The new law, which will take effect Jan. 1, 2009, still does not extend to foreigners the right to own free-standing houses, said the report.

Under the policy, foreigners who are eligible must meet one of the following conditions: be married to a Vietnamese citizen, be recognized by the prime minister or president for having made a great contribution to the country, have made direct investments in Vietnam, or have special skills and knowledge that Vietnam needs.

Foreign owners are not allowed buy and sell apartments as a business, nor are they allowed to maintain ownership after leaving Vietnam.

To obtain ownership of an apartment, a foreign resident would have to present necessary documentation to meet the conditions.

About 80,000 foreigners are living and working in Vietnam, according to the government's figures.

Vietnam's Ministry of Construction estimate that 10,000 apartments will be owned by foreigners after the new law comes into effect.

The Associated Press - May 23, 2008