tax treatment possible.

The Bottom Line

Any move abroad requires lots of planning to make sure all of the logistics are handled. But it’s also important to consider the emotional impact of living overseas, and recognize that visiting a country and living there are two very different things.

In addition to language barriers, if you didn't grow up speaking Vietnamese, living overseas may involve daily tests of your comfort zone as you adapt to your new surroundings, customs, and way of life.

While it’s certainly possible for adventurous retirees to jump in with both feet—embracing the new way of life—many may find a move overseas a bit overwhelming.

If you're not sure if living abroad will suit you, it’s a good idea to try it first on a part-time basis. If your situation permits, give careful consideration to your comfort level, friends, family, and healthcare needs before making any final decision to retire abroad.

Note: U.S. citizens traveling or living abroad are encouraged to enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). The program provides security updates and makes it easier for the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to contact you and/or your family in case of an emergency.