Viet Nam: The household registration (hộ khẩu) system, including whether an adult child continues to be included in their parent's hộ khẩu and whether the parent can use the hộ khẩu to locate their child in the country (2020-June 2022) [VNM201130.E]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

1. Hộ Khẩu

A country information report on Viet Nam by Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) provides the following information regarding the hộ khẩu:

Residents' homes need to be registered with a document known as a hộ khẩu, or household registration book. In practice, police do not strictly enforce laws regarding residence to the extent that it would prevent internal relocation, particularly from rural to urban areas as part of Vietnam's recent rapid urbanisation.

There are two categories of registration (reduced from four under the previous law): temporary and permanent. Household registration requires citizens to register their permanent residence in only one district in Vietnam. To gain permanent residence status in a new district, citizens must either marry into a family already holding permanent residence, purchase land, or live in rental housing with an official lease and a minimum amount of liveable space. (Australia 11 Jan. 2022, para. 5.19–5.20)

The DFAT report notes the following concerning relocation:

In practice, internal migrants might be entitled to basic social services when they relocate to big cities like [Ho Chi Minh City] and Hanoi, but local authorities may not apply these policies consistently. Those who own a house or an apartment will have an easier time registering in one of those two cities. Those who attempt to relocate may experience bureaucratic difficulties, but DFAT understands that relocation is not impossible.

Without a local registration, access to services such as public education and healthcare becomes difficult; a local registration is required to access government services. … It is possible to re-register in a new locale after moving, but this process can be lengthy and difficult, which deters some people. … [R]egistration would be required to sign up for utilities or internet service or obtain insurance. (Australia 11 Jan. 2022, para. 5.22–5.23)

The same source adds that "[i]nternal relocation and re-registration in a new residence is possible," but certain people including widows or recently released prisoners may face "bureaucratic difficulties" (Australia 11 Jan. 2022, para. 5.24).

According to an unnamed academic source interviewed by a UK Home Office fact-finding team in Viet Nam in February 2019, whereas once a person had to present their hộ khẩu for services—including purchasing a car or obtaining access to water, electricity, or the internet—increasingly such services have become disassociated from hộ khẩu registration (UK 9 Sept. 2019, 58). The same fact-finding team interviewed the Viet Nam office of Hagar, an organization supporting women and children who experienced "human trafficking, modern slavery, and abuse," which indicated that internal relocation is "not really a problem" as long as one has a registered permanent residence in the hộ khẩu system, which will still permit them to obtain "temporary residence papers if [they] want to live in other provinces" (UK 9 Sept. 2019, 64, 66).

According to a November 2020 article in Tuoi Tre News, the English online edition of a Vietnamese newspaper run by the "state-aligned" Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union (The Diplomat 26 July 2018), the National Assembly decided to replace the hộ khẩu with an online database storing individual citizen information by 2023 (Tuoi Tre News 17 Nov. 2020). The same source adds that the law will take effect from July 2021, and people are permitted to continue using their hộ khẩu books until 31 December 2022 (Tuoi Tre News 17 Nov. 2020). An article by Hanoi Times, an English-language online newspaper of the Hanoi People's Committee [1], cites the director of the Department of Legal Administration Reform, who states that the "abolition" of hộ khẩu books is "simply a shift of the paper management to online residence registration," and hộ khẩu books will only be "removed" after the online database is "put into use" (Hanoi Times 2 July 2021). The same source notes that the law provides that "new household books and/or temporary residence books" will no longer be issued, though both documents would remain valid until 1 January 2023 (Hanoi Times 2 July 2021). The Tuoi Tre News article indicates that authorities will not "re-issue" hộ khẩu books between July 2021 and 31 December 2021, and "any important changes" to household information during this period "will be adjusted in the online residence database" (Tuoi Tre News 17 Nov. 2020). The same source adds that in cases where there is a discrepancy between the information in one's hộ khẩu book and the residence database, the database information "shall be used" (Tuoi Tre News 17 Nov. 2020).

In correspondence with the Research Directorate, representatives of the Viet Nam Mission of the UN's International Organization for Migration (IOM) stated that although the government is transitioning from the paper-based hộ khẩu system to a digital national population database and citizen ID card, until this transition is complete temporary and permanent residency continues to be registered in a person's hộ khẩu (UN 30 May 2022).

1.1 Hộ Khẩu of an Adult Child and Ability of a Parent to Locate Their Adult Child Using the Hộ Khẩu

In correspondence with the Research Directorate, an economist at Vietnam National University, Hanoi's Vietnam Japan University who researches poverty, welfare, migration, and family relations in Vietnam stated that an adult child can choose to remain in their parents' hộ khẩu or they can apply for a separate hộ khẩu if they are "forming a new household" and "liv[ing] separately" from their parents (Economist 12 June 2022). The IOM Viet Nam Mission representatives indicated that even after a child is no longer a minor and regardless of their age, if they remain in their parents' household there would be "no need" to alter the parents' hộ khẩu and the adult child can still be included in it (UN 30 May 2022). The same source added that if the child's residency changed, or if they received approval to register themselves into a different household, they could be registered to a hộ khẩu that is not their parents' (UN 30 May 2022). In follow-up correspondence, the IOM Viet Nam Mission representatives stated that to obtain a new permanent residency hộ khẩu for a different address, a person would need the approval of the "principals" or "heads of the households" of both the old and the new hộ khẩu, approval of the local police in both the old and the new jurisdictions, and approval from their "parent or legal guardian" for minors below 16 years of age (UN 2 June 2022).

The IOM Viet Nam Mission representatives noted that an adult child seeking an independent hộ khẩu from that of their parents could obtain one if they had "housing in their name" and "obtain[ed] approval from the principal of the old hộ khẩu" (often their parents) as well as from the local police in their old and their new jurisdiction (UN 2 June 2022). The same source added that in the case of an adult child currently residing with their parents but seeking an independent hộ khẩu, they would need to obtain approval from their parents and the local police which indicates that "the separation is justifiable" (UN 2 June 2022).

The economist stated that while an adult child could apply for a new hộ khẩu upon relocating to another city, "[n]ormally" they would apply for temporary residence in their new city (Economist 12 June 2022). The IOM Viet Nam Mission representatives added that to register for temporary residency, a person would need a "certificate of permanent residency with consent of the hộ khẩu principal, as issued by the police of the permanent residence location" (UN 2 June 2022).

The economist indicated that if an adult child relocated to another city, their parents would only know of the new address if the child shared that information (Economist 12 June 2022). The same source added that the parents could seek assistance from the police in search of their child's location, but since the hộ khẩu system is "not well-developed … even the police may not know the [child's] temporary address" (Economist 12 June 2022).

The information in the following paragraph was provided by the IOM Viet Nam Mission representatives:

Parents would "[n]ot likely" be able to locate their adult child using the hộ khẩu for the following two reasons:

  • Registration in a location "does not always mean" that the person is currently residing at that location. A person can live in a location that is different from the permanent residence registered in their hộ khẩu. This person can choose not to register for temporary or permanent residence at the new address; although this will impact their ability to access services that require registration, "such gaps between actual residency and hộ khẩu registered residency exist".
  • Since "only police and other relevant state authorities" have access to the hộ khẩu system, as the digital database has not been implemented, "it is not easy to trace a person's registered residency using the hộ khẩu system." "At present," the police must contact all districts to track where a person is registered. "And even when this happens with police cooperation," there is "no guarantee" that the person is residing at the registered address (UN 30 May 2022).

Information on registering a hộ khẩu in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City specifically could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

Note

[1] The Hanoi People's Committee is one of three governing bodies in the administrative apparatus of the municipal government (Hanoi n.d.)

References

Australia. 11 January 2022. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). DFAT Country Information Report: Vietnam. [Accessed 9 May 2022]

The Diplomat. 26 July 2018. David Hutt. "Why Did Vietnam Suspend a Popular Newspaper?" [Accessed 22 June 2022]

Economist. 12 June 2022. Vietnam National University, Hanoi, Vietnam Japan University. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

Hanoi. N.d. Ha Noi Portal. "Administrative Apparatus." [Accessed 22 June 2022]

Hanoi Times. 2 July 2021. "Vietnam Kicks Off Online Residence Registration." [Accessed 18 May 2022]

Tuoi Tre News. 17 November 2020. "Vietnam to Discard Household Registration Books in 2023." [Accessed 18 May 2022]

United Kingdom (UK). 9 September 2019. Home Office. Report of a Home Office Fact-Finding Mission to Vietnam. [Accessed 13 June 2022]

United Nations (UN). 2 June 2022. International Organization for Migration (IOM). Correspondence from representatives to the Research Directorate.

United Nations (UN). 30 May 2022. International Organization for Migration (IOM). Correspondence from representatives to the Research Directorate.

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: professor of economic law at a university in Viet Nam who specializes in the household registration system; UN – UNICEF, UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

Internet sites, including: Al Jazeera; Amnesty International; Austrian Red Cross – ecoi.net; Belgium – Commissariat général aux réfugiés et aux apatrides; Bertelsmann Stiftung; EU – EU Agency for Asylum; Factiva; Fédération internationale pour les droits humains; Financial Times; France – Office français de protection des réfugiés et apatrides; Reuters; South China Morning Press; Switzerland – State Secretariat for Migration; Viet Nam – Ministry of Health; Vietnam News Agency.