Obtaining Cambodian citizenship may not have crossed your mind just yet, but becoming a national of the Kingdom of Wonder does have its advantages. Whether it’s the comfort of not having to secure a visa to enter the country ever again to being able to purchase property and land in your name, applying for citizenship might be worthwhile if your plans in the Kingdom extend beyond a short term work contract.
Some of the most notable personalities to have been granted Cambodian citizenship include Hollywood superstar Angelina Jolie and Olympic marathoner Kuniaki Takizaki, who is better known in his native Japan by his comedy stage name Neko Hiroshi. While Jolie holds dual citizenship, Hiroshi had to give up his original nationality in order to become naturalised here, as Japan does not permit dual nationality.
Applications for Cambodian citizenship are processed by the Ministry of Interior, and the process generally takes two to three months. Cambodia has permitted dual citizenship since 1996, so whether or not you are allowed to remain a citizen of your home country and have dual nationality depends on the laws there.
If the Kingdom has stolen your heart to the point that you feel further assimilation feels right (or if it simply makes good business sense), there are a number of ways a foreigner can gain citizenship:
The long route – citizenship by naturalisation
Naturalisation is the standard alternative for foreigners wishing to become a Cambodian citizen. You will need to have lived in the country for at least seven years with a residence card. On top of being able to speak and write fluently in Khmer, you will also need to have brushed up on your knowledge of Cambodian history. You will have to sit through an exam to prove your proficiency in these areas.
You must also obtain a certification of good behavior and moral conduct by the chief of your commune or quarter, and you need to be in possession of an unblemished criminal record (you will be disqualified if you have committed any criminal offense). Your application must be lodged while currently residing in the Kingdom.
The VIP option – citizenship by investment or donation
Also known as honorary citizenship, this option is usually the subject of some discussion. Officially, an investment of at least 1.25 billion riel ($312,500) in Cambodia, or a donation 1 billion riel or more to the national budget will allow you to bypass the seven-year residence requirement mentioned in the section above. However, you still need to meet the other requirements, including demonstrating fluency in the language.
Sources consulted by B2B, however, claim that when an investment or a donation of the amounts mentioned above is committed, the citizenship is automatically granted to the investor or donor, whether or not they meet the requirements outlined in the previous section. B2B cannot currently confirm nor deny this possibility.
Those that have contributed notably to the well-being and development of the country in other ways, such as through exceptional social work, are in theory also eligible for honorary citizenship.
The love path – citizenship by marriage
Came to Cambodia, fell in love, married, had kids – this is the story of many an expat. Fortunately, those bound in holy matrimony are a step closer to citizenship. If you marry a Khmer spouse, you may apply for citizenship after three years of living together, providing the marriage has been properly registered.
The other way – citizenship by birth and descent
Regardless of the place of birth, those born to at least one Khmer parent are entitled to citizenship. Meanwhile, those born in the Kingdom to foreign parents who were born and living legally in Cambodia also acquire Khmer citizenship at birth.