Official Vietnamese Documents for Residents and Non-Residents of Vietnam for Immigration Purposes
Vietnamese documents that are not verified by US official in Vietnam cannot be treated as true and accurate documents for immigration purposes. Attempts to investigate the facts and verify statements asserted in some official Vietnamese documents have been found to be fraudulent or inconsistent. This is particularly true with copies of old marriage and birth certificates, death certificates, household registry, and adoption documents.
Official Documents in Vietnam
Fraudulent civil documents are common in Vietnam and it has been relatively common and easy to establish false identities. Since Vietnam has no central recorded system, official records have been lost in the war or due to inconsistent record keeping, many old documents are unavailable.
Extracts of Marriage, Death, and Birth Certificates
For Vietnamese residents searching for an extract of a previously issued certificate, a request can be made at the registrar's office where it was originally registered. The more information provided in the request, such as the registration number, date and place of registration, will make the request move along fasterand the fee would be less. Far more common are requests from non-residents residing abroad requiring a police report, divorce order, or marriage certificate.. These request can only be processed with the help of a relative resident in Vietnam because most requests cannot be made by the local office overseas.
Children born out of wedlock and legitimate children are not treated differently under Vietnamese law. As long as the father recognizes the child then either parent may file the birth certificate. The birth certificate will have to be registered with the ward, village, or district where at least one parent is resident.
If there's a legal dispute after the birth certificate has been issued, a court must resolve the claims. While US citizens may legally register the births of their children born in Vietnam, in practice the local authorities have denied these requests unless one parent is a resident.
Common Law Marriages and Marriage of Relatives
Vietnamese law does not recognize common-law marriages. Certificates verifying the couple live together are issued, however, these do not constitute legal marriage. The legal age for marriage is 20 for men and 18 for women and Vietnamese law prohibits marriage between blood siblings, half siblings, first cousins or any two persons related closer than three degrees of separation.
Divorce Certificates and Death Certificates
Divorce records are maintained by the courts where they were issued. Families or responsible agencies (for foreigners, certain hospitals) must report deaths within 24 hours to the People’s Committee of the village, district capital or ward where the deceased resided. The People’s Committee can issue the death certificate, as can a hospital or the investigation police.
Documents relating to adoptions in Vietnam, such as birth certificates, abandonment reports, relinquishment agreements, and investigative reports are generally issued by orphanage directors, local People’s Committees, Provincial Departments and the Department for International Adoptions (DIA).
Please note that the information in these documents are not verified by the issuing officials. Therefore, documents issued containing information not verified by the authority cannot be considered adequate evidence of the facts. Unless they are independently verified by US officials in Vietnam before they can be considered for valid immigration purposes. In most cases, attempts by U.S. officials to verify the accuracy of these documents have routinely uncovered evidence of fraudulent or inaccurate information.
Police and Prison Records
For Vietnamese residents, a request must be made at the Department of Justice in the person's district or official residence. The police record check takes approximately three weeks to complete and there's a small fee. In the case of non-resident Vietnamese citizens, the request may be made through the Vietnamese Embassy in their current country of residence.
As for foreigners who reside or resided in Vietnam they should contact the Vietnamese Department of Immigration in the district in which they currently reside/formerly resided.
Every person residing in Vietnam must be listed on a household registry (Ho Khau), maintained by the Public Security Bureau. Keep in mind that just because a spouse or child is mentioned in the registry does not denote legal marriage or blood relationship.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cathy Tran Reck, Attorney at Law
Cathy Tran Reck is an American immigration lawyer based in Bangkok, Thailand. She is the Owner and Managing Director of Cathy Tran Reck & Associates Ltd. Bangkok providing a full service consular processing services and American citizen services for individuals and attorneys. Cathy is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, California State Bar, and American Bar Association.
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.