The road to the US became a lot longer for some Cambodians with the announcement last week that applications for immigrant visas—the document needed to move permanently to the US—will be handled in Bangkok instead of Phnom Penh.
“We are Cambodian, so why can’t we do it in Cambodia?” said Sok Seang, who was at the embassy Tuesday with his aunt, who seeks an immigrant visa to live with her son in Washington, DC. The prospect of a trip to Bangkok just to file paperwork did not please Sok Seang.
“If we are not given the visa, then we spend the money for nothing,” he said. Most people in Cambodia don’t know Bangkok very well. They may not be able to find their way around the city, especially if they don’t speak the Thai language, he said.
Other Cambodians said Tuesday they are too afraid to go to Bangkok for an immigrant visa.
“I’m worried about security [in Bangkok],” said a woman who sat in line at the embassy. She said she is engaged to a Cambodian-American man in the US state of Colorado, and did not want to give her name in case her complaints affected her visa application.
“Our country has just risen up from the war and Cambodia is still poor,” she said. “We don’t know how long we will have to stay in Bangkok to get the visa. That’s a problem.”
The change affects Cambodians who want to emigrate to the US and US parents who want to adopt Cambodian children.
It goes into effect Feb 1, but Cambodians who have been notified by the US Embassy that they have an appointment for an interview—one of the crucial steps in the visa application process—will continue their application process in Phnom Penh.
Cambodians who want to visit the US on a non-immigrant visa may still apply in Phnom Penh, under a program that returned to Cambodia in February 2000. Before then, all visa applications were handled in neighboring countries.