Time and again, the issue of foreigners obtaining Cambodian citizenship has cropped up. While not coveted like citizenship of countries like the United States, Australia and Canada, Cambodian citizenship is, nonetheless, pursued by some foreigners.
For foreigners, the most cited reasons are the ability to acquire land and other property in their own name and the ability to travel to other Asean countries visa-free. Cambodian citizenship has also been bestowed on foreigners with exemplary contributions to the kingdom.
Chinese and South Korean investors are said to be the most common recipients of Cambodian passports. There was a spike in Cambodian passport applications starting in 1993 after the country was admitted to Asean.
Prominent people who have obtained Cambodian citizenship include American actress Angelina Jolie, for her conservation work, Japanese Olympian Kuniaki Takizaki and Australian humanitarian Geraldine Cox, for her work in an orphanage in the country’s southeast.
There are five ways for a foreigner to obtain Cambodian citizenship. We explain in this article each and every route to obtaining a Cambodian passport:
Naturalisation: This is the most common way and takes the longest time to complete. Seven-year residency, fluency in the Khmer language (speaking and writing) and a clean criminal record are the requirements for obtaining Cambodian citizenship by way of naturalisation.
Citizenship by marriage: A foreign man or woman married to a Cambodian national can obtain Cambodian citizenship after living together for at least three years after their marriage was registered with the proper authorities.
Citizenship by investment programme: This cash-for-passport programme bestows Cambodian citizenship on a foreigner who invests 1.25 billion riels (about $312,500) in Cambodia. In this case, the seven-year residency is waived. However, other requirements for naturalisation like language fluency still apply.
The cost of obtaining citizenship by investment is said to be in the region of $75,000.
A local agent revealed that many Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Australian and Vietnamese business people obtained Cambodian citizenship by way of investments.
Citizenship by donation: A foreigner could also be accorded Cambodian citizenship if he donates 1 billion riels (about $250,000) or more to the national budget.
Special achievements in Cambodia’s interest also give foreigners the right to apply for honorary citizenship.
Citizenship by birth and descent: Those born to at least one Cambodian parent anywhere in the world are legally entitled to Cambodian citizenship. The same applies to children born in Cambodia to foreign parents who were born and legally living in the kingdom.
While having a Cambodian passport will not take you far through visa-free travel, Cambodian citizenship does offer some advantages. Obtaining Cambodian citizenship is very advantageous in terms of living, working and investing in the kingdom.
Firstly, you will no longer need a visa to enter and work in the country for as long as you want. Secondly, you can own land and other property in your name. Now foreigners are restricted to owning from the first floor and up and up to 70 percent of one building with a strata title. Thirdly, you can apply for concessions and licenses from the government that are otherwise only available to Cambodian nationals.
The Interior Ministry processes applications for Cambodian citizenship. The process usually takes to two to three months to complete.
Ky Kosal / Khmer Times
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