Ministries Unclear Over Who Needs Work Permits

About three weeks after the interior and labor ministries announced a crackdown on foreigners without work permits, officials this week could provide few answers on how expatriates can comply with the country’s labor regulations.

According to the 1997 Labor Law, all foreigners working in Cambodia are required to have a work permit, but this provision has gone unenforced until recently. The law does not address retirees, or expatriates who live in Cambodia but receive income from abroad.

Nouv Leakna, the immigration department’s deputy general director, said if a foreigner has been in the country for longer than a year, a work permit is required when applying for a business visa extension.

“You cannot work in Cambodia for more than one year” without a work permit, he said, adding that a work permit can be applied for at the Labor Ministry in Phnom Penh or a provincial labor department.

But Lieutenant General Leakna said it is unclear how retired expatriates can stay in the country without a work permit or how they can renew their visas.

“We have not yet classified about retired people…. It is a problem,” Lt. Gen. Leakna said. “The problem is that the law does not say about a retired visa and does not say about retired people.”

He referred further questions to the Labor Ministry.

Labor Ministry spokesman Heng Sour said his ministry was only responsible for issuing work permits.

“It is the responsibility of the Interior Ministry to issue visas,” he said.

When contacted Thursday, Lt. Gen. Leakna again referred questions to the Labor Ministry.

Work permits cost 400,000 riel (about $100), and foreigners will also be fined an additional 400,000 riel for every year they have lived in Cambodia without a work permit, Mr. Sour said.

Foreigners applying for work permits are also required to have a medical check to ensure they do not have any contagious diseases. The test costs 100,000 riel (about $25) and must be administered at the Labor Ministry by “labor physicians,” Mr. Sour said.

Although both the labor and interior ministries said applying for work permits is a simple process, Cedric Racine, who owns a hotel in Kampot City, said his experience was frustrating.

“It was not easy.” Mr. Racine said. “I was sent from one office to another and another.”

Mr. Racine said once he found the correct place to apply for the work permit he had to pay $100 for the permit, $20 for paperwork and $100 for each year he had lived in the country without a work permit.

He said he also had to pay $30 for a blood test, although he was not actually required to take the test.

“I understand the need and the rule of the work permit, but the problem is the lack of communication,” Mr. Racine said. “We’re swimming in the dark.”

Stan Kahn, a 73-year-old retiree also living in Kampot, said the government’s inability to address how retired foreigners can stay in the country had left him anxious.

“I am concerned because I’m retired on a relatively low income,” Mr. Kahn said. “If they fined me, I couldn’t stay because I couldn’t come up with $2,000.

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