The legal system of Vietnam is based on the socialism legal theory and inherited from French civil law system. The National Assembly is the highest office responsible for the law making activities. Legal Committee and various subordinate offices play roles of assisting the National Assembly with making law. Meanwhile, competent agencies (i.e. ministries or ministerial agencies) in the relevant fields take in charge of drafting law. Depending on the level of legalization of drafted documents (as stipulated by constitution), they will be submitted to the appropriate levels for consideration, revision, and approval.
The highest legal document in Vietnam is the Constitution passed by the National Assembly on April 1992. Under the Constitution are laws, ordinances, decrees and other affiliate legal documents dealing with different aspects of social life. Hereunder are some legal terminologies applicable in Vietnam:
Laws are passed by the National Assembly and are Vietnam’s highest form of legal direction;
Ordinances are passed by the Standing Committee of the National Assembly when the Assembly is not in session;
Decrees are passed by the government and generally implement Laws and Ordinances. Decrees are often supplemented by more detailed Regulation;
Orders are issued by the State President on the promulgation of Laws, Ordinances;
Government Decisions are issued by Prime Minister on the implementation of regulations of different issues;
Circulars are issued by individual ministries and usually provide guidance as to how a particular ministry will administer a law, ordinance or Decree;
Guidelines are not legal instruments. They are policy outlines issued by Prime Minister indicating that governmental committees should be set up to deal with issue. The recital of each legal instrument normally sets out the other legal instrument to which it is subordinate. If a legal instrument is intended to replace an earlier one, this will usually be mentioned near the end of the new instrument;
Ministerial decisions are issued by Minister (or Vice Minister on behalf) promoting the regulations on certain issues in the fields administered by the Ministry.