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Moving to Cambodia

Despite the traces of war which are still visible in Cambodia, the country has a lot to offer and moving to Cambodia is becoming more and more popular among expats. This guide offers an insight to moving to Cambodia, including visa, expat destinations, and transportation.
Cambodia is famous for its rivers, rainforests, and, of course, its beautiful temples.
  • Although you can get a visa at the airport or at named border crossings, it is recommended to apply for one before you move to Cambodia.
  • Officials are tightening up on work permit checks. Previously, you may have gotten away without one, but if you want to avoid hefty fines, make sure you have a valid work permit.
  • Whether you want a busy, cosmopolitan life or a quiet house by the beach, there’s something for everyone in Cambodia.
  • The government has just recently started to restore the railway transportation system and, currently, there is only one working railway line.

Whether you have traveled these parts of Asia before and have fallen in love with the country or if your decision on moving to Cambodia was motivated by your career choice, the country has a lot to offer to expats. Multinational companies chose Cambodia as their headquarters and are in need of qualified personnel. The bureaucracy is much less overwhelming than in other countries, allowing you to start your own business without too much difficulty. Moreover, the country’s stunning nature makes moving to Cambodia an excellent choice.

Back to Basics: Facts and Figures

With a population of 15.9 million, Cambodia is located on the southwest of the Indochina peninsula and shares borders with Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos. Most of the country is comprised of low flat plains and rainforests crossed by various rivers such as the Mekong River — Cambodia’s largest river — and the Bassac River System.

The country is known for its tropical climate with very little temperature variation between the seasons. Monsoon season lasts from May to November, while the dry season lasts from December to April. When moving to Cambodia, keep in mind that extensive rainfalls and flooding are very common, particularly between June and November.

The Cambodian people have endured a lot of hardships under the regime of the Khmer Rouge, the Vietnamese occupation, and the civil war that followed suit. Since the conflict ended in 1999, the country has become relatively peaceful, however, reported corruption within the judiciary system and police resulted in a 2.3 billion USD bill for the government, in an attempt to control violence in Cambodia in 2014.

An Easy Application: Getting a Cambodian Visa

Before moving to Cambodia, it is advisable to secure a valid visa for your stay. While you can also get your visa upon arrival, taking care of it beforehand will make the move smoother. You can submit your visa application via mail or in person at the nearest Cambodian consulate or embassy. Aside from diplomatic, official, and courtesy visas which are only rarely given out, there are two types of official visa, the tourist visa and the business visa.

Both of them are initially valid for 30 days after moving to Cambodia. The tourist visa can be extended for one month, while the business visa can be extended for up to twelve months, and renewed as often as necessary. This makes it the perfect solution for expats on a short business trip as well as those who move to Cambodia for a long-term assignment.

In order to apply for a Cambodian visa, you need to submit the following paperwork:

  • one completed visa application
  • one passport-sized photo
  • your passport which is at least valid for another six months
  • a self-addressed and pre-paid envelope
  • a letter from your company or your sponsor, or an invitation from Cambodia, supporting the need for you to apply for a business visa

You will be charged a small fee when you apply for your visa and again when you extend your visa at the Ministry of Interior after moving to Cambodia.

Border Crossing

The procedure of applying for your visa upon moving to Cambodia is quite straight-forward. However, it is a lot easier and less of a hassle if you take care of it at the airport as opposed to the land border checkpoints. Moreover, the immigration officers at the land-border checkpoints have a reputation for asking for additional immigration fees (which you are not obligated to pay).

They might also overcharge you for your visa or force you to change your foreign currency into riel at a poor rate. The officials in Phnom Penh are trying to put an end to this, so it is important that you stand your ground. Pass on the name of the officials trying to scam you to the Ministry of Interiors and Tourism. However, not everyone has a bad experience upon moving to Cambodia. You can apply for your visa at one border crossing with Laos, five crossings with Vietnam, and six with Thailand.

Work Permits

When you get ready for moving to Cambodia, you will sooner or later stumble upon the subject of work permits. According to the Labor Law of 1997, every foreign employee needs to secure a work permit in addition to their business visa. However, because the country is very welcoming to expats and because the Immigration Law is largely contradictory and confusing, many foreigners were previously allowed to work in Cambodia without a work permit. However, as of August 2014, officials started to tighten up on the regulations and began to ensure all foreign employees had a valid work permit to work in Cambodia. If an employee is found to not have a work permit, both the worker and the employer face hefty fines.

When asking around among your expat friends, you will soon find that some of them have a work permit while others believe that their business visa suffices. Many of them are simply not aware that they need a work permit when moving to Cambodia.

While you could avoid the hassle and maybe get away with it, you should secure a work permit, to be on the safe side. Simply visit the Ministry of Labor and present you passport and your visa. They can answer your questions regarding the subject.


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