Cambodia to update Immigration Laws in 2021?

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A Cambodian ministry working group is currently drafting a new law on immigration to manage foreigners in the SEA country. New Cambodian Immigration Laws could be introduced in 2021.

Interior Minister Sar Kheng told the Khmer Times that “the current Law on Immigration has many ‘loopholes and challenges’ in its implementation.”

The working group is made up of 12 senior government officials and led by Ministry Secretary of State Sok Phal, who is the former director-general of the General Department of Immigration (GDI). The working group allegedly has drafted a first version of the new laws but they have not been made public.

Cambodian Immigration Law

Interior Minister Sar Kheng called the current “Law on Immigration” outdated. It was adopted in 1994 and includes a total of seven Chapters and 41 Articles. Notably, Kheng said the laws had some “loopholes and the implementation of the existing law has encountered problems, which need to be reconsidered”.

According to the GDI, since 2017, the Cambodian government has revoked 37,400 documents which allowed foreigners to remain in the Kingdom. They claim irregularities were found.

General Kirth Chantharith is the director-general of the GDI and in 2020 has led the implementation of the FPCS system to better manager foreigners in the Kingdom of Cambodia. The Khmer Times article also mentions that the GDI is also ‘strengthening the management of foreigners through the Foreigners Present in Cambodia System (FPCS).’

Nearly 160,000 foreigners from 183 countries living in Cambodia registered on the FPCS (Foreigners Present in Cambodia System) app before July 2020.

Khun Tharo, a programme manager for the Alliance of Labour and Human Rights (Central) stated he had seen the first draft and admitted it is more applicable to foreigners working in Cambodia. A part of the focus would be amending the current laws to act against illegal immigrants as well as foreign fugitives who are hiding in Cambodia.

Working visas in Cambodia

Cambodia has a relatively easy visa application process compared to other SEA countries, which has been a key attraction for business people and investors.

The Kingdom was one of the first countries in Asia to introduce a pre-arranged electronic visa for short-term travellers.

In 2018, the visas for foreigners were reformed including those for retirees, those seeking employment, and foreigners working in Cambodia. Most expats use agents to extend visas and there are often means to easily extend the visa (multiple-entry). Work permits are also required if you work in the country.

There are some concerns the visa situation could become too stringent. Thailand adopted a TM30 form recently which is seen as cumbersome and less attractive by many expats.

What will the new Cambodian immigration requirements be?

It is too early to say for sure what the new draft will require from foreign nationals and it is only expected to be completed in 2021.

An article in the Thai-based Pattaya Mail outlined some of the following suggestions to the new Cambodian immigration laws:

  • An updated definition of what constitutes Cambodian nationality. (Read more about acquiring Cambodian citizenship here).
  • New document requirements for long-stay foreigners in the Kingdom.
  • Applicants for the one-year extension of stay for retirees will undergo more substantial document checks about their income or capital.
  • Expansion of the electronic visa system (FPCS and others).
  • Increased use of new technology by visa-issuing consulates and embassies abroad.

In Thailand, for example, the government issued almost 80,000 retirement visas in 2018. Foreigners seeking retired visas must show a deposit of 800,000 (USD$25,000) baht in a Thai bank or have a monthly income of 65,000 baht (USD$2,000).

Those kinds of requirements for retirees don’t exist in Cambodia in 2020.

You can read more about the types of Cambodian visas and work permits here.

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