• Jon Herbert

Residence Certificates in Cambodia: what, why, and how

A residence certificate is required for several purposes, including applying for a driving licence and registering a business.


In many ways the process for foreigners to legally live and work in Cambodia is streamlined relative to many other locations. However, from time to time lesser known requirements do surface. One of these requirements is a residence certificate from a local 'Sangat', which is required when applying for a driving licence amongst other administrative tasks.


Image of a home office desk

1. What is a residence Certificate

What information is included on a residence certificate

What does an official residence certificate look like

2. When and why is a residence certificate required

3. How and from where is a residence certificate obtained

Documents to present for application

How to apply for a residency certificate

4. Dealing with potential issues

Paying the fee

Rental contracts

Asking for help


1. What is a residence Certificate


A residence certificate is a manually prepared letter confirming a foreigner's home or business address in Cambodia. The certificate is prepared and certified by a representative of the resident's local village (Phum) or commune, and then counter certified by the local Sangat (townhall).


What information is included on a residence certificate


The residence certificate includes the following information, all in Khmer language:

  1. The name and ID details of the foreigner with a passport style photograph

  2. The address of the resident

  3. The specific purpose the certificate is being issued for

  4. the date of issuance (officially with 3 months validity)

  5. The signature and stamp of the 'village headman'

  6. The signature and stamp of the local Sangat

What does an official residence certificate look like

Blurred image of an actual residence certificate

The certificate of residence is one side of A4, which may be prepared on a computer by a clerk or partially printed out as a form and then manually completed with the details of the foreign residence by the local village representative. Some foreign residents have the certificate prepared by a translator and then ask the local representative to certified it. A passport photograph is required as this is attached to the certificate, which will also include the official stamp of the local Sangat.


2. When and why is a residence certificate required


A residence certificate is required to validate the address of a foreigner in Cambodia in order to authenticate that address for contact and identification purposes when the foreigner is applying for certain licences, permits and registrations in Cambodia.


Procedures that a residence certificate is required in relation to include:

  1. Applying for a driving licence

  2. Registering a business address in Cambodia as part of business registration

  3. Obtaining a police clearance certificate (confirmation of good behaviour)

The most common purpose for requesting a residence certificate is for foreigners requiring a driving licence (car or motorcycle). For this reason, the requirements tend to be known in locations where there are expat communities such as central Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, and conversely less well known 'out in the provinces'.


3. How and from where is a residence certificate obtained


The residence certificate needs to be provided and stamped by the local village headman and then by the local Sangat. In Phnom Penh and Siem Reap expats in your neighborhood or on the local online forum should be able to help identify the correct address for the village headman or other relevant representative. In areas less frequented by expats your landlord or Khmer neighbors should be able to help identify the relevant contact.


Documents to present for application


The following documents need to be presented:

  1. Passport and valid (non-tourist) visa for over 6 months stay

  2. 2 x recent passport sized photos on a white background (original photos)

  3. Other than for a driver's licence, documentation supporting the purpose of the application (for example a copy of an online business registration application).

  4. Cash to pay a 'fee' (see below commentary in section 4: $10 or $20)

  5. Lease agreement relative to the address (or title deed if an owned condominium)

How to apply for a residency certificate


The process varies from location to location, but in most cases visiting the local village headman in person on a weekday morning or afternoon is the best way of engaging. For non-driver's licence cases support from a Khmer associate who understands the requirements and can talk around the topic rapidly in Khmer language can be asset. There should be no assumption that requirements can be discussed in English language, although this may be possible in some central Phnom Penh Sangats and Siem Reap.


Once the requirements have been discussed, assuming they are understood the headman will ask for the documents detail above, and may ask certain questions (e.g. business purpose). The headman will then either prepare the certificate or as a clerk to prepare it; the certificate may be prepared immediately or made available for collection later.


Paying the fee


There will be an opportunity to pay the fee during this dialogue; it is possible that the fee will not be requested directly. A Khmer associate in attendance will usually provide a prompt.


Sangat approval (déjà vu)


The complete certificate then needs to be countersigned and stamped by the Sangat. The headman may be able to arrange this as part of the fee, or alternatively the signed certificate will need to be taken to the Sangat, and the process repeated.


Validity


Certificates of residence are valid for 3 months, and are usually only accepted for the specific purpose stated on the certificate (e.g. a certificate supporting business registration will not ordinarily also be accepted to support a driving licence application).


4. Dealing with potential issues


The above process is how the 'standard' is understood (this is how we have obtained the certificate), and there have been a variety of nuances reported. These include differing points of contact including the immigration office in Siem Reap with prescribed fees of US$10 or $20, and foreigners in remote areas paying a translation office to prepare the certificate to then be stamped, because the local Sangat does not have the knowledge to complete the process.


Paying the 'fee'


As intimated above, there is not usually a prescribed fee. Commonly, US$10 is passed over as compensation for the administrative work involved in preparing the certificate, although it is known for this fee to be doubled or duplicated if then separately seeking the second Sangat stamp, particularly if the certificate is requested other than for a standard driving licence application.


A Khmer associate or paid agent (see below) can usually help identify expectations and avoid a misunderstanding.


Rental contracts


A valid rental contract is officially required is a standard format (the contract can be in English). Issues have been reported where the contract is not sufficient or the Sangat suspects that the property has not been registered as a rental property for tax purposes.


The landlord or property agent should be contacted to assist in this case.


Where the foreigner is living in a Khmer partner or spouses' residence without a rental contract, this party should engage in the conversation to explain the circumstances. Alternatively, a 'new' rental contract can be drawn up to support the process (a rental contract with all typical clauses but with zero rental payable may suffice).


Asking for help


Given the grey areas in the application process, a willing and knowledgeable Khmer associate or neighbor may be able to assist with the conversation to smooth the process. Alternatively, a paid agent may be able to assist, for example a local administration provider experienced in providing services relating to business registration and tax requirements for foreign residents in Cambodia.


It can be understood that some of the methods and processes typically involved in obtaining a residence certificate may take foreign residents outside of their comfort zone versus 'home' expectations. However, this is Cambodia, and this is the 'normal' process, to the best of our understanding based on finite experience and limited online research.



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