What’s going on with work permits in Cambodia?

Update Apr 5, 2018:

They’ve extended the deadline for work permit applications until April 30th. This is handy because they never officially announced the previous deadline. Unfortunately, the extension does not include an amnesty for previous years’ fines as it did in 2017. They have also announced that employers will be fined $630 for employees who do not have a work permit and employees will be fined $10 per day for overdue work permit extensions.

So if you haven’t gotten a work permit, now is probably the time to do it. The cost is $100 per calendar year that you have had an EB visa (formerly the “ordinary” or “business” visa) and $100 for the current year. If you work for an employer, they need to have applied for a quota for foreign workers. If your employer neglected to do this, you will need to apply as a self-employed worker.

Those who are self-employed report that their applications are being rejected multiple times for not having a business license. Those who persevere have reported that on the fifth or tenth attempt, they have gotten approved. So keep trying. If you are self-employed, do not list a business name or they will (understandably) request a business license. Those who have been approved report entering “freelance/freelance/salary 0/category X (other) 100 (other)” on their application.

I can’t keep up with the changing work permit information or with emails I get from readers asking for advice on their situation, so if you have questions or need updates, please visit the Cambodia Visa and Work Permit Group on Facebook.

Update Mar 8, 2018:

The deadline to apply for a 2018 work permit is either the end of March or the start of Khmer New Year (April 14th). Both have been reported, so take your pick. If you applied last year using the online system, you can login using the same username/password and click “renew.” You’ll need to provide a new “physical aptitude certificate” and a copy of your current visa, but other than that, everything will be saved in your application from last year.

If you’re in Phnom Penh, you’ll need to get your health certificate from the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training. Go early in the day and do it soon; it can take up to two weeks to get your certificate. The cost is $25. If you’re in Siem Reap you can get one at Neak Tep clinic in less than an hour for the same price.

Update Oct 11, 2017:

New, unofficial and often contradictory memos about immigration and work permits are being released by the various ministries on a near-daily basis. Today, it’s being said that you cannot get a 6- or 12-month EB visa extension even if you have a work permit, and will need a letter from an employer. For those who are self-employed, they need a residency letter from immigration, letter from police, and three months of bank statements to show they can support themselves.

Unless your visa needs to be renewed this week, I would suggest waiting for the dust to settle. It’s clear that they haven’t decided what the “rules” are or how they will be enforced, so there’s no point in getting into a panic today, because the information may be entirely different by tomorrow. I’ll update this post once something more substantial is released.

Update Oct 5, 2017:

As reported in the Phnom Penh Post, from the start of the month work permits are now needed to renew most 6- and 12-month EB visa extensions. (EB visa extensions are the ones that most expats are on, also called the ‘ordinary’ or ‘business’ visa.) Although there has not been a government announcement, the new rules are already being enforced. Wondering if there are any exceptions? Keep reading.

Cambodia work permits

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you’re going to need a work permit.

Those who want to to extend their 6- or 12-month EB visa need to bring a copy of their work permit with them, which will then be submitted with their passport to the Ministry of Immigration. If you do not yet have a work permit you can bring a formal letter from your employer, which should include your full name, passport number, job title, and dates of employment. Letters must be signed and stamped.

“The stamp is important. Required,” one agent told me. She also said that before issuing the visa they will check to make sure that the company issuing the employment letter is registered in Cambodia, and presumably, has the quota available to hire foreigners.

The names of dependent spouses and children, along with their passport numbers, should also be included in this letter. Non-working spouses and children can be granted an EB visa without a work permit if their name is included on the employment letter of the employed spouse.

Work permit application receipts or evidence of application will not be accepted in lieu of a work permit, so if you have already applied but haven’t gotten the permit back, you will need a letter from your employer.

This, of course, leaves self-employed people who have already applied for a work permit but have not yet been approved in limbo. The Post article says “the law did not specifically address freelance employees but that the department would try to accommodate them,” and requested that self-employed people provide evidence of self-employment (good luck figuring out what that means).

The first exception to thisyes, dear reader, there are two small exceptions—is that those who have entered the country on the one-month ordinary visa for the first time are entitled to one extension of stay without a work permit. It does not matter if you get a 1-, 3-, 6-, or 12-month visa extension, the first one does not require evidence of employment. (On Friday, Oct 6th a document has been circulating suggesting the government has had another think about this and have removed 12-month extensions from this list, but I haven’t been able to confirm this yet.)

The second exception is that at the current time, a work permit is not required for 1- and 3-month EB visa extensions. Before you get too excited, these visas are single entry, so you will need to get a new one every time you re-enter Cambodia (so they take up a lot of passport pages). And, a little bird at the embassy told me that this is not a permanent solution, because they will not continue to issue even short-term visa extensions indefinitely to someone without a work permit. It’s a temporary reprieve, nothing more.

Your next question is probably going to be “where can I find an agent to process my work permit?” The answer: you don’t need one. The Cambodia work permit system has been designed for foreigners to apply online directly, without an agent. Agents who are offering to help people with “difficult” applications should not be trusted.

Another agent told me this week that foreigners should beware of agents charging for work permits. “They are using counterfeit documents in the applications,” she said. “Later it is the foreigner who will pay the price for using bad documents, and the agent will be gone.”

So…take a deep breath and apply for a work permit on your own. It’s not that difficult.

If you are a business owner: You must register your business, get a tax patent, and employee quota registration. The quota registration is what allows your employees to apply for a work permit. If you have not applied for this, your employees cannot get a work permit.

If you are an employee: You can apply online. You will need to submit a residency certificate which you can get from the immigration police (bring a few passport photos and a copy of your lease), your first long-stay visa from when you entered Cambodia, your current long-stay visa (extension of stay), a passport photo, a medical certification. In Phnom Penh the medical test can be done at the Ministry of Labor clinic, and in Siem Reap several private clinics such as RHAC or Neak Tep and issue the certificate.

If you are self-employed (or your employer has not registered): You can also apply online; there is a separate login for the self-employed. You will need all of the information above, minus the employer information. If you are a freelancer, you should enter “freelance” as your occupation and employer and your salary as zero. Most have had their work permits approved with no business certificate or letter, but others have been asked to provide a business registration. If asked, you can try to resubmit the application with “freelance” as your occupation and it has a decent chance of being approved the second time around.

Cambodia work permit costs:

  • $100 (400,000 riel) per calendar year from your first visa extension in Cambodia,  even if you were not working
  • $25 (100,000 riel) medical certificate
  • $5 (20,000 riel) medical certificate verification (presumably for those who don’t get their certificate directly from the Ministry of Labor)
  • $33.75 (135,300 riel) online application fee
  • $125 fine for not applying (this is only levied on people who are caught without a work permit, if you voluntarily apply for one you will not be fined, according to my source at one of the western embassies)

After applying, once you’re approved you’ll get an email with an invoice that needs to be paid in riel at any ACLEDA bank. A few weeks or months later, your work permit will be mailed to you, or to your nearest post office where it will be waiting for you.

A small caveat which is that these rules, which are being enforced and have been confirmed to me by several travel agents and an embassy employee who met with the Ministry of Labor about it, have not been officially released or included in any prakhas or sub-decrees. So as per usual, this may change.

For more information on Cambodia visa types and the requirements for each, check out our All About Cambodia Visas page.

Still have questions? Join the Cambodia Visas and Work Permits group on Facebook and ask other confused people questions.

Update Sept 2, 2017:

If you’ve been following the news lately, you’ll probably have heard the rumors that in a few days Cambodia will be requiring a work permit in order to renew long-stay EB visa extensions. Although there have been several articles in the Phnom Penh Post and the Cambodia Daily, to date, nothing has been confirmed.

According to the reports, work permits will be required to renew 6-month and 12-month EB visa extensions, but a work permit will not be needed to renew single-entry 1-month and 3-month extensions. It is rumored that at least for a while, foreigners will be able to submit a letter from an employer in lieu of a work permit stating their intention to procure a work permit in the immediate future.

Many websites and agents are pretending that this requirement is a certainty starting this month, however none have actually confirmed this with the Ministry of Immigration, who have only given answers that waffle on about what the requirements are and when they will be implemented. Expats are getting themselves into a sky-is-falling tizzy over what may be nothing (at least for now).

Remember, in 2015 it was reported in the Cambodia Daily that the work permit requirement would be strictly enforced, and the Khmer Times reported that those without work permits would be fined at the airport. Neither of these things came to pass (and as the Cambodia Daily didn’t get work permits for their foreign employees, even they didn’t seem to have a lot of faith in their reporting).

It is my personal opinion, based on past history, that work permits being required to renew long-stay visa extensions will not be implemented immediately or another work permit amnesty will be offered. It also appears that the prahkas regarding visas will need to be amended to implement the work permit requirement legally, which will take time (whether they do this at all is another story).

That said, it is very clear which way the wind is blowing. Cambodia no longer wants expats who are not working or are otherwise undesirable. No amount of expat whining and complaining will change that, so for those who are here it’s best to figure out a way that you can qualify for a work permit. At the current time it is still possible for self-employed expats to apply, but that may change in the future.

Another rumor that has not been confirmed is that the ER retirement visa extension has strict age requirements. This is not true, although it may be in the near future. Foreigners in their 40s have successfully applied and been granted the ER retirement visa extension.

For more information on Cambodia visa types and the requirements for each, check out our All About Cambodia Visas page.

In conclusion, you probably need a work permit and the sooner you deal with it, the better. 

Please see the previous update for information on applying for a Cambodia work permit.

Update June 6, 2017:

I haven’t updated this post in a while because “rules” regarding work permits have still not been officially released, and what little we know has been difficult to confirm and haphazardly enforced. With that caveat…

work permit cambodia

A real life Cambodia work permit (pre-2017 style).

First, the regular E-type visa has been split into several sub-types. (Read all about them here). For those who are on the most common type, the EB visa, you are required to have a work permit. Right now the requirement is not being enforced across the board, so many foreigners in Cambodia do not have work permits, and many will say they are not necessary. I have begrudgingly come to the conclusion that the work permit issue is not going away, and that everyone who is working in Cambodia should become compliant.

If you are a business owner: You must register your business, get a tax patent, and employee quota registration. The quota registration is what allows your employees to apply for a work permit. If you have not applied for this, your employees cannot get a work permit.

If you are an employee: You can apply online. You will need to submit a residency certificate which you can get from the immigration police, your first long-stay visa, your current long-stay visa (extension of stay), a passport photo, a medical certification (the test consists of getting your temperature taken, a blood test if you are in Phnom Penh, and for women in Siem Reap, a surprisingly thorough breast examination).

If you are self-employed (or your employer has not registered): You can also apply online; there is a separate login for the self-employed. You will need all of the information above, minus the employer information. If you are a freelancer, you should enter “freelance” as your occupation and employer. Some who have registered as self-employed have been required to register themselves as a business, or to get a letter from a government ministry stating they are self-employed (which is obviously impossible). Others have had their work permits approved with no business certificate or letter.

Unfortunately it appears that they are not very well equipped to deal with the self-employed yet and the process can be onerous. Very few countries allow work permits for freelancers, and it appears that Cambodia may go that way as well and require everyone to register as a business.

If you apply for a work permit you will be required to pay for every year from your first E-visa, whether you were working or not. This is not negotiable anymore.

The cost for a Cambodia work permit is $30 for a medical certificate, $100 for each prior year, and $130 for 2017. Once your application is approved, you will be sent an email confirmation and asked to make payment at an Acleda Bank.

If you let your work permit lapse the fines can be substantial, although how substantial is still unconfirmed. I have heard around $650 or $10 per day (plus the cost of the work permit) but this has not been confirmed.

All of the above information is not set in stone and can vary from person to person, town to town, etc. Some people have a smooth and painless application, others do not.

I’m sorry because I know this is not what most of you want to hear. It is my belief (uncorroborated, admittedly) that at some point in the not-so-distant future they will tie work permits to immigration status and those who do not have them will not be able to get visas or re-enter the country. Whether that actually happens remains to be seen, but the last time I flew into the country I was asked by the immigration officer if I was working in Cambodia…seemed like a precursor of things to come.

For more discussion on what’s happening with work permits, have a look at the Cambodia Visa and Work Permit group on Facebook.

Update Aug 31, 2016:

A few new developments with work permits in Cambodia. The government has announced that tomorrow, September 1st, they will be launching online work permit applications for foreigners. If the site actually works, this seems like great news because the rules will have to become clear (mostly), and people will stop being taken advantage of by dishonest agents, which seems to be happening quite a bit in Phnom Penh and Kampot.

The costs will be streamlined, although there is an extra $30 fee paid to the company contracted to process the applications, and a health check-up will be required. Additionally, applicants are required to submit their work contract and certificate of employment. I’m going to take a wild guess that this means employees are going to be required to pay taxes in the future. Overall, although the process is onerous, being able to keep track of foreign workers is probably in Cambodia’s best interests. I guess.

The site is up and running but has several glitches that render it unusable. The registration form is worth having a look at, though.

Update July 28, 2016:

It’s been announced today that Cambodia will begin to offer a retirement visa that waives the work permit requirement for retirees. Read our full update about the Cambodia retirement visa here.

Since my last update, not much has happened in the work permit world. Most expats do not have work permits, and the crackdown seems to have ended. The only foreigners who have been required to get work permits are those working at large businesses and schools, although there are periodic crackdowns in areas with primarily foreign workers, such as Koh Rong. For the time being, there does not seem to be reason to worry about the issue.

Update Aug 13, 2015:

Several readers have sent me this article from the Khmer Times on July 30th stating that those without work permits will be fined at the airport if they attempt to leave the country. No one has reported having their work permits checked at the airport, including people I know who have departed Cambodia this week. I do not consider the Khmer Times to be a credible source of information, and until I see it reported elsewhere, I will assume that this report is not based on anything real.

Update June 16, 2015:

Although there is not a lot of news to report on the work permit front, I thought I would update this post with the current situation, ie. the current rumors. After applying for a work permit at the start of the year, I finally got my work book five months later.

I used SmartUp Cambodia, based in Siem Reap for my permit. The fee for this service was $60 in addition to the $100 per year for the permit. Remember, the year means calendar year, so even if you arrived in December of 2014, you’ll need to pay for 2014. I have heard reports of agents in Phnom Penh asking hundreds of dollars for processing work permits. Do not pay an exorbitant rate! Using an agent was helpful, but if your application is straightforward, it’s not necessary. The real benefit to using an agent is that they can help negotiate you negotiate a lower price if you’ve been here a long time — think 10+ years. If you’ve only been here a few years, you’re going to pay $100 per year; I haven’t heard of anyone paying less. You can apply yourself by going to the Ministry of Labor.

They do not seem to be enforcing with the fervor that they were earlier this year and only seem to be focusing on low-hanging fruit, large companies with several foreign staff. The reason for the lack of recent action might be because they are backlogged with applications, so it’s likely the crackdown will start up again, eventually. However, the alleged list of foreigners that were going to be hunted down and fined seems to have been shelved.

If you have a public facing job, it makes sense to get your work permit sooner rather than later. If they (and by they, I mean the Ministry of Immigration who are doing the enforcement for the Ministry of Labor) show up at your place of business and demand to see your work permit, you will be forced to get one, plus pay a $125 fine.

There is still a lot of confusion about what the laws mean and how they should be enforced. There have been reports of people being stopped on the street and having money demanded if they could not produce a work permit, but I suspect that these are just rogue officers asking for bribes. If you are confronted in this way, just refuse to pay and head to the Ministry of Labor to apply for your work permit. You’ll be given a receipt that you can keep while you wait for your actual workbook and card. The cost will be $100 per year, plus an extra couple of bucks to have someone help you translate the forms. Everyone who reports doing it themselves says it is simple and painless.

The situation for the retired and volunteers is still up in the air. Personally, if I was a member of one of these groups I might take my chances, because I still think it’s possible that once the laws are clarified (and they are still very, very unclear) that there may be a retirement visa or an agreement that those not drawing a salary in Cambodia will not need a work permit.

Overall, the situation does not seem as dire as it did in the previous update below.

Update Jan 8, 2015:

It seems that the long-promised enforcement work permit is finally happening.  In yesterday’s Cambodia Daily, an article declares: Government to strictly enforce work permit law from next week. For those naysayers who say they’ve heard this before, this time we think they’re for real. The rules are still very unclear and are being enforced different in different cities, but this is what is generally true:

All foreigners on long-stay “ordinary” or “business” visas need a work permit, regardless of their actual work status. Those on NGO visas are exempt.

In the future, retirees may have a special visa, but for now, they need a work permit.

Employers are responsible for obtaining a work permit for their employees, but in practice this is not always happening. If you have a formal employer, you should speak to them about your situation.

Business owners, the self-employed and freelancers need a work permit, but they can sponsor their own. Technically you need to register your business (and get your taxes set up) to do so, but you can start the work permit process before actually completing your business registration.

If you’re self-employed without a visible business, it’s likely that you will be able to avoid the requirements some time while they look for more visible foreigners. However, it’s my personal opinion that the requirements are going to get more stringent and it will be harder to get a work permit in the future without a “real job.” Therefore it may make sense to bite the bullet and do it sooner rather than later.

In many cities, businesses that employ foreigners are being told they must get work permits. If you wait until you are asked for one, you will be fined $125, plus the regular costs. Therefore, it makes sense to get your paperwork in order before you end up on their hit list.

Those who apply for work permits are required to pay $100 for each calendar year from their first long-stay visa. This means if you arrive in September, 2013 and apply for a work permit today, you will need to pay $300, for years 2013, 2014, and 2015. Most long-term expats are able to negotiate a lower rate — it’s been the case that they will generally settle for 5 years ($500) regardless of the length of your actual stay. Previous (French) reports of them waiving the back years entirely have been unsubstantiated.

Although a residence card is also required, they have not started issuing them yet.

Another requirement is that foreigners submit to a blood test each year, to test for unspecified communicable diseases. A fee can be paid to avoid the test, and if you, like I, are terrified due to the recent HIV outbreak in Battambang that was quite possibly deliberately spread by a local doctor, I would just pay the fee.

It’s important to note that at the current time, work permits are not tied to visas. So even if you are on a “business” visa, you do not have a work permit. Moreover, it’s an entirely different department that is is issuing work permits than the one that issues visas. This means that even if you do not have a work permit, you will be able to renew your visa at a travel agent (but not at the immigration office), and you won’t be stopped coming in to or leaving Cambodia if you don’t have a work permit. For now.

There are a number of businesses and consultants offering to do the work permit paperwork for fees ranging from $20 to $60. I’ll get a list together if anyone is interested. I’m testing out SmartUp Cambodia in Siem Reap, and will let you know in 4-6 weeks how it goes.

Don’t shoot me, I’m just the messenger. It’s possible this will all blow over as in years past, but personally, I don’t think it will.

Update Aug 28, 2014:

In today’s Cambodia Daily, there’s an article entitled Work Permits Now Required for Foreigners. “The Labor Ministry has begun to enforce a long-neglected law that requires foreigners employed in Cambodia to have work permits, according to ministry officials.
Teams of inspectors have begun scouring the country to ensure that foreign employees and businesspeople have the proper documentation, with employers and workers facing hefty fines in the event that they are not certified.” The article also mentions large retroactive fines and payments for prior years.

Elsewhere, the French Embassy has been advising its citizens that they should get work permits, but pay for 2014 only, ie. no retroactive fines for previous years.

In Francophone Cambodge Mag, Anthony Galliano of Cambodia Investment Management reports back from his recent meeting with the Ministry of Labor. He reports that they have clearly stated that volunteers, retirees, and the unemployed will not need work permits. Anyone drawing an income in Cambodia will need a work permit from a registered business. If you are a shareholder in a licensed, registered business, you do not need a work permit. If you are self-employed or are a shareholder in a non-registered business, it would behoove you to register your business, although it seems unlikely that the self-employed will be one of the first groups targeted. Galliano suggests using this reprieve as a chance to quietly get all necessary paperwork in order.

Update: Aug 22, 2014 

The Cambodia Daily has published an article saying the Ministries of Labor and Interior “met on Thursday to outline the government’s plan to more strictly enforce measures for employers of foreign nationals to ensure that their staff has proper documentation.” It looks like they will be asking all employers to get work permits for their employees. There is no mention of any other class of visa holder such as volunteers, self-employed, retirees, etc.

Aug 8, 2014

You may have heard that the situation with Cambodia work permits has changed recently. That’s half true. In order to work in Cambodia, one has always needed a work permit. However, it was very rarely enforced and the great majority of people didn’t bother. In the last few weeks, however, there have been several announcements that the work permit requirement is now going to be enforced.

Here’s what you need to know.

First, this announcement has happened every few years for a long, long time. Most of the time, they crack down on a few expats and then the issue is dropped. This time the threats seem more serious, but it is still very much up in the air. There have been a few crackdowns this year, most notably in Kampot, but nothing has changed yet for the great majority of expats in Cambodia.

It appears that if you work for a company in Cambodia you will, at some point in the near future, need to get a work permit. They are going after the largest and most visible companies first.

Expats who have been in Cambodia the longest have the most to worry about. Work permits cost $100 per year, and they are checking passports and counting how many years you have in Cambodia and charging for the previous years. They also add fines into the mix–which are, of course, not listed in the prakas and are subject to the whims and financial solvency of those collecting. This means that those with newer passports will pay less.

Thus far, it seems that Kampot has been the only city to be seriously affected. Even in Kampot, while many people were told to get work permits, many more were ignored. In other cities, there have been reports of police going door to door asking foreigners for a copy of their passport and visa. It’s possible that this is a prelude to a work permit crackdown later in the year, or it’s possible that the sangkats are just getting their records up-to-date, as they are supposed to keep track of where all foreigners live, anyway.

At the present time it is the employer’s responsibility to secure the work permit for their employees, although this may be changing. Any foreign employee of a registered business will need to get a work permit, although there is probably no need to do it until the Ministry of Labor demands it. However, many large employers are finally getting the message and registering their foreign employees, so you may be one of the lucky ones that gets your work permit quickly and without any hassle.

It’s important to note that at the current time, work permits are not tied to visas. So even if you are on a “business” visa, you do not have a work permit. Moreover, it’s an entirely different department that is is issuing work permits than the one that issues visas. This means that even if you do not have a work permit, you will be able to renew your visa, and you won’t be stopped coming in to or leaving Cambodia if you don’t have a work permit.

And then there’s the residency card. According to the prakas, foreigners need a visa, work permit and residency card. Thus far there has been no proof that any residency card has ever been issued to a foreigner, so for the moment, this point can be ignored.

But I’m a volunteer, retiree or unemployed?!

The status of volunteers, retirees, the unemployed is still very much up in the air. Work permits may be required for all holders of long-term visas. However, a recent visitor to the Ministry of Labor says that those not drawing a salary in Cambodia will not be affected.

So what should I do?

Probably nothing. This may, as it has many times before, blow over. If you work for a large organization, your employer will secure a work permit for you. If you work for a small organization, it’s likely that you will not be asked for a work permit for at least a while. It is my personal opinion that marching into ministries and waving cash around trying to solve problems that have yet to be clarified or put on paper is a bad idea. So I wouldn’t advise doing anything until the rules become more clear, unless your employer has already brought it up.

But, but, but…

These rules have been on the books since 1995, and there’s nothing wrong with Cambodia finally deciding to enforce them. Of course it’s not ideal that are choosing to retroactively punish expats for not having work permits when it was often not possible to get work permits in years past. But it’s important to remember that Cambodia, even with an extra $100 a year tacked on for a work permit, still offers one of the easiest and cheapest visa/work permits in the world.

This is all of the information that is available to date. Clear as mud, right? Remain calm and let’s see what happens. We’ll update this blog if anything changes.

Looking for more information? Check out our page about Cambodia visas and our page about Cambodia work permits.

161 Responses to What’s going on with work permits in Cambodia?

Newer Comments →
  1. peter says:

    I am an EU passport holder and a retired airline pilot, who in the past visited and flew in to Cambodia in the past. I have never stayed longer than a few days. But since my retirement I keep thinking about moving to Cambodia to the south where are nice beaches are, and at first rent an accommodation and perhaps later to purchase one, what would you advice me is the best way to proceed? Hope on the plane, and make the arrangements and deal with the issues there or make most of the arrangement from my home base? I am a single person age 68+ and relatively good health and I am craving for those beautiful beaches of yours, and my pension allows me to live comfortably. Any advice that you can help with would be very much appreciated.

    • Lina says:

      Hi Peter, as it turns out, I’ve written a book on the topic. It’s called Move to Cambodia and you can find it on Amazon. If you’re after nice beaches, though, Thailand is a better bet.

      • peter says:

        Hi Vincent, thank you for the offer for the contact in Thailand I would appreciate if you could forward an email and a name so I could contact them.

    • vincent says:

      I’d second Lina dear Peter,
      There are no world class beaches in Cambodia but that will change as many developments are underway or planned. Now it is seedy and mostly dirty. Thailand would be better and safer most likely. I had a 1 year retirement visa in Thailand, cost about $1000 US and they do all the paper work for you. If you need a reliable contact let me know. I had used for years. Lina’s book is worth a shot too.
      Good luck!
      PS I would avoid Phuket but that is just my opinion.

  2. Francis says:

    Hi lina just want to ask about this matter, i quite new in the city 14days i must say, my employer is started to process the work permit.

    “Another requirement is that foreigners submit to a blood test each year, to test for unspecified communicable diseases. A fee can be paid to avoid the test, and if you, like I, are terrified due to the recent HIV outbreak in Battambang that was quite possibly deliberately spread by a local doctor, I would just pay the fee”

    I am scared about this on having it spread to me. How much you need to pay to avoid the test?

  3. Ces Gaux says:

    Hello Lina thanks for this informative blog of yours, I have been watching all the updates here about getting a work permit. My question is about the insurance policy. what if our company does not have one?

      • CesGaux says:

        Hello Lina thank you for the reply, Earlier ago I wen to the Ministry of Interior to get the said 3 set of forms upon asking all the department inside the ministry some of them doesn’t know about the work permit application form I was like wow, then one department said that I should be heading to the General Immigration Department because that is where they issue the application forms I said are you sure? They said yes! now I went to the Immigration Dept. well another hassle one of the immigration officer said that I should go to the Ministry of Labor! my goodness.

          • CesGaux says:

            @Vincent oh well patience…..anyway LINA do you have an email because I found an application form online which is a sample from the website of our embassy I just want to show you if this is the exact forms that you filled out. Thanks.

            • Lina says:

              It’s likely to be different because I did mine through an agency in Siem Reap, but if it’s from your embassy it’s probably correct.

  4. Jesse Hemerik says:

    Hi, I accidentally bought a single entry instead of multiple entry visa for Cambodia. I mailed the embassy asking if I could change the visa to multiple entry, but no reply. Could anyone give me any information regarding what I can do to be able to enter the country two times? ty!

    • Lina says:

      You’ll need to get a second visa when you come back in to the country. There’s no single entry versus multiple entry visa, there’s a one-month tourist visa or there is a six-month business visa, so they are different visa types as well. The six-month business visa costs much more, so you wouldn’t have saved any money for two entries, anyway.

  5. Vincent says:

    Good Day!
    This “topic” has been rather quiet for sometime now. I did just get a new 6 month visa, no questions asked. I did “hear” from a friend that a US citizen who lives here was questioned by immigration when she re-entered Cambodia. They permitted her entry after a few minutes of talk. I head to KL early June and will advise when I return either way.

    • Lina says:

      I just got my work permit approved after applying nearly 6 months ago. I think they’ve slowed down on enforcement because they can’t keep up with the applications. I don’t think there’s any reason to believe that visa applications are going to be affected by this anytime soon.

  6. Lucy Carter says:

    Hi Lina

    Thanks for your very useful information. I’d really like to hear which companies can help me get the work permit – you said you’d make a list. I live in Phnom Penh.

    I also am wondering some things – don’t know if you have any answers?

    i) If one has a work contract for a part period only of the year – say just March 2015 – is that enough or should the work contract cover the whole year?

    ii) I suppose that leads to another question – is the work permit for a calander year, Jan 1st – Dec 31st 2015 say? Or does it date from first date of the period of the work contract? Or connect to business visa dates? Or….?

    iii) A Cambodian lawyer told me that the work permit is connected to the employing organisation’s quota of foreigners allowed per year. Does the Ministry of Labour check back to the organisation providing a work contract to check they have applied for a quota of foreigners correctly?

    iv) The company that deals with my savings here told me they had heard (sorry – this enters the realm of hearsay, but they would not be more precise when I asked)that some Cambodian banks have frozen expats Fixed Term Deposits if they are unable to provide work permits to show the bank! Do you know anything about that?

    Many thanks indeed, Lucy

    • Lina says:

      Hi Lucy, I’m not an expert on this (but neither is anyone else, because the rules change all of the time!), but I’ll answer your questions as best as I can. My understanding is that if you present a work contract for part of the year, you will still get a work permit for the year. However, it’s your employers job to report to the MOL that you are no longer employed there, and then your new employers job to report when they hire you. Personally, I would not worry about this. I know people who have applied with no work contract and had no problem. This is likely to change in the future, though, when they will likely be stricter about contracts. The work permit is for the calendar year and is not based on the contract. Yes, technically companies are supposed to have 10 Cambodian employees for every foreign employee, but there are exceptions, such as when the foreigner is doing a job that they couldn’t find a qualified local. I have not heard of anyone being refused for this reason, although some companies have had to pay fines. I have not heard of any accounts being frozen, although I have heard about a handful of expats that have been asked for their work permits when setting up new bank accounts. Personally, I have been into the bank many times and no one has mentioned it. There’s a Facebook group on Cambodia where you can answers: https://www.facebook.com/groups/333901840112789 However, keep in mind that the active participants are all working as consultants to get people work permits, so there’s a fair bit of scaremongering going on. I used the company SmartUp Cambodia, but haven’t received my work permit yet so I can’t recommend them until I do. You might be able to get some Phnom Penh recommendations in that group, though.

  7. annie says:

    I don’t think you need to be overly concerned about avoiding the blood test. Every time I’ve had it done the examiner has changed their surgical gloves in front of me and then removed the disposable lancet from its packaging in front of me.

  8. Alexia says:

    Hi, do you know where is the Ministry of Labor in Siem Reap? I’m decided to go there with a friend but can’t find any address, thanks!

    • Ulf says:

      Thanks Amanda, that is truly helpful. Do you think this would also apply to a foreigner earning wages as an employee from a company outside Cambodia, and with no presence in Cambodia? Remote workers, but not freelance ones.

    • Vincent says:

      That is truly useful information for retirees. Thanks for sharing. I do expect there be a retirement visa down the road but I am not going to loose any sleep over it. I don’t earn any money here but did some volunteer teaching a year or so ago. Can the rep. from the MoL be quoted for future reference. BTW a retirement, one year, visa in Thailand can cost $1000 if you hire someone to produce all the financial and personal information documents. Annual renewal does not get much cheaper either.

      • Amanda says:

        Hi, Vincent — I have saved that link. If the rep from MoL went on record to the press, I don’t see why we can’t quote him, should the need arise. It’s also occurred to me that a different sort of retirement visa may be coming down the road, but we’ll confront that when the time comes, right? The sorts of retirement programmes that Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines (among others) offer require a fair amount of administrative overhead, so they would take some time to establish.

        • Vincent says:

          My only experience is in Thailand because I lived in BKK before moving here. My experience, although a couple of years old, takes 2 weeks and about 25K Baht. If anyone needs that contact let me know.

    • Lina says:

      The issue is not what is in the prakas, it’s how it’s being enforced. Currently they are requiring everyone on an extended visa to get a work permit.

      • Ulf says:

        Hi Lina, thanks for the input. The best way to formulate the question would have been : where does the information come that they are requiring everyone on an ordinary visa to procure a work permit.

        • Lina says:

          Check out the Cambodia work permits Facebook group. There is no one who has gone to the MoL and asked if they need a work permit and been told no. It’s $100 a year, not such a big deal.

          • Ulf says:

            Hi Lina,

            Yes, it is only 100, which translates into 1000+ for me and my wife, also a foreigner. Seems like a pretty penny to pay for people who have never derived any income from Cambodia and never worked for a company in Cambodia, and who are leaving indefinitely in July of this year.

            Ultimately though, the underlying issue is not the money, but how unclear and contradictory the information emanating from officials has been, and reports that people are not receiving receipts when paying their fine. The whole thing is starting to look like a money grab.

            • Lina says:

              Perhaps. The real issue is whether they will try and enforce collecting back taxes. Any resident of Cambodia (meaning: spending more than 183 days in a year in the country) owes taxes on WORLDWIDE income, whether or not that income was derived from Cambodia or for work done while in Cambodia.

              • Ulf says:

                Normally, there would be a provision or a visa for permanent residency, as it is the case in most countries, as well as an application to submit to apply for permanent residency. This doesn’t seem to be the case in Cambodia, where there is, as far as I know, no permanent residency available.

                If there is a provision in Cambodian law that states that one is a permanent resident after spending 183 days in the Cambodia, in which statute would I find it?

                  • Ulf says:

                    Hi Lina, thanks for the links, that is quite helpful. Indeed, it seems that for fiscal purposes, the Cambodian government considers that a person is a resident after staying 182 days in the country (physical person). However, as far as paying taxes go, people who have paid taxes in their resident country have a Foreign Tax Credit (Section 13), which may lead to a zero balance of owed taxes in Cambodia depending on the amount of taxes paid in the country of origin.

                    As far as the work permit goes, still no clear answer from the MoL as to whether or not people who receive no revenue from Cambodia need to procure the permit.

                    Thanks Lina

  9. Dilan says:

    I am currently holding an NGO visa since I am rendering a volunteer service for an NGO. However, I am working part-time in a private company at the same time because I have time to do so. Do I have to apply for a working permit?

    • Lina says:

      Technically, you might need to get one, but the law is currently so unclear, that I wouldn’t worry about it. As it stands, NGO visa holders do not need work permits (but ostensibly they are only supposed to be working for NGOs).

  10. Len says:

    Hi Lina!
    thanks for the information posted. It helps a lot. I have a question though–when I have a working permit, am I still required to pay for income tax? Your reply is much appreciated.

    • Lina says:

      Cambodia residents are required to pay tax on all income already, it just hasn’t been universally enforced. The work permit is likely a first step towards tax enforcement…but if you live in Cambodia you already owe tax, anyway.

  11. Karen says:

    Question: If I don’t have an employer, but just work freelance do I have to reapply for the work permit every year or is it renewed automatically (with just another $100 fee)? I will be leaving the country when my most recent business visa runs out, and coming back around March. Should I get a work visa for April before I leave? Can I get one when I am out of the country so I have it on my return? How? What office do I go to at the Ministry of Labor?

    • Lina says:

      Right now they are not (seemingly) requiring employers for people to apply. This is likely to change, so you should probably apply sooner rather than later. I don’t think you can do it while you are out of the country because they need to see your passport.

  12. Bernard says:

    Hi Lina,

    I would appreciate it a lot if you could send me a list of companies or agencies that can help me obtain a work permit. I’m a free lancer and I don’t think that anyone will give me a work contract.

    • Amanda says:

      Bernard, I’m semi-freelance, semi-retired, living in Phnom Penh. One of my Khmer friends asked some local officials for advice on the work permit question for someone in my situation. This is what she found: “Regarding the work permit, I called one of the government administration office at District level who explained to me that so far the ministry had instructed the local authority to start enforcing the law regarding the permit that was in place years ago but never enforce. At this point, the instruction for local authority is to start preparing for processing work permit and it applied to all foreign residents who work for NGOS, companies, and own their own business. He said that in the instruction from the ministry, it does not explain them what to do for individual self-employed residents and he said that at this point to continue to apply for your E visa as normal.”

      Not helpful in terms of how we might GET a work permit, but it does suggest that they’ll renew the e-visa in the meantime.

  13. Benny says:

    hi Lina.
    You wrote on jan 8:
    —-There are a number of businesses and consultants offering to do the work permit paperwork for fees ranging from $20 to $60. I’ll get a list together if anyone is interested—–
    I am interested. Thanks.

  14. patrick says:

    I have cambodian wife. Do I need working permit as well? Or I just show our marriage certificate here in Cambodia every time I’m going and coming back to Cambodia?

    • patrick says:

      I heard that they calculate the amount all the foreigner need to pay for working permit since their first year of arrival in cambodia. I start working here in cambodia since 2008 and I renewed my passport last 2012. Now, my old passport already lost. Did they only calculate my new passport or they still know what year I arrived here in cambodia even I don’t have old passport anymore?

      • Vincent says:

        Not sure of your nationality but I think most Countries are the same. If you look at the last or second to last page of your new passport it will reference your old passport number. This is the one they will look at as it tracks any departure and arrivals. Of course, they might not be “creative” enough at the time. Don’t think your marital status will matter.

      • patrick says:

        Thank you very much for your useful information. Now, I know that it is a must for me to make working permit and pay 8 years. By the way, if I do not have working permit I have only visa. Did the immigration will stop me when I depart and arrive here in Cambodia?

        • Vincent says:

          Someone can correct me but it appears the Immigration and Ministry of Labor are not connected at this point.I come and go several times a year without a problem.

          • patrick says:

            But they just start become strict regarding this issues. I heard in Phnom Penh the immigration officers are checking every company and school which have foreigners working. Immigration officers are asking to pay the amount based on how long they stay here in Cambodia. The immigration officers said that if they are not able to pay or provide working permit foreigner will be deport.

  15. sid says:

    Retirees paying for back payments for work permits is ridiculous. Surely that can’t be right? So i guess if you are retired with lots of biz/ordinary visas in your passport and they show up on your door you can just say you are leaving for Thailand and they wont take back payments as you are leaving?

    • Vincent says:

      It was good to see the comments from the French. I have contacted the US Embassy for information and updates and asked if they had been in contact with the Ministry of Labor in PP. Be nice to see if any Aussies, Brits, Germans etc. have done the same.
      The last thing the Cambodian Government wants is this to become a global press issue that could affect tourism or volunteers.

  16. Dave Perkes says:

    I’m in a similar situation to WS have lived and worked in Cambodia for over 11 years. I have run businesses here but no longer do so. I am semi-retired with the means to support myself. and looking to invest in a future business here.
    I went through the legal process to set up my business in 2003 There was no knowledge of Work Permits or information provided by official when I set up my business: so It comes as a shock to find out that I am liable for 11 years Back WPs + possible fines for non payment.
    This situation and principle proves that the Cambodian Gov’t have no interest in encouraging anyone, other than the very rich, to live here.
    I have no confidence in investing any more time or money here; so regrettably am considering leaving. I don’t recommend that anyone else does.

    • Vincent says:

      I’m not sure why the newspapers don’t pick up on the frustration or maybe a global wire service. Government hates publicity especially if it affect business tourism etc.

  17. WS says:

    I’m in a really bad situation. I’ve been here in SR for 11 years working as a teacher. I intend telling the truth to the authorities when they come knocking. I’ve never been asked for a work permit, and I don’t have the money to pay an $1100 back-fine. I’m OK with paying for a work permit, but what are the consequences of non-payment of the back-fine? I’m assuming imprisonment or deportation, but I’d be grateful for any info.


    PS The information displayed above is really useful. Thanks for posting it.
    PPS For God’s sake please don’t publish my real name – reckon I’m in enough trouble already.
    PPPS One day Cambodia will learn to take care of its friends.

    • Lina says:

      Technically, your school is required to get one for you. I would try and negotiate something with your employer. Really it is their responsibility. As I mentioned, most long-term expats have been able to negotiate to only pay 5 years back, so it would be $500. Start saving! You may be able to put this off for a while but eventually someone — you or your employer — will have to pay. I’m sorry I don’t have better news. If you wait it out, things may change for the better.

      • Winston Smith says:

        I don’t know if this helps anyone in SR, but it appears you can save some money obtaining a work permit by going through the Ministry of Labour. The Immigration Ministry guys are being a lot more heavy-handed and charging higher fines. This information is reasonably reliable. Our entire foreign workforce are getting their permits done through the Ministry of Labour office in SR. Fines are $100 per year for each year worked without a permit, taken from the earliest e-visa in your current passport. Also, SR is not set up for the medical tests, so don’t pay for one. This last piece of information comes directly from the head honcho at the Ministry of Labour, SR.

    • Andres says:

      To WS: Lina is pretty much right in this post regarding payments. I am also living in SR and I sorted things out directly with the Labour guys. (no need for an agent/consultant) You wrote you have been teaching here for 11 years, so more than 1 passport…depends on how many visas….

      Myself, I made the workbook and employment card, easy procedure (20 mins)

      Was it all the right action or another Cambodian thing…time will tell….

    • Winston Smith says:

      Really appreciate your response, and the very clear advice given on this site. Currently in negotiations with my employer!

  18. Bill says:

    The real scare is not the fines for years worked without work permit but the tax the government can claim on the income for those years.

    • Lina says:

      Possibly. However, they will need to prove you actually worked during that time. The reality is for small business owners, they usually give you a flat-rate amount to pay in tax per month that is far lower than the stipulated 15% or 20%.

  19. Amanda says:

    Lina, many thanks for this update! It’s especially helpful in light of the vagueness and ambiguity of the press articles. I for one would be very interested to hear of any reputable, reliable agents/consultants who can help with the work permit paperwork.

      • Vincent says:

        Your best bet for a “consultant” will be to find an expat from your home Country who has gone through the process. The hard part will be to find one that is not a self-centered jerk and who is willing to give some advise to a fellow countryman (woman)

  20. Dan says:

    I have been working in siem reap for around 3 months as was not aware of the work permit until the cops showed up at my schools doer a couple of weeks ago! Since this I have read I to it a bit and understand you need to pay 100 doers per year which is fine. Now my problem is that because of my schools inability to secure and organise permits for there employees last year when they were told. Accoring to my school the police have decided to charge a penalty fine of $200 per teacher. However as I was not even in the country last year I find myself relictant to pay. My school has offered to pay 100 of the fine leaving me 100 more plus the original cost but I still feel I should not have to pay? My question is: is it worth the hassle trying to speak to the cop in charge directly instead of through my school and face the language barrier and probably futile attempt at trying to reason with him or shall I just pay the 100 extra?
    Thanks from reading and in advance any help you can offer.

    • Lina says:

      Yes, I think it would be worth talking to the police, or just getting a copy of your work contract and getting the work permit directly from the ministry. There is no official $200 per person fine, so it’s either completely fabricated or some off-books deal the school has worked out. My paranoid suspicion would be that your employer just doesn’t want to pay for your work permit and has come up with this entire story to get you to pay the $100. Either way, the employer should be paying for it (but they often won’t). This does give you a good sense, though, of what sort of employer you have and I suspect that even if you pay the $100, you will have problems with this employer later down the line. Might be worth leaving, as a good school wouldn’t do this.

  21. Hi there, yesterday i spoke to a journalist/writer and he told me that recently on arrival at the international airport PP, he was refused a business visa because he could no show a work permit.

  22. Gabriel says:

    I am so happy to have read this article today, because am coming to Cambodia soon and I will need a work permit, and will also like to know more about Cambodia. Thanks


  23. J.D says:

    Very useful. I am in a similar situation to Steve L so it would be useful to know from a shareholders perspective how this works I am also a manger and draw a salary. I can’t find any information out there about the law.

    • Lina says:

      I’d say it’s pretty certain that you are going to need a work permit. Personally, I’d take the wait and see approach as they may forget about the whole thing this year as they have in years past. That said, this will eventually happen, if not now, soon.

  24. Humphrey Hollins says:

    What if you are a duck farmer? Do you have to estimate income, maybe spiking around Christmas time ?

  25. Steve L says:

    Thank Lina for the useful summary.
    I wonder if you know what is required if you are the co-owner of an officially registered company in Cambodia. Am I an employee of the company and needing a work permit even if I partially own it?

    • Lina says:

      My understanding is that you will need one if you are drawing any sort of salary. Shareholders that don’t receive a salary/income will probably be exempt. However, they have not issued clear rules about ANY of this yet.

  26. vincent says:

    As usual, timely and excellent update, so thanks. Although I am not working I am asked frequently by expats. I will refer them here for current info. I am lead to believe, this will not go away as it is all to get in compliance with the new ASEAN agreement. Similar to Cambodians being issued 10 year passports instead of 3.
    No expert here so just pass information as it is available.

    • Lina says:

      I agree, Vincent. But I think it’s still unclear how long it will take before it affects everyone, and not just people working at large hotels and law firms.

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