Cambodian heathcare infrastructure may stymie retirement visa success

Published:  5 Oct at 6 PM
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Cambodia is now in the process of creating its first dedicated retirement visa for expat pensioners, but its lack of first-world heathcare may result in a diminished takeup of the new initiative.

Cambodia is attracting increasing amounts of interest from expat retirees, many of whom are considering transferring from neighbouring Thailand. The country’s government is eager to provide an easy ride for older expats and has announced a new retirement visa aimed at retirees with pensions or adequate amounts in savings.

With its eye now firmly on the world’s ageing population, the new retirement visa doesn’t include a mandatory work permit as does the regular residency visa, and is being marketed as a means for the elderly to take advantage of the country’s low cost of living and friendly people. Once it’s in place, the new visa will bring Cambodia into direct competition with established retirement hubs such as Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.

Details regarding the 12-month extendable visa’s exact requirements are not clear at present, although first reports stated it was to be immediately introduced. However, department director at Cambodia immigration Sok Veasna hinted that financial security as well as proof of retirement in applicants’ home countries are both on the list. As with the Thailand version, the ER visa will disallow its holders from working, but will allow multi-entry and exits in the same way as does the current E visa.

Older expats who wish to work or volunteer will still be welcome to apply for the E visa and its compulsory work permit. Another possible deterrent for Western retirees used to owning their own home is that, again similar to Thailand, the right to property ownership in Cambodia is a thorny question. At present it’s reputably possible to own a condo, but foreigners wishing to own a house can, in theory, only buy the upper storey as the ground floor sits on Cambodian land.

However, a quick search on Cambodia real estate sites reveals a good number of villas for sale, suggesting that, again like Thailand, an acceptable way round the problem can be provided. A draft policy examined by the government earlier this year suggests that special housing complexes might be the answer, giving older expats not only the right to buy and sell their properties, but also the ability to live in a caring environment with complementary facilities.

As regards heathcare, the country hasn’t yet established even one accredited clinic or hospital, but Thailand’s upscale medical facilities are a short flight away if needed. It seems Cambodia is waking up to the economic benefits of providing amenities in order to attract expat retirees from across the world as well as from Thailand.
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