Cambodia cracks down on retirees and expat businesses

Cambodia cracks down on retirees and expat businesses

Cambodia cracks down on retirees and expat businesses

Once the easiest of all Southeast Asian countries as regards expat long-stay visas, Cambodia is now cracking down with new regulations aimed at retirees and those requiring business visas.

Over the past few years, Cambodia has become a preferred long-stay destination for expat retirees and small-scale entrepreneurs for its straightforward visa process. As a result, more expats have been heading for the country along with a good number of small businesses owners and pensioners formerly based in Thailand. The ease of getting a visa and extending it for a long-term stay has attracted many Western expats unhappy about what’s seen as deliberate restrictions imposed by Thailand’s military junta government.

It now seems Cambodia is copying Thailand’s ever tightening visa regulations, thus barring expats from being able to live and work freely in the country. Formerly, once a Cambodian visa was granted, business visas were easily obtained locally, without having to make trips to Phnom Penh and provide reams of documentation as well as proof of earnings, pensions or capital. Retirement visas and business visas are affected, with one Cambodian travel agent who used to legally carry out visa extensions for expats saying the rules are now ‘getting stricter and stricter’.

In addition, Cambodia’s Department of Immigration recently announced a crackdown on foreigners staying in the country on what has been described as ‘irregular documents’. DOI head General Sok Phal told one news outlet more than 70,000 expats have been found to be living in the country without the correct documentation including passports, ‘family books’, residency books, ID cards and visas. Until now, he added, no action has been taken, but from now full enforcement and revocation of the documents will take place.

According to a reliable but anonymous source, no formal instructions have as yet been received, but many believe the crackdown as well as the recent closing down of the country’s English language newspaper,The Cambodian Daily, are being seen as governmental efforts to make sure next year’s general election comes and goes with no interference from outside the country. PM Hun Sen has been heard to refer to foreign-organised plans to stage a ‘colour revolution’ aimed at toppling his government. Whatever the reason, reducing the flow of comparatively well-off expats is likely to hit hard on small Cambodian businesses as well as the growing tourism industry.

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