After long being the easiest destination in Asean for foreigners to obtain a long stay visa, the Cambodia government has brought the axe down on the practice with new regulations governing the issuance of six- and 12-month business (EB) visa extensions.
Effective from October 2, 2017, those wishing to extend an EB visa for either six- or 12-months will be required to present the following documents at the time of application:
- Employment letter (original) or
- Work permit card issued by the ministry of labor (copy) or,
- Business License or Patent certificate (copy) (for business owner) or,
- Employment Contract valid until the latest date of extension or,
- Relevant document stating the necessary of temporary stay in the Kingdom (copy)
The spouse, children, or partner living with the applicant will require a guarantee letter from the applicant’s employer.
Although not applicable to the first application for a one-, three-, six- or 12-month EB visa extension, the new rules apply to applications for all visa extensions if the applicant has previously held a six- or 12-month EB extension.
Also not affected by the new rules is Cambodia’s new ER (retirement) visa, or the EG (general) visa, both of which prohibit employment.
The new rules follow an announcement early last month of looming changes to the previously liberal criteria for six- and 12-month Cambodia business visa extensions, that has seen a large influx of Westerners from Thailand in recent years as visa requirements there have been gradually tightened.
Cambodia travel agencies, law firms, and visa agents received the new instructions in a letter last Friday, September 29, advising them that the new requirements would take effect ‘starting October 2’.
The new rules state that if a foreigner wishes to apply for a subsequent six- or 12-month visa extension and do not have the required documents they can change to an EG (general) visa for six months while they gather the necessary paperwork.
No information as to whether the EG class visa would be extended after the initial six months was available at the time of writing.
Business Visa Extensions: “It’s Unlike Before; It’s Getting Stricter”
One Cambodia travel agent who carries out what she describes as a “reasonable number” of visa extensions for foreigners, but who wished to remain anonymous, told AEC News Today “it is unlike before; now the rules are getting stricter and stricter”.
The agent said that a letter from an employer “might” get a subsequent EB visa extension, but that they had been told each “will be decided on a case-by-case basis, and be dependent on the visa history of the applicant. If a person has had several EB visa extensions already it is unlikely to be approved”, she said.
In addition to the stricter requirements for Cambodia business visa restrictions, the new rules also require those who have overstayed their original visa for more than 30-days to “personally go to the Department of Immigration (DoI) to get an extension”, she said.
The new rules are seen by many as a gradual tightening of what until now has been an extremely liberal visa extension policy. Those intending to stay long term in Cambodia obtain an EI class (initial) business visa on arrival for US$35. The visa is valid for 30-days and in the past has been able to be extended indefinitely for six- or 12-month periods.
This has allowed many people to stay in the Kingdom for years, working beneath the radar, and avoiding paying tax.
The new requirements will easily classify those who claim to be in the kingdom doing nothing, and those who are there working. Those who are working will be expected to be paying personal income tax, while those who claim to be self supporting may be required to prove their source of income and are expected to be dealt with harshly if caught working.
Under Cambodia law those caught carrying out activities not allowed by their class of visa are typically fined $100 and ordered to leave the country within seven days.
Last year Cambodia’s Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training (MOLVT) introduced an online system for work permit applications called the Foreign Workers Centralised Management System (FWCMS). After some initial teething problems the system now works smoothly and requires applicants to upload certain documents, including their first Cambodia visa, and the name and address of the employer.
The system currently accepts ‘freelance’ and ‘self-employed’ in the Employer entry field, but with the stricter enforcement of late of Cambodia’s new formalised tax regime, this is expected to change in the future.
An officer at the MOLVT who requested anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media said a lot of work is currently being done to enable data matching “to ensure people who are working in Cambodia are paying the appropriate PIT (personal income tax), but for now the requirements for foreigners in obtaining a work permit hasn’t changed”, he said.
As at the time of publication the DoI had not responded to a request for comment.
- Cambodia visa changes ‘still uncertain’ (The Phnom Penh Post)
- Government confirms foreigners will need work permits for long-term visas (The Phnom Penh Post)
- The Guide to Employment Permits for Foreign Workers in Cambodia (Asean Briefing)
- Why The Cambodia Daily Must Pay Its Tax Bill or be Shutdown (AEC News Today)
Kongleaphy Keam in Phnom Penh contributed to this story