Moving to Cambodia?

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Moving to Cambodia

Despite the traces of war which are still visible, Cambodia has a lot to offer, and moving there is becoming an increasingly popular choice among expats. Our guide gives an overview of Cambodia, including visas, expat destinations, and transportation.
Cambodia is famous for its rivers, rainforests, and, of course, its beautiful temples.

At a Glance:

  • Although you can get a visa at the airport or at named border crossings, we recommend that you 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 somewhere to suit everyone’s tastes in Cambodia.
  • Buses are the easiest and most common method of public transportation, while use of the Cambodian passenger train service is gradually being restored.

Whether previous travels to South-East Asia left you captivated by Cambodia’s charms, or if your decision to move was more career-motivated, the country has plenty to offer to expats from all backgrounds.

Back to Basics: Facts and Figures

Cambodia, officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a South East Asian nation which borders Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos. The country has an impressive and diverse environment: sprawling low, flat plains in the central region, the winding Mekong River, tiny tropical islands, wild rainforests, as well as mountainous regions. Cambodia has a tropical climate, with average temperatures ranging from 21⁰C to 35⁰C throughout the year. The rainy season is between May and October, bringing tropical monsoons, while the dry season lasts from November to April. When moving to Cambodia, keep in mind that the extensive rainfall makes flooding a common occurrence, particularly between June and October.

The country has a population of approximately 15.9 million, of which around 65% are under 30 years old. This particularly young population is a result of the baby boom that occurred following the end of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979. The Cambodian people have endured a lot of hardship and suffering, caused by territorial conflict with Vietnam, the Vietnamese Occupation, and the repressive Khmer Rouge regime (1975-1979). Vietnamese Troops withdrew from Cambodia in 1989, establishing some relative peace in the country.

Since then, however, Cambodia has faced tensions with Thailand, countless cases of political corruption (which sparked protests in 2014), as well as the complex process of bringing the perpetrators from the Khmer Rouge to justice — a constant reminder of the atrocities of war.

An Easy Application: Getting a Cambodian Visa

Before moving to Cambodia, it is advisable to secure a valid visa for your stay. You can also get your visa upon arrival, but taking care of it beforehand will make the process smoother and give you one less thing to worry about upon arrival. You can submit your visa application via mail or in person at your nearest Cambodian consulate or embassy.

There are two main types of visa that are available: the Tourist (T) visa, and the Business (E) visa. Both types are initially valid for 30 days after arrival in Cambodia. The tourist visa can be extended for one extra month, while the business visa can be extended for a maximum of twelve months, and then 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 must be valid for at least another six months
  • a self-addressed and pre-paid return envelope

For business visa applications you will also need:

  • 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 first 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 arrival in Cambodia is quite straight-forward. You can apply for your visa at one border crossing with Laos, five crossings with Vietnam, and six with Thailand. 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. 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 Cambodian riel at a poor exchange rate. The officials in Phnom Penh are trying to put an end to this, so it is important that you try your best to stand your ground and, if possible, pass on the name of the officials trying to scam you to the Ministry of Interiors and Tourism.

Work Permits

According to the Cambodian Labor Law of 1997, every foreign employee needs to secure a work permit in addition to their business (E) visa. However, when it comes to visas and employment, Cambodia has particularly poor regulation. Due to their largely contradictory and confusing Immigration Law, many foreigners have managed to work in the country without a work permit.

In recent years, however, officials have tried to tighten up the regulations, ensuring all foreign employees have a valid work permit. The rules are unclear, and Cambodian officials appear to regularly change their mind on what is needed, but it is always better to err on the side of caution, and apply for the work permit. If an employee is found not to have a valid work permit, both the worker and their employer can face hefty fines.

The application for a work permit is done on your behalf by your employer in Cambodia. As mentioned above, this doesn’t always happen, but if they do want you to have a permit, then you will be required to provide

  • three sets of application forms issued by the Ministry of the Interior
  • a passport and valid Cambodian visa
  • three passport photos
  • a certificate of health
  • written work contract from your employer

The employer will also be required to provide some additional documentation. The application must be done through the Ministry of Labor.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.

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