Immigration Department to Introduce New Visa for Retirees

Immigration officials say they will introduce a new visa category for foreign retirees as soon as Monday—the latest push in a campaign to encourage more expatriates to settle in Cambodia.

The new visas will require proof of financial stability and documentation proving retiree status from applicants’ home countries, said Sok Veasna, a department director at the Interior Ministry’s general department of immigration.

But, unlike business visas, officially called “Category E” visas, the new retirement visas—to be called “Category ER” visas—will be valid for up to a year and will not require a work permit, according to Major General Veasna.

Retirees, he said, “can live based in Cambodia if they want to and have the money,” explaining that recipients of the new visa would still be barred from owning houses  or land in the country.

Maj. Gen. Veasna’s deputy, Tho Sreng, said the immigration department was aiming to make the new visas available on Monday, but that delays were possible as officials continued to notify foreign embassies about the change.

Expatriates already retired in Cambodia on business visas will not need to switch to the new visas, he added, but will have the option.

Both Maj. Gen. Veasna and Mr. Sreng said they did not know how much the retirement visas would cost.

Cambodia’s unusually permissive visa regime has historically meant that foreigners could theoretically stay in the country indefinitely by renewing their business visas every 12 months—regardless of whether they were actually employed in the country. Work permits are now officially required in addition to business visas, but the regulation is rarely enforced.

At Phnom Penh’s open-air Golden Sorya Mall on Wednesday, current and future foreign retirees said they had no complaints about the existing visa system and would only switch to retirement visas if they had no other choice.

Lindsay Westphal, an Australian police officer hoping for an early retirement next year, said he would rather be on a business visa so he could work “a little bit here and there.”

“You’d get bored,” the 53-year-old said. “I don’t think a lot of people will take it up.”

Vietnam was currently his first choice as a retirement destination, Mr. Westphal said, particularly out of concern for potential political instability in Cambodia around upcoming elections.

Sandy Brown, a 56-year-old Australian businessman drinking cocktails at a table with a group of foreign men and Cambodian women, said he would not be retiring for a few years, but that Cambodia was an option when he did.

He said the retirement visa, however, was of little interest to him.

“It’s only going to be of benefit if we get more than a year, or it was cheaper than a normal business visa,” he said. “As long as they don’t enforce that you have to have a work permit in addition to a business visa, nobody cares.”

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Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly quoted Lindsay Westphal regarding where he lives and where he plans to retire. 

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