Buying land through Cambodian citizenship

Feb. 13, 2018, 4:37 p.m.

Time and again, the issue of foreigners obtaining Cambodian citizenship has cropped up.
While not coveted as the citizenships of countries like the United States, Australia, and Canada, Cambodian citizenship is, nonetheless, pursued by some foreigners. For foreigners, the most cited reasons are ability to acquire land and other property in their own name and ability to travel to other ASEAN countries visa-free - Read more How to invest in Land in Cambodia for foreigners on Realestate.com.kh!

Cambodian citizenship has also been bestowed to 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 the 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:

Naturalization- This is the most common 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 naturalization.

Citizenship by marriage- A foreign man or woman married to a Cambodia 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 Program - This cash-for-passport program bestows Cambodian citizenship to a foreigner who invests 1.25 billion riels ($312,500) in Cambodia. In this case, the 7-year residency is waived. However, other requirements for naturalization 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 ($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 bring you far vis-a-vis 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.  Currently, foreigners are restricted to owning the first floor and up, 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 process of applying for and obtaining Cambodian citizenship:

The Ministry of the Interior processes applications for Cambodian citizenship. The process usually takes two to three months. There are several steps that a foreigner who wants to obtain Cambodian citizenship needs to complete:

1)   Go to the Ministry of the Interior to find out what is need to obtain Cambodian citizenship. Inquiries can also be made at Cambodian embassies and consulates worldwide.

2)   Gather the needed documents and submit the application to the Department of Citizenship under the Ministry of the Interior. Documentary requirements include: Proof of birth (birth certificate, hospital birth record, baptismal certificate, etc.); recent passport photographs; police clearance certificate; identification documents (driver’s license, passport) medical clearance certificate; and proof of residential address (utility bills, rental/lease agreement).

3)   Application will undergo verification. Interviews and investigations are carried out as part of the verification process.

4)   After verification is completed, a decision to reject or approve the application is made.

5)   The applicant is notified about the decision in writing. If application is approved, it is published to allow anyone with an objection to come forward.

6)   When the publication period elapses and no objections were raised, the applicant is required to take an oath court.

7)   After taking the oath, applicant signs it and is pronounced as a Cambodian citizen.

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