A Residence Permit for Cameroon
Getting a Residence Permit
You can apply for a residence permit only if you have renewed your visa before. This can be done at the Immigration Police in all major cities. Again, you will need quite a lot of documents:
- your passport, as well as a certified copy of both your passport and your valid visa
- a written request to obtain a residence permit
- a proof of occupation
- residence certificate (see previous page)
- a copy of your yellow fever card
Moreover, don’t forget about the required documents to prove the status of your employer (e.g. their status as a non-profit). If you happen to work for an organisation linked to a church, it is advisable to also take proof of that as that may give you a better permit for a better prize.
Lastly, you need a so-called declaration of non-conviction (i.e. a certificate of good conduct or criminal records check). This one can only be obtained in Yaoundé. You need to go to the Palais de Justice. My advice is to go by 8:00. If you go that early, the middlemen are not there yet and that may save you a lot of money. When you arrive at the Palais, head to the security guards and explain what you need. They will get it done for you at the official price ("…and something extra for me"). If you use the middlemen, you can easily pay ten times as much.
To get the certificate, you need to leave your passport at the Palais de Justice. My advice: get a certified photocopy of it. If something goes wrong, you only lose your copy and your fiscal stamp, which is worth less than 2 EUR. They also request your residence certificate again. I have even heard about some cases where people also needed to submit their international birth certificate. I got my declaration of non-conviction without it, but it may be good to take it along, just to be sure.
During the application process, your picture will be taken and you have to provide your fingerprints and signature. Everything is digitalized now, so no more hassle with inky black fingers!
Most residence permits are valid for two years. The prize is very unclear. There are many different categories, and it is not always very clear which one applies to you. For example, I got my first residence permit for free. Two years later I worked for the same organisation, in the same position, earning the same money, going to the same immigration office and I ended up paying 250,000 XAF. So sometimes you could just be lucky.
After your application you will receive a temporary document. This is normally valid for three months. You will not face any difficulties even entering the country with it as long as it hasn’t expired. Before the expiration date you should go back to the police station where you applied to collect your real document. If it hasn’t arrived yet, they will extend the validity of your temporary document.
Renewing Your Residence Permit
Renewing the permit is similar to applying for it in the first place. The only difference is that you don’t need the declaration of non-conviction again. You should now submit a certified copy of your expiring permit, though.
Protecting Your Documents
The residence permit has the size of a bank card, which is convenient to carry with you. For travelling within the country, this is enough for identification purposes at the millions of checkpoints you will come across. If you don’t have this permit (yet), or don’t want to carry it with you, you can also take a certified copy of your passport and your valid visa or residence permit instead. The fiscal stamps used to certify the copy have a validity of three months (although that is not written on it).
Ever Lost It?
Even if you try to be careful, you may lose your residence permit, or it may be stolen. In that case, you should go to the Immigration Police. You will need to submit a so-called Certificate of Loss. This form is, like the one for the residence certificate, available at copy shops for 100 XAF. This application form should be filled in, and it needs, of course, the fiscal stamp.
You submit the form together with a photocopy of your lost document (so make sure you always copy or scan all your documents!), a certified copy of your passport, and a written request to provide you with a Certificate of Loss.
The Immigration Police will provide you with this certificate, which is normally valid for two months. During these two months, you can use this document to travel within Cameroon. When you apply for a new document, you will submit it together with all other necessary documents.
When you leave the country, the Border Police will check your documents. So make sure you have a valid visa, exit visa, or residence permit. You no longer need to pay 10,000 XAF to leave, as you used to do .
At some point, every person leaving by plane was expected to have a recent vaccination against polio (done no more than six months ago). It is not very clear if this is still required. Personally I was only checked a couple of times. In Douala, they seemed to be only present during office hours. To be sure you can contact Centre Pasteur in Yaoundé. Here you can also get the vaccination. If you don’t have it and it turns out to be required, you can also get it at the airport. The polio vaccine is an oral vaccine (so there will be no problems with dirty needles). You will have to pay around 2,500 XAF for it, which is the same price as in hospital.
If you leave for good, you may want to obtain a new declaration of non-conviction, especially if you were not registered in your home country while staying in Cameroon. For many jobs you may need to prove you didn’t commit any crime, and your own country may not be able to provide you with this proof for the period you were living abroad.
Getting an International Driving License
An international driving license is not necessary for most nationalities to be allowed to drive in Cameroon. However, I would recommend to get one nonetheless.
If you lose your international license, you will not suffer much. You can simply buy a new one the next time you travel to your country of origin. However, getting your real license back is much more complicated and expensive. You can also apply for a Cameroonian driving license, which will also be recognised by the local police much more easily.
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