Cambodia has historically been one of the easiest countries in the world for expats and digital nomads to live indefinitely with hassle-free, year long visas. The recent changes have confused the issue.
I’m on the ground and have (at great effort) figured it all out. Fortunately, everything is cool. You can still obtain 6-month and 1-year multiple entry visas even if not employed.
I hold a US Passport, but these rules are the same for passport holders from most countries.
(Note: The rules did NOT change for the shorter term, single entry visas (3 months or less). This article is only focused on the more desirable 6-month and 1-year MULTIPLE entry visas.)
Pre 10/2017 you could obtain a 6-month or 1-year multiple entry “EB” business visa without any formal employment or business documentation. Then you were free to live cheaply, travel in and out at will, and get on with your work. You could renew these visas every year.
Now, the government requires a work permit or letter from an employer to get such a visa.
At first glance it appears that these long term visas are now off limits to freelancers or internet entrepreneurs if not formerly employed by a Cambodian business.
Fear not, you can still make it work
It is still possible to get one of these visas even if you don’t actually work for a Cambodian business.
Method #1 is completely by the book.
Method #2 possibly treads lightly into a gray area of the rules. At the time of publishing, both options work.
Read the following approaches carefully to see which way suits your needs.
Method #1: The 6 month, multiple entry “EG” visa
This visa is intended for people who are in Cambodia for the first time. Its purpose is to give the visa holder time to to find employment. You need no documentation aside from your passport and a short letter saying you are looking for work.
How to get the 6-month “EG” visa:
Step 1: Obtain an “E-Ordinary” visa on arrival at the Cambodian airport or border crossing.
The E-ordinary visa costs $35 dollars and takes about 15 minutes to process at the airport
They hand out the applications in the airplane before landing. Here is what the application looks like:
Here is what the E-ordinary visa looks like:
Step 2: Apply for a 6-month EG visa at a travel agency in Cambodia.
The application costs $160 and takes about 5 days to process.
You need to provide your passport, the fee, and a very simple letter that says:
“I [name], passport # [xxxxxxxx], would like to stay in Cambodia 6 months to look for work.”
Pros and Cons of EG Visa
Pros: The EG visa is straightforward, by the book, lasts 6 months and is multiple entry. Although the visa is intended for visitors that are looking for employment, you do not have to provide any proof that you actually are.
Cons: The EG visa is only for first time visitors to Cambodia. Therefore if you already have Cambodian stamps in your passport from previous trips – it probably will not work. If you did travel to Cambodia in the past, but have since gotten a new passport (therefore it has no Cambodian stamps in it), I think it will work.
The other downside is that the EG visa is a one time deal. You cannot renew it or apply for a second one if you want to stay longer than 6 months.
If you want to continue your stay after your EG visa expires, you should apply for an “EB” business visa. See Method #2 below.
Method #2: The 6-month or 1-year, multiple entry “EB” business visa
This is the best visa. It can be as long as a year and you can extend it over and over again. The 6 month costs $160 and the 1 year costs $290.
You now need a work permit or letter of employment from a Cambodian business or NGO to obtain this visa.
On its face, this appears off limits to freelancers because they neither have a work permit nor are they an employee of a Cambodian business.
I did some digging and found out how to satisfy the employment letter requirement. It lets the bureaucrats check the right boxes and issue you the visa. I verified this information with several visa agencies and observed several travelers successfully do this.
How to get the 6-month or 1-year EB visa:
Step 1: Same as before. Get an E-Ordinary visa on arrival at the airport or border crossing. (If you are already in the country on another visa, you can skip this step.)
Step 2: Obtain a letter of “employment” from a Cambodian Business. (Note: You do NOT actually have to be working for any Cambodian company. There is a bit of a loophole, read on.)
Here is the specific wording for the letter of employment that satisfies the visa requirements (even if you don’t actually work for a Cambodian company):
“John Doe, passport number xxxxxxxx, is working as a freelancer for me, part time for one year.”
The letter must have a Cambodian business/organization name and address in the upper left corner, the simple phrasing above, and a signature at the bottom.
Here is an example:
How to get letter of employment (even if not employed)?
This is where you need to be a little bit third-world savvy.
I recommend getting to know some English speaking business owners in the area (this isn’t difficult in major city in Cambodia). This could be as simple as getting to know a restaurant owner.
After getting rapport, explain your situation, show them the example letter above and ask if they would be willing to fill it out and sign. For such a favor, I’d give a gift (maybe $20-$50).
The wording of this letter doesn’t run either party afoul of the law. You both have plenty of plausible deniability. The business could have hired you as a freelancer to build them a website, translate their menu, do some promotions, etc. You could have actually done the work. Who can prove or disprove this? Nobody. That’s the point.
Cambodians are accustomed to working in gray areas and won’t be offended if you ask. Of course, they may not understand or decline. If so, just try again somewhere else.
As a last resort you could take the riskier approach and just make the letter yourself with some made up business.
I really, really doubt they check these things. I also doubt they’d throw you in jail if they caught you. You could claim that you were scammed by someone that gave you the letter – they would likely believe this since scams are common.
Nothing is clear, things can change
Like I said earlier, the government hasn’t published any clear guidelines. Maybe they eventually will, maybe not.
At present, the “freelancer loophole letter” template I gave works for obtaining the 1-year EB visa without actually being employed.
This could always change. However, I have a good feeling that it will continue to work. The government makes more money if they issue more visas. I am also optimistic that a more legit/easier workaround will emerge in the future.
I will update this post if I learn of changes. Please post your experiences in the comments to add to the body of knowledge.
Move To Cambodia is the best blog about all things Cambodia. Here is a link to their page on visas. At the time of my post, they did not have clear information on the rule changes. I imagine it will be updated soon.
A decent article about visas from b2b-cambodia