This is going to be quite a long rant from an expat like me, but I also hope that this will be informative for other people who wish to stay longer here in Cambodia.
My story began from a phone call from my husband saying that our agent wasn’t able to renew my visa. Excuse me, what did you say again? How is that possible? Can you please explain further? Those are the questions that came out of my mouth and the next thing I knew was I packed my school things, headed to the school administration, told the staff that I have an emergency to attend, and I drove home immediately to meet my husband.
At home, my husband told me that apart from my two children’s visas, nanny’s visa, and Rex’s visa, mine was the only EXCEPTION because the immigration officer at Mocbai border didn’t cancel my expired visa and instead of stamping a free 21-day tourist visa, he only stamped an entry in Cambodia. BOOM! Then, my head ached.
How did this happen? Simple. Because I didn’t check my passport when I left the immigration office at Mocbai border. I didn’t check because I thought that it’s okay. But it’s not! And now I have to pay the price for being nice, trusting others, and failing to be meticulous like I always do. Crap!
Before I continue my rant, here are the facts prior to this event.
1. We left the Philippines via Cebu Pacific Airlines on January 3, 2015 and flew via Manila to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam at 11:50 P.M.
2. We arrived in Vietnam at 1:30 A.M. of January 4, 2015. We stayed there till the afternoon.
3. Our scheduled bus back to Phnom Penh was at 2 P.M. via SAPACO at Pham Ngu Lao and we left on time.
4. At around 5 P.M., we’re already at the border clearing out. With ten people in our group, all of our passports were stamped and we were cleared to go.
5. We arrived in Phnom Penh at half past 8 P.M. on the same day of January 4, 2015.
6. After a couple of days, my husband contacted our agent and advised him that we will be renewing our visas before January 24, 2015 (at the time of arrival from Vietnam, we were all given a free 21-day tourist visa because all of our visas got expired while we were in the Philippines. Oh well, at least I thought all of us were given 21 days free).
7. On January 22, 2015, my husband gave all the passports of my family who needs visa renewal to our agent. He told us that there is a new POLICY released by the Ministry of Interior. Our agent explained that there will be a $60 charge when you renew your visa from tourist to business regardless if you already have a business visa in the past. Meaning to say we have to pay MORE! $
$60 – fee for the transfer of visa from tourist to business
$35 for 1 month, $78 for 3 months, $155 for 6 months, and $290 for 1 year E-visa
Now, you can do the maths and sum up how much you will be paying if you have the same case like me.
8. We were also told by our agent that if we want to save some money, we can go to the border and apply our E-visa there. However, they will only give a 30-day visa and the extension will be done here in Phnom Penh. This will cost $45 per person or per passport.
9. Now what if you still have a valid visa when you enter Cambodia, is this still applicable to you? NO. This is only applicable to those who are entering Cambodia, those who don’t need a visa upon arrival, and normally gets a free 21-day tourist visa. South East Asian countries like the Philippines do not need visa to enter Cambodia, thus we get free 21-day stay. Other countries like India, USA, and UK need a visa before or upon arrival in Cambodia.
10. With all the information we have, my husband and I decided to pay $60 for the processing of the E-visa plus the original amount of the E-visa fee.
11. On January 27, 2015, my husband received a call that my visa has a problem and cannot be extended. This means, I am already overstaying for 3 days since January 24. Please be reminded that a $5 penalty fee is charged for every day you’ve overstayed in Cambodia.
So now what’s next? Without thinking twice, I gathered my passport, employment contract, IDs, some snacks, my mom, and my car key and drove to Cambodia-Vietnam border at Mocbai Cambodia. This happened at 3 P.M. of January 27, 2015. I didn’t waste time because the longer I wait, the longer the problem will be solved. My mom and I tracked the long road with chit chats and music. Thank goodness for mothers or else my life is doomed. Imagine yourself driving 200+ kilometers on a car, it’ll be BORING! At 6 P.M. we arrived at the border. Immediately I seek help and one of the officers came and explained what options I can have.
They will cancel the entry stamped on January 4, 2015 and will charge me $15 for overstaying. I will exit Cambodia, enter Vietnam border, have my passport stamped, will exit Vietnam afterwards, then will enter Cambodia again. After that, they will stamp my passport with another entry, then I will apply for an E-visa which is good for 30 days and will cost $35.
They will cancel the entry stamped on January 4, 2015, but will not charge me for overstaying. Instead, they will re-stamp my passport with the same date of my previous arrival and will give me an E-visa good for 30 days. This will also cost $35.
I took option 2 not because I wanted to save $15, but I do not want the hassle anymore. I thought it’s just the same, minus the walking to Vietnam border and lining up just to get my passport stamped. The downsides, the immigration officer asked for a little bit more of money because he ‘HELPED’ me and made the process much easier. In short, he needed tea money which I gave without any hesitation. And the other downside is that I need to renew my visa again before February 4, 2015 because the E-visa that they gave me started on January 4, 2015. Instead of buying myself time which option 1 gives, I chose the latter because it’s much easier. Again, my mind is set to finish this as fast as possible and to drive back home safe and sound.
While waiting for my E-visa to be processed, one of the officers sat down with me and my mom. Below is our short chat.
Officer: Why do you want to stay longer here in Cambodia?
Me: I am working here.
Officer: What is your job?
Me: I am a teacher.
Officer: Really!? Which school? (He looked surprise to know I am a teacher hahaha)
Me: I teach at CIA FIRST International School.
Officer: Wow! My daughter studies there! (Now, he looked excited hahaha)
Me: That’s nice! What’s her name?
Officer: She’s Nop Samchakrya (with a big smile on his face)
Me: Ohhhhhhhh she is one of my students in science, what a coincidence!
The least thing I expected is to conduct an instant PTC while waiting for my E-visa to be finished. At 7:30 P.M. the officer handed my passport with the new E-visa and told my mom and I that we’re good to go. The officer also gave me his number should I encounter a problem extending my visa in Phnom Penh.
Mom and I grabbed a quick bite, refueled my car, and then we hit the road again. We were back home at 10:35 P.M. By the way, I was driving my Kia Visto yesterday and I’d say it made me proud. It didn’t fail me and we made it home safe whilst driving around 100 kph on very dark roads full of huge container trucks.