The great expat debate: do you need a work permit for Cambodia?

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It’s important to note that work permits and visas are not the same thing. In theory, although you may have gotten a year-long visa (often called a business visa), that doesn’t necessarily give you the right to work in Cambodia. In practice, Cambodia is one of the least regulated countries in the world when it comes to visas and employment, and many expats do not have the work permits that they ostensibly require.

There are two types of work permits in Cambodia: temporary and permanent. Temporary work permits are for most regular expats and last the length of the individual’s visa. Permanent work permits are reserved for major investors and friends of people in high places.

In order to get a work permit, your employer needs to apply for you through the Ministry of Interior. Essentially, this is entirely up to your employer, but if they do want you to have a work permit,

you will have to provide the following:

  1. 3 sets of Application Form as issued by the Ministry of Interior
  2. Passport with valid visa
  3. 3 photographs (4×6), taken from the front without hat or glasses
  4. Certificate of Health from a physician in Cambodia
  5. Written work contract
  6. Insurance policy issued by employer or any insurance company

You will also have to pay a fee. Although the actual amount of the fee is not stated in Prakas 555, the document concerning Cambodia’s “Management of Foreigners’ Work Permits,” it’s generally known to be $100.

At the current time, work permits are essentially a non-issue. You do not, in practice, need a work permit to get hired at a company in Cambodia. Most expats do not have them and the government rarely asks about it. There have been more crackdowns recently–they usually last a few days and a few people are told they need to procure permits–but then everything goes back to business as usual.

Most English schools, for example, have a small percentage of teachers with work permits that can be shown to the police when they come by to ask. The schools don’t bother to obtain permits for the rest of the staff. Although this is the case at the time of writing, it is likely that at some point in the future laws about work permits for expats will be more vigorously enforced.

For those who are required to get one, a work permit usually costs $100 per year. However, be aware that in recent crackdowns foreigners have been required to pay $100 per year backdated for the entire time they’ve spent in Cambodia, not just the current year.

This is an excerpt from Move to Cambodia: A guide to living and working in the Kingdom of Wonder. To learn more about 100+ topics that pertain to Cambodia expats, please consider buying the book.

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