Foreign workers without work permits will be forced to leave the country, says Deputy Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Nguyen Thanh Hoa.

The regulation comes under a draft decree which has been edited by the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs before it is submitted to the Government.

The draft decree also regulates foreigners who work as high-ranking experts would not need a work permit.

Government Decree 34/CP, which regulates foreign worker recruitment and management, came into effect in April 2008, but enterprises that employed foreigners without permits only received administrative punishment under the regulation.

Foreign workers who did not obey the decree were to be expelled, but in fact, that never happened because the decree was not strictly enforced, said Hoa.

Enterprises found guilty of violating the regulation were fined up to 5-10 million VND (250-500 USD), depending on their levels of violation.

Procedures to issue work permits would not be changed, but would be more strictly regulated, he added.

The draft decree would not have unnecessary procedures like the old one, under which the Minister of Public Security had to authorise any expulsions. Under the updated version, city police directors would have the power, said Hoa.

"The draft decree creates good conditions for foreign workers with high levels of ability to work in Vietnam , and manages other foreigners better," he said.

Nguyen Trung Kien, a personnel manager at Hue Phong Leather Shoes Co Ltd in HCM City , said that his company employed 60,000 workers, 3 percent of whom were foreigners from Asian countries.

"All foreigners that work for my company have work permits because we want to ensure their rights when working in Vietnam ," he said.

However, some foreigners were unsatisfied with the draft decree.

Robert Potts from England , who works for a newspaper in Hanoi , said that to obtain a work permit, he would have to go through a number of procedures including an official health check, and would also have to provide authorised police records, proof of residence and academic certificates, all with translations.

"It's very difficult to get hold of these documents. If the Government wants to enforce the decree, it should simplify the procedures," he said.

John Ingalls, from England , agreed with Potts.

"I would like to have a work permit but landlords and employers are reluctant to declare foreigners as it means they have to pay more tax," he said.

According to ministry statistics, there are currently 57,000 foreign workers in the country, 70 percent of whom have work permits, and 30 percent work under a visa./.