Visa Changes Unnerve Foreign Retirees

Donald Lee and Nov Sivutha / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Foreign retirees are not subject to work permit requirements if they are not employed. (KT: Jonathan Pannetier)

PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – Foreign retirees living here worry that the government is creating bureaucratic hurdles to volunteer work, part time work, or even just living here.

The Interior Ministry has ordered immigration enforcement officers to implement a longstanding labor law requiring all foreigners working in the Kingdom to obtain work permits and business visas. 

Grare Andre, a 72-year-old retiree from Paris, said enforcement of the work permit law is a good step forward for the Kingdom. But he he worried that too much regulation could take away the very reasons that made the Kingdom appealing to retirees like him.

“It’s free here,” said Mr. Andre. As a holder of a one-year multiple entry visa, Mr. Andre spends half of the year in Cambodia and half in Paris. “Not too many regulations like Europe.”

“If [Cambodia] wants to change things, it’s fine – just don’t change it to make it like Europe,” said Mr. Andre. “I speak for myself. I’ve been coming here for five years. I’ve worked a long time. I don’t want to work anymore.  That’s why I came to Cambodia.”

Within the retired expat community, there has been great confusion over work permit requirements following comments made by the Interior and Labor Ministries regarding who requires a permit.

To clarify things, Labor Ministry spokesman Heng Sour told Khmer Times: “Retired foreigners can live in Cambodia  without a work permit.”

If a foreign retiree isn’t employed in any capacity in the Kingdom, then only an immigration visa is needed to live in the country lawfully, Mr. Sour said.

“The work permit requirement is only for those foreigners who are employed in Cambodia,” he continued. “Therefore, those retired persons have no need to be concerned – as long as they are not employed.”

But, Mr. Sour stressed that if retirees are employed in any capacity, they must get work permits. 

“If they are employed during their retirement here, they will have to pay for and obtain the work permit,” he said.

The immigration department has collected about $340,000 in fines from foreigners who did not have work permits, according to Uk Heisela, chief of investigations at the Interior Ministry’s Immigration Department. 

Following an Interior Ministry meeting on immigration on Wednesday, General Sok Phal, director general of the Immigration Department, said that 90,000 foreigners now live in the Kingdom legally. 

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