Becoming a Cambodian Naturalized Citizen: A Step-by-Step Guide
I am excited to share my recent experience of becoming a naturalized citizen of Cambodia on March 14th. The process was smooth, taking less than a month with minimal obstacles. Since sharing my story, I have received messages from overseas Khmers (aneakajuns) seeking assistance and advice. In order to help those interested in obtaining this status, I will explain the process below:
Step 1: Register in the Family Book or Residency Book
If you have blood or distant relatives in Cambodia, you can request permission to have your name registered in their family or residency book. To initiate this process, you will need to bring the original book to the local sangkat (district) and meet with the appropriate authority. According to the law, the filing is technically free (endorsed by Prime Minister Hun Sen), but a small "tea money" donation may facilitate the process (even though it is optional).
I registered my name in the rural Battambang province, specifically in my parent's home village of Kampong Perl. I made photocopies of the following documents:
- My parent's US Passport
- My mother's death certificate
- My US passport and Washington State Driver's License
- My K Visa, found in my US Passport
Step 2: Obtain a Birth Certificate
Like many children born in refugee camps, I did not have an official birth certificate, or at least did not possess one. However, at the local district office in Battambang, the authorities issued a document listing my parent's village as my 'birthplace.' It is essential to ensure that the field "Nationality" (សញ្ជាតិ) on your certificate states Khmer (ខ្មែរ) and not any other nationality.
Both documents were prepared for me within two hours. If you have an extra day available, I would recommend completing the process by filing for the Khmer ID card. I tipped the local staff (a total of two people) with USD $35. Tip in Khmer riels for a smoother transaction.
Step 3: Acquire a Khmer ID
With the two aforementioned documents, you are now eligible to obtain a Khmer ID (អត្តសញ្ញាណប័ណ្ណ). If you filed the first two documents in the province, I recommend using the same individuals. They will take your fingerprints, capture your photo, and verify your information. The standard processing time for receiving the card is typically 30 business days, but you can request it earlier if needed. Tipping is optional.
In my case, I acquired my ID in Phnom Penh at the Cambodia Passport Office in Chbar Ampov. They contacted me within 7 days to collect the card. Simply bring the receipt stub to the office upon arrival for card collection. That's it!
Bonus Content: Obtain a Cambodia Passport
Now that you have your new national ID and Family Book/Residency Book, you are eligible to acquire a Cambodian passport. Owning a Cambodian passport comes with several benefits, including full property ownership and enhanced travel within Southeast Asia, among others. According to local press, the Cambodian government is considering lowering the processing fee, which is currently cited as one of the highest within ASEAN. Currently, the fee ranges from $100 to $200, depending on the desired processing speed. The passport is valid for 10 years.
I hope this information proves helpful to those interested in pursuing Cambodian citizenship. Should you require any further assistance or have additional questions, please do not hesitate to reach out via Telegram.