Dateline: Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Having spent quite a bit of time in Cambodia recently, I thought it would be a good idea to put together an update on how easy it is to get a second residence here. Not only is a Cambodian residency one of the easiest to get anywhere in the world, practically anyone can qualify. Now, we talk a lot about second residencies and second passports, so I don’t want anyone to be confused between the two. When I talk about Cambodia, I’m looking at the country as a place to establish a second residency.
Everyone has different reasons for wanting a second residency. Some people want to establish their ties to a country for familial reasons, others for practical reasons; some just fall in love with a place and want to live there.
I work with a lot of people who want to take advantage of legal ways to reduce their tax obligations or those who want to work toward a second passport. Whatever your reasons for checking out a second residence, you could do a lot worse than Cambodia.
First of all, it’s not an option that everyone will want to pursue, nor is it a second residency in the most traditional sense. However, because it’s so easy, it’s a great way to notch up a second residency in Asia, and it’s useful to have it in your arsenal.
Getting residency in Cambodia
What Cambodia offers is a visa on arrival — you show up at the airport, pay a small fee, and get a visa. For less than $300, you can turn this tourist visa into a one-year business visa by using a local “fixer” service.
These guys take your passport to the immigration office, and a couple of days later you get your 12-month pass. This can be renewed every year for a small fee. What this gives you is the right to live in Cambodia and run your online business from the country. So if you are looking for a home in Southeast Asia – and don’t want to invest $280,000 in Thailand or $70,000 in a bank in Malaysia – it’s a heck of a lot cheaper to do it this way.
What you need to understand is that, on its own, this business visa is not going to be something that leads to citizenship or a second passport.
Nor is it the best second residency to choose if you want to declare your tax as a non-resident. Speaking to my tax advisors, there are some that say, “Yeah, if you live in Cambodia — maintain ties, live, and actually spend time there — then there are countries that would allow you to not pay tax.” However, it’s not a guarantee, though it is, perhaps, an option for those looking for a second residency as somewhere to actually live.
Advantages of Cambodia residency
Even if you’re not planning on settling down in Cambodia, there are a couple of reasons I still think the residency a good option.
1. An easy way to start
When you’re beginning the process of going offshore and are first building your NomadCapitalist lifestyle, getting a couple of quick wins under your belt is important. If your first foray into the process requires investing $300,000 in a bank account in Thailand, you may naturally feel a little apprehensive. Why not ease yourself in with something that costs a few hundred bucks? So, that’s the first thing, it’s kind of a fun way to play with getting a second residency without it costing you a great deal of time or money.
2. Gets you ready for action
Once you’ve got a second residence under your belt, you’ll be in the right mindset to explore other opportunities, ones that will bring you additional benefits, such as lowering your tax obligations or giving you a better passport or more attractive permanent base. Whatever your motivation, action begets more action.
3. A good base for Southeast Asia
Okay, Cambodia might not be the place you want to live permanently, but it does have plenty of good points. It’s well located for travelers who frequently visit Malaysia, Thailand, or Vietnam. And it actually has a better infrastructure than you’d credit it with. Phnom Penh has high-speed internet and a reliable (for South East Asia) power supply, and recent development continues to bring modernization to what was once a crumbling colonial city. As a part-time place to live, you could do worse.
4. Opportunities for the frontier market investor
As a base, Cambodia is a useful springboard for all kinds of offshore investment markets, as well as presenting opportunities of its own. Having a second residency makes it that much easier to explore these — even if you don’t intend to live in the country full-time. What is clear is that the Cambodian government is pretty keen to make it as easy as possible for investors and business people to take advantage of the country’s visa extension program. From what I’ve seen, and from speaking to people here, there don’t seem to be too many backpackers or tourists using the service. Far from it — the people extending their visas are generally looking to invest and are actively seeking opportunities.
You’ll be in great company
It’s a good sign when you find investors with an appetite for opportunity in a country that is offering an all you can eat buffet. I talk a lot about how great it is for Georgia’s economy that the country lets pretty much everyone in on a tourist visa for 360 days. And I think Cambodia’s business visa policy is cut from the same cloth.
If you’re looking for a legal second residence visa, this is definitely one that you should consider — just remember that it’s not a full-fledged second residence for all purposes. But in terms of being able to live somewhere and potentially establish business ties there, it is pretty darn easy and pretty darn cheap.