Well, here is another update in regard to my work permit application. Last week the Department of Labor (DoLISA) refused to accept my “consularized” notarized degree. Though the process was legal in Vietnam and they admitted it, they still could not accept it and they had a valid reason. It seems that recently some Americans, Brits, and Aussies were able to get their “fake” degrees consularized which made them “legal”.
Essentially, a consularized degree is when you get a document notarized by a ‘recognized’ government body in your country. In the US, this usually means there is a notarized stamp and a gold seal on the document. According to Vietnamese law, you can take this to the US Consulate, or your embassy of choice, attach an affidavit certifying it is a true copy and then submit it to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). Note, the affidavit will say, in bold letters, that the US Consulate will not accept responsibility for the document. The MFA ‘will’ accept this document, translate it, attach another seal and it is “legal” but because of the previous statement from the US Consulate, DoLISA will not accept it.
Hence you are left no choice but to authenticate your diploma. In short you must:
- Get your university to notarize your degree, it cannot be an apostille (electronic seal) since Vietnam is not a member of the Hague convention. The notarization process will start at the County-level (about $1 per document in Indiana) and then to the Secretary of State level (free). Be sure to include a FedEx airbill and envelope. This process can take about 5-7 business days depending on your state. One to two days if you hand carry it. You will need to send a personal check to pay for the fees.
- The “notarized” degree will then need to be sent to the US Department of State in Washington, DC. This costs about $8 per document. The process takes 5-8 business days. You can find more information at this web address: http://www.state.gov/m/a/auth/. Many people skip this process but legally, you MUST get your diploma authenticated by the US State Sept. for it to be legal. In the future, DoLISA “could” refuse diplomas that were not authenticated here even IF the Vietnam Embassy or Consulate legalizes them. You can send a personal check to pay the fees.
- Finally you must send your diploma to either the Vietnam Embassy or Consulate. Today the Embassy told me it will cost about $50 to “legalize” the diploma and $20 to expedite it. Just mail them to the Vietnam Embassy, 1233 20th St NW, suite 400, Washington DC 20036, or Consulate, Suite 430, 1700 California, San Francisco, California. Be sure to include a FedEx airbill and envelope so they can return it to you when completed. The Vietnam Embassy recommends you keep the tracking number as well. I will send a money order since both the Embassy and Consulate will not accept personal checks I am told. I heard this process takes about 7 business days but if you expedite it, it should be faster.
Thus, the whole authenticating process, including shipping time, is roughly 3-4 weeks if you live in Vietnam. It is actually not as painful as I thought. Just time consuming the first time around (yes, you will have to do this again yearly since the validity of the legalized diploma is about 6 months). Vietnamese who studied overseas will have to go through the same authentication process in the near future as well. Some Vietnamese companies are noticing an increasing number of Vietnamese “claiming” they studied an earned a degree when they did not (this happens in Vietnam as well).
A final note, I do not recommend using a service to handle your work permit. They CANNOT do anything special for you. In fact, from experience, you will have to be with your service agent throughout the process so essentially you are just paying a “high” fee to have somebody walk with you. Just find a friend or trust your HR manager to take care of the process. It is cheaper this way in the long run. If you need help, then use a “trusted” Vietnamese lawyer for “advice” only.
As of now, my diploma is in Wash., DC, getting authenticated. I hope to send it to the Vietnamese Consulate later next week but my process is almost over. 🙂