Grace Opportunity for Visa Extension Work Permit Requisite

Foreigners seeking to renew their long-term Cambodian visas after the start of September are to be given a one-time grace period in which their employer can submit a letter vouching for them rather than provide a work permit, according to a popular visa agent who said he was contacted directly by immigration officials.

However, immigration officials denied that any changes had yet been made.

According to Yat Run, owner of Lucky Lucky Motorcycles Shop in Phnom Penh, which also handles visa renewals, immigration officials told him about a week ago that regulations on extended visas were taking a turn away from being among the most lax in Asia.

“They told me that after September 1, if foreigners want to renew their visa they need a work permit or it will not be renewed,” he said of six-month and one-year business visas.

“If you don’t have a work permit…you must have a letter from your office,” Mr. Run said.

He claimed that rumors circulating that the employer must be a Cambodian-registered company were false, however—potentially alleviating concerns among contract or freelance workers employed by foreign companies.

Additionally, people just entering the country were not required to have either a work permit or employer information upon arrival, in order to allow them to look for jobs, he said.

Last week, Anthony Galliano, director of Cambodian Investment Management, also said that Labor Ministry officials had led him to believe that “there is substantiation” to news that authorities would finally enforce a work permit requirement.

Sok Veasna, director of the Interior Ministry’s foreign non-immigrants department, however, said official changes to the system had “not yet” been made, adding that he did not know when they would be implemented. He declined to comment further, while additional immigration and Labor Ministry officials could not be reached.

Even with the new regulations, Cambodia was unlikely to see any major reactions from the foreign business sector, Mr. Galliano said.

“The costs of a work permit in Cambodia are much lower versus the rest of Asean, and while enforcement has heightened, it…remains relatively easy to obtain a work permit here with much less bureaucracy [than] elsewhere in Asia,” he said.

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