Police officials at the Department of Immigration (part of the Ministry of Interior), which is located opposite the Phnom Penh International Airport and deals with visa extensions for foreigners, have confirmed that it will become compulsory for all foreign nationals to obtain an official work permit/employment card to be eligible to apply for a long-term extension to their ordinary “business” visa (also known as an EB visa).
These new rules are to come into effect from Monday 4 September, and will only apply to six-month and one-year visa extensions. Three-month EB visas for Cambodia can be obtained without a work permit/employment card, and extended indefinitely, but are only single entry compared to the multiple entry six-month and one-year EB visas.
All new foreign arrivals to Cambodia must purchase a one-month E-type visa, priced at $35 – not a tourist (T) visa – to be eligible for an “Extension Of Stay” (EOS) EB visa. Currently, a one-month EB extension costs $50, three months is $80, six months is $160, and one year is $290 when purchased through an agent.
The fees are supposed to be less when dealing directly with the Department of Immigration, although most reports from foreigners that have attempted this route report it to be a long drawn out and frustrating process and accept that paying an agent to handle things is the best way.
New visitors to Cambodia are allowed to apply for their first six-month or one-year EOS EB visa without obtaining a work permit, thus allowing them sufficient time to find a job. However, the application for their second six-month or one-year EB visa, and all subsequent long-term EB visas, must be accompanied by proof of a valid work permit.
Work Permit applications
A work permit/employment card, which are two separate documents but can be applied for at the same time and considered as one application, costs $100 per year. Applications must be made online via the Ministry of Labour’s Foreign Workers Centralized Management System, which has been outsourced to a private company called E-Solutions (Cambodia) Co. Ltd. The fee to E-Solutions for the visa application process is $33. Applicants must have also undertaken a straight-forward health check at the Ministry, which costs $25. You can pay $60 to an agent to get your health certificate without going to the Ministry.
The online system has received substantial criticism, especially from foreigners frustrated with having their applications refused. Many of these are either self-employed or freelancing, although it is technically possible to successfully obtain a work permit/employment card for these types of workers. Individuals can get help with the application process from agents such as ‘Call Kim’ (firstname.lastname@example.org or 092 256 388), who charges a fee per application which varies on a case-by-case basis.
For foreigners currently living and working in Cambodia without a valid work permit/employment card, there are still ways to obtain an EB visa extension.
Immigration officials say they will accept an official letter from the individual’s employer guaranteeing that a work permit will eventually be arranged for the employee to cover 2017. Should immigration officials catch the individual without such documentation in 2018, their employers will be held responsible for paying late fees, which are reportedly set at $10 per day.
If you have applied for a work permit but have yet to receive your documentation, you can submit a copy of the receipt of your application when applying for an EB visa extension.
Meanwhile, the Immigration Department has revealed two new types of visa – retirement visas (ER) and student visas (ES). The prices for these visas will match those for the EB visas, ie. $160 for six months and $290 for one year.
While the ES visa requires an official letter from the student’s educational institute confirming their enrolment, the ER requires absolutely no documentation from the retiree. However, if immigration officials catch an ER holder working in Cambodia, considerable fines and potentially jail time and deportation are to be imposed.
Non-working spouses can also apply for EB visas, but must provide a letter from the company employing their partner confirming their status in Cambodia in their visa application.
It is advised to foreign workers in Cambodia to keep a copy of their work permit/employment card on their person at all times.
The official period for renewal of a work permit is between January and March each year, although the Ministry of Labour has yet to confirm the exact details surrounding late payments. Much confusion arose from the Ministry’s new work permits applications initiative earlier this year, which saw an amnesty of retroactive fees applied to previous years working in Cambodia ($100 per year) granted for the entire month of April. This naturally angered those that had paid these fees on time before the end of March. There is no indication that another amnesty of retroactive fees will be granted again.
Companies must submit their Foreign Worker Quota Requests to the Ministry of Labour between September and November each year.