How to Set Up an NGO in Vietnam

Alberto VettorettiManaging Partner, Dezan Shira & Associates

Vietnam’s socio-economic challenges require international assistance. This creates demand for non-governmental organization (NGO) services, but NGOs looking to set up in Vietnam first need to understand how the industry is regulated.

An NGO entering Vietnam should study the country’s complicated regulatory environment. NGO leaders need to take a flexible and nuanced approach to fulfill their mission and meet the needs of both the people and the government.

NGO’s in Vietnam are administered by Decree 12/2012/ND-CP. NGO’s can only carry out their activities in Vietnam once they obtain the required permit. Here, we will provide an overview of the practical steps to take when applying for NGO status in Vietnam and other areas of concern beyond the initial registration steps. 

Types of NGOs


Foundations are legally recognized as NGOs. At the core, a foundation provides funding to support organizations or individuals to execute projects that tie into its specific development goals. Well-established foundations in Vietnam – such as AIESECthe Red Cross of Vietnam, and World Vision – implement projects that tie into their organization’s goals and the government’s development goals.

Religious-based NGOs

Religious-based NGOs are charitable in nature, carrying out activities and projects with a specific purpose. Vietnam’s relationship with religious-based NGOs began with missionaries trying to promote their religion; however, with time, they have transformed into organizations that assist vulnerable groups in need of aid, while encouraging religion in a way that does not conflict with the country’s laws.

Setting up an NGO

While any NGO seeking to set up in Vietnam will need to consider how regulatory authorities will treat their profile, the registration steps are fairly consistent for all types of NGOs.

Applying for NGO status

A foreign NGO has to apply for foreign NGO status in Vietnam to register its presence. Legal recognition is critical for an organization to create a reputable network, especially when international funding and public stakes are involved.

The Committee for Foreign NGO Affairs (COMINGO) will discern whether an organization fits into its development structure and ensure applications fulfill regulatory requirements.

In order to receive the required designation, an NGO must abide by the country’s tight regulations and ensure all activities are consistent with Decree No. 12/2012/ND-CP. The decree covers registration and management for setting up.


The government issues three types of forms that grant NGO participation in Vietnam: Project Certificate of Registration, Representative Office Certificate of Registration, and Operations Certificate of Registration.

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This article is produced by Vietnam Briefing, a premium source of information for investors looking to set up and conduct business in Vietnam. The site is a publishing arm of Dezan Shira & Associates, a leading foreign investment consultancy in Asia with over 27 years of experience assisting businesses with market entry, site selection, legal, tax, accounting, HR and payroll services throughout the region.