So, yesterday I got this:
I walked back down to the travel agency, one of the 800 that line the riverside, where I’d dropped my passport off two days earlier. I handed the man the $288 fee, grinning like a jackass. “That was so easy!” I exclaimed.
He gave me a wonky eye.
“I don’t know of any other country where it’s so easy to get a visa.”
“Really?” he smiled that bashful Cambodian smile.
“Totally. Cambodia—very very easy.”
I got my change and left the office still grinning. (I think the man thought I was a little off.)
But it’s true: I’m no expert on immigration, visa and residency laws, but I don’t personally know of another country where you can show up, get a 30-day visa upon arrival and then extend that visa for a year, with no applications or procedures.
It’s one of the reasons I decided to make the move out here. I’d fantasized about living abroad for years. The EU/Schengen Zone was entirely out of the question. And even in relatively easy countries like Argentina and Thailand, you’ve got to make a visa run every 90 days; procuring a work permit is another whole hassle. Cambodia?—as far as everyone I’ve talked to can tell, work permits don’t exist in this country.
“Word’s getting out,” “Lisa,” my go-to lady on all things expat-related, told me. “There’s been a huge influx of expats in the last six months. They do this Thanksgiving dinner every year at this pub. This year, they sold out by 4pm. You should have heard the dudes on Khmer 440!”
“It won’t stay this way of long,” a US Immigration lawyer based here told me. “But for now, yes—it’s one of the easiest countries for foreigners to live and work in.”
It’s tempting to write an article, a how-to-get-a-Cambodian-visa guide. It’d involve very little research, since the process is so fucking easy. But, in my inflated sense of self-importance, I’m not entirely sure I want to help “the word get out.” You know how Seoul just announced that they’re kicking out all foreign English teachers by 2014? Exactly.
So I’ll share what I did: Upon arrival at the Phnom Penh airport, I got an “ordinary” visa. It costs $25, as opposed to the $20 tourist visa. Getting an ordinary visa instead of a tourist visa is literally as easy as checking a box on a form. Both visas are valid for 30 days; a tourist visa can only be extended once, however, for an additional 30-day period, while an ordinary visa can be extended for up to a year. So, a little before my ordinary visa was to expire, I popped into one of the travel agencies on the riverside and gave them my passport, along with a passport photo (they really love those extra passport photos in SE Asia). I came back two days later, paid dude, perhaps made a grinning ass out of myself, and that was that.
Just like that, I’m legit. Dare I say, too legit…