Expats confused over new Cambodian visa system

Expats confused over new Cambodian visa system

Expats confused over new Cambodian visa system

A recent announcement by Cambodia’s immigration authorities has left expat residents and those planning to move to the laid-back country confused as its turns the formerly straightforward system on its end.

The plan seems to be to separate the three categories of retirees, students and working expats in order to ensure those who work are paying the relevant taxes on their Cambodian incomes. Traditionally, Cambodia has been one of Southeast Asia’s most welcoming states as regards ease of entry and stay, causing it to become the refuge of choice for expats in neighbouring Thailand who’ve had enough of unnecessary bureaucracy and constantly changing rules regarding work permits, retirement visas and marriage visas. Up until now entry to Cambodia was simply a matter of purchasing a 30-day entry pass and converting it via an agent to an annually renewable ordinary/business visa for a payment of $280.

In contrast to Thailand’s hugely unpopular immigration offices, Cambodian immigration doesn’t want or need to have expats turn up to extend their visas, as it’s done automatically at travel and tourist agencies interacting with immigration officials. Using an agent in Thailand to arrange an annual visa renewal is an expensive option, but is popular with expats who fear problems due to unannounced or unclear rule changes should they attempt to do it themselves.

Unfortunately, the Cambodian visa changes are likely to cause a similar expat reaction as, for example, the 20,000 or so retired expats now living in Cambodia will need to use an as yet officially unannounced retirement visa unlikely to allow working or volunteering, similarly to the Thai version. Rumours state proof of retirement from expats’ home countries must be shown, but may well be impossible to provide for those who relocated well before retirement age. Some Cambodian agents are denying the existence of such a visa, others admit they simply don’t know.

A good few expats in Cambodia are self-employed as digital nomads or freelance writers, and will find it impossible to comply with the new requirements for a work permit which require a letter from an employer. Insiders suggest a heated debate is ongoing amongst government officials as to whether the country should tighten up its visa system along Thailand’s lines or allow a more laissez-faire approach to continue. Some claim foreign criminals and undesirables have used the system to enter the country, others are presumably aware that Thailand’s tough visa regime doesn’t exactly deter entry to criminal elements.

Expats thinking of arriving in the near future should, it seems, enter with the 30-day ordinary visa and extend it as usual, in the hope that, when the first renewal is due in 2018, the situation will be clearer.

Related Stories:

Latest News: