Eighty percent of the four million overseas Vietnamese would like to buy a house in Vietnam, says the head of the HCM Committee for Liaison with Vietnamese Abroad. So why don’t they?
|A meeting between HCM City’s officials and overseas Vietnamese.|
A few days ago, the media reported that since 2005, only 140 Viet Kieu (VK, or overseas Vietnamese) are officially recorded as having purchased houses in Vietnam.
“It’s still too hard for VK to buy a home here legally” confirms Luong Bach Van, the liaison commitee’s chairwoman. Referring to recent amendments to the Housing Law, she said “the door’s been opened, but only a crack.”
Under current Vietnamese law, people who don’t have Vietnamese nationality but are of Vietnamese origin may buy houses in Vietnam if they meet certain conditions.
The Law on Nationality (2008) says clearly that “overseas Vietnamese” includes both Vietnamese citizens living abroad or people who were Vietnamese citizens at birth, and the natural children or grandchildren of such persons.
Problems arise especially when people who were born abroad and whose parents have died try to prove their Vietnamese descent.
Commenting on the few home purchases that have been recorded, Van said “There are plenty of overseas Vietnamese with assets of $500,000 or more. Many of them want to buy houses in Vietnam to live or to do business but they have to wait for more detailed instruction.”
Luong Huynh Ngan, a Franco-Vietnamese, explained that he has “a birth certificate issued in 1944 in Can Tho. The competent agencies here refused it because my birth certificate doesn’t note ‘ Vietnamese nationality.’
“But,” he continues, “at that time, Vietnam was still under French rule, so of course my birth certificate doesn’t list me as ‘Vietnamese.’”
“The Vietnamese Embassy in France accepted my document,” Ngan said, “though I also had to present the birth certificate of my father, who was born in the 19th century.”
Some overseas Vietnamese have been certificates of Vietnamese origin from Vietnamese embassies but the certificates are marked “valid in six months”. Seemingly, these people can be Vietnamese citizens only for six months.
Another Franco-Vietnamese, Tuyen, said that in only six months, it is very hard for an overseas Vietnamese to buy a house in Vietnam.
“I have a friend who is 80 now and very eager to return home to live out his life but the red tape is so thick that this last wish seems impossible of fulfillment,” Tuyen said.
Requesting anonymity, a Vietnamese American said that knowing that he lives abroad, officials in some districts have been afraid to sign the papers that would allow him to buy a house there. “We are all awaiting a more open policy on the matter of overseas Vietnamese rights to buy houses and land here,” he said. “When that happens, I think more overseas Vietnamese will return to Vietnam to live, work and invest.”
What the law is depends on the officials who administer it
At a recent meeting where HCM City authorities and overseas Vietnamese celebrated the coming new year, Nguyen Thai Phuc, chief representative of the Ministry of Justice in HCM City, conceded that the implementation of laws depends significantly on its interpretation by local officials. “This same regulation is enforced in different ways in different locations because the local officials understand it in different ways.”
Phuc said the Ministry of Justice and related agencies must instruct and explain how the laws permitting Viet Kieu to purchase land and houses are to be applied and administered. “However, there are also cases where officials understand the regulations perfectly well but they intentionally apply it wrongly. This is a matter that we have to note,’ Phuc added.
Nguyen Van Vu, also representing the HCM City Department of Justice, replied to complaints over the short term of validity on the ‘certificates of Vietnamese origin’ that are issued by Vietnamese embassies. Such papers are always limited in their validity, but they can be easily extended, he said.
In case a birth certificate doesn’t note Vietnamese nationality, Vu said, other papers like the national ID card (chá»©ng minh nhÃ¢n dÃ¢n) or a certificate of renunciation of Vietnamese nationality can be used as alternatives.
Nguyen Manh Ha, chief of the Ministry of Construction’s Housing and Real Estate Market Management Department, said that “Law 126” on housing has been amended to enable overseas Vietnamese to buy houses and land in Vietnam easily.
However, insists a representative of the HCM City Committee for Overseas Vietnamese Affairs, though the regulation allowing overseas Vietnamese to buy houses in Vietnam took effect on July 1, 2009, it has not been implemented effectively because the central authorities have not given detailed guidance.
Under such circumstances, the representative explained, official statistics are misleading. They show that the number of overseas Vietnamese buying houses in Vietnam is small but the real number is high, because they buy houses and land in Vietnam in the names of their relatives.
Nhat Phuong – Duong Do