Want to work in Cambodia? There’s no way around it: You need a work permit. As laid down in the Labour Law, it is strictly forbidden to undertake any kind of employment in the Kingdom without a valid work permit.
Despite this, nearly 38 percent of foreign workers in Cambodia failed to secure one last year, as reported in Khmer Times. However, with the government increasing crackdowns on both employers and employees that ignore this obligation, working without a permit is not a course of action we would recommend. Though many people think the work permit regulations are ‘new’, they have in fact been on the statute books for many years; it is just the enforcement part that is more recent. The levels of Immigration Police visiting businesses employing foreigners is growing rapidly. Being caught without one may lead to fines, retrospective charges, and possible deportation.
Work permits are issued by the Ministry of Labour and are valid for one year. The official cost of the application is $100, although, as you will see, there are other expenses involved.
Also, keep in mind that the obligation to have a valid work permit is retroactive: In other words,
you will have to pay $100 per calendar year that you have had an EB visa (also known as ‘ordinary’ or ‘business’ visa). You may have to pay other fees and/or fines on top of that $100, and there seems to be no set rule regarding this. Often, it may be the agent trying to make a little extra, and our advice on this is to always use a reputable agent such as Call Kim.
The application process was digitalised and streamlined in 2016, when a website was set up for applicants — fwcms.mlvt.gov.kh. This means the whole process can now be carried out by the applicants themselves.
If a company already employs you, you probably won’t need to apply directly, as some employers will do it for you, or at least help you arrange it. Some employers, mainly schools from our experience, will offer a work permit as part of your package. It is always worth bringing the WP in contract negotiations to see if they will include it. But, if your company is giving you the cold shoulder, you will have to apply yourself using the website mentioned above. For this, you will need digital versions of the following documents:
- Your first long-stay visa in Cambodia
- Your current long-stay visa
- Medical certificate
- A 4x6cm passport photo with white background
These are the costs involved in securing your permit:
- $100 per calendar year from your first visa extension in Cambodia, even if you were not working
- $25 for a medical certificate: You can obtain one by doing a medical check-up at the Ministry of Labour
- $33.75 for the online application fee
$5 medical certificate verification fee if you get your medical somewhere other than the MLVT.
If you are caught working without a work permit, there is a fine of $125. This is exclusive of the fees you will have to pay for a new WP, and for any previous years without one.
If you already have a work permit and you are looking to renew, bear in mind that the official renewal period runs from January to March each year. Remember, this is only for extensions: if you are applying for your first work permit in the country, you can submit your application anytime. Please note that your work permit does NOT last one year from when you get it – unless you receive it in January – but a valid permit is required even if you only start work in the second half of the year.
After applying, once you are approved, you will get an email with an invoice that needs to be paid in riel at any ACLEDA bank. A few weeks or months later, your work permit will be mailed to you, or to the nearest post office.
If you are self-employed or freelancing, you can also apply online; there is a separate login for the self-employed. You will need all of the information specified above, minus the employer information. Freelancers should enter ‘freelance’ as their occupation and employer and should state their salary as ‘zero’.
Applying as self-employed or as a freelancer is allegedly harder than as an employed individual. You may have your application rejected several times before it is finally approved. We recommend patience. We have heard many reports of freelancers being refused, and having to go down the road of registering themselves as a small business. If you are experiencing difficulty in registering, then we suggest you look at this option.
If you are a business owner, this is the most important thing you need to know: the onus to have your staff working legally is on you! This does not mean you have a responsibility to obtain a WP for your staff, but you do have to ensure they are in possession of one. . Otherwise, you face penalties of up to $630 per employee working without a work permit.
Companies must submit their foreign worker quota requests to the Ministry of Labour between September and November each year.
It is also worth remembering that you need a work permit to obtain 1 and 3 month EB extensions. For 6 and 12 month ones, you are only required to show a current letter of employment. Don’t think this is a loophole though; computer systems and information sharing improving rapidly here. If you want to stay in Cambodia long term, be legal!
Finally, keep in mind that Cambodia is continually evolving into a more mature economy, and so is its legal system, so nothing is really set in stone and some of the information above may have changed by the time you read this.
If all this is too confusing and you need help, we recommend the agent ‘Call Kim’ (firstname.lastname@example.org; 092 256 388), who charges a fee per application that varies on a case-by-case basis.