Work permits

February 4, 2015

One of the great things about Cambodia, for a foreigner, is that it is very easy to come here, and live and work. Basically, you turn up at the airport, get a $30 business visa, and you’re all set. Within a month, you get somebody to extend your visa for 12 months for $300 or so, and repeat indefinitely. That’s why there are so many expats here, and more arriving every day, starting businesses and investing in this great little country.

But not any more. The government has decided that all foreigners here now need to have a work permit. This is causing a great deal of consternation amongst expats, as, with typical brilliance, the government doesn’t actually seem to have thought this through.

The basic, inalienable rule seems to be that if you’re here on a business visa, you need a work permit. So that’s practically everyone, except diplomats (probably). Volunteers with NGOs. Children of people working here. Retirees. Researchers. Freelancers.

The laws on work permits have been on the books since 1992, but it seems that the imminent implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community at the end of this year has pushed the government into enforcing cross-border rules to bring it into line with the rest of ASEAN. And the famously incorruptible tax department is relishing the chance to rake in more filthy lucre.

But even the government seems confused as to how it’s going to work. Asked about it, Ministry of Labour spokesman Heng Sour seemed confused, and was forced to finally admit that he didn’t know: “I am not the head of every department,” he said.

The work permit laws say that securing a permit involves an application, photos, passport and visa copies, proof of insurance and a medical certificate issued by the Labour Ministry’s Health Department.

The health certificate has to be done by the Ministry of Labour, and has provoked a great deal of hilarity across the foreign community here. People have reported their height has been measured at six metres, their eye colour as ‘none,’ and the head of the medical department has admitted that blood tests are being conducted to detect syphilis. Which is odd.

So life may well become considerably more difficult here in the near future. Of course, you could pay off someone, which I’m sure many people plan to do. But not me, being an upright sort of chap. But living here without an employer is going to become increasingly tenuous. Watch this space.


4 Responses to “Work permits”

  1. scucos said

    Sounds a hassle. But as a foreigner, can you set up a Cambodian-registered company or sole proprietorship and effectively be your own employer? Or do you have to go through a Cambodian national as major shareholder / intermediary?

  2. philipcoggan said

    Perhaps a company for the single purpose of employing other foreigners – for a fee of course.

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