News circulated on Thursday that foreigners without work permits would no longer be eligible for long-term visas after the turn of the month, a significant change in policy that could not be confirmed with immigration officials.
“As of Sept. 1 no long term visas will be issued to foreigners without work permits,” a post to the Facebook page of the Overseas Press Club of Cambodia said on Thursday. “If freelancers can apply today or tomorrow they will need to give the address of their Cambodian employer.”
Another Facebook page for Palm Tours and Travel, based in Phnom Penh, echoed the need for a permit, with a post stating: “6 Months and and 12 Months Cambodia visa extension need work permit or work certificate to apply.”
A discussion on popular forum Khmer440 also discussed the potential to continue living in Cambodia without a work permit, renewing short-term visas regularly. But visa and travel agents in the capital appeared to be unaware of any changes to the visa rules, long considered among the most lax in Asia. Various Phnom Penh-based companies said they were unaware of any new regulations, stating that only a passport and fees were required to obtain the long-term visas.
Labor Ministry and immigration officials could not be reached for comment, while Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak declined to comment.
But Anthony Galliano, director of Cambodian Investment Management, said he had reason to believe the changes were coming.
“From our sources at the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training we [believe] there is substantiation to the statement that long-term business (E) visas will not be granted without work permits,” he said in an email.
“The greatest impact is likely to be on foreign owned small businesses who have resisted in getting their workers permits, due to cost, freelancers, transitory workers who frequently change jobs, and those foreigners who stay in the country but don’t actually work.”
An “abundance of opportunities, notifications, and announcements” by the Labor Ministry have encouraged compliance, he added. “[T]he fact that we have reached this stage is no surprise, and realistically aligns Cambodia with its Asian neighbors in terms of labor law conformity.”