“For the foreigner:
1. Application form
2. Diplomatic note or letter of the embassy or consulate of applicant
3. Single certificate (if widow or widower, spouse’s death certificate or divorce verdict [me: from court] issued by the authority concerned is needed.
4. Criminal record or certificate of personal conduct issued by the concerned authority
5. Certificate of monthly income and certificate of employment
6. Medical certificate issued by Cambodian concerned authority
7. Copy of passport and entry visa in Cambodia
Note: all these documents must be legalized by the respective Embassy or Consulate of the applicant except number 1, 2 and 6.
The foreigner applicant must be under 50 years of age and has monthly income of at least US$ 2.500.” (End of quote).
On the paper provided the route to marriage is also described. You start at the MoFA, then you have to go to ministry of Interior (MoI), then your local Sangkat and finally you return to the MoFA to get your wedding certificate legalized.
What they won’t tell you at this stage is that additional documents are required, you will be asked for those later by the MoFA:
- If you’re on a EB-visa you need to present a work permit that’s currently still valid (receipt will do) and they might ask for a business license too if self-employed. The MoFA is not interested in the fact you can apply for a work permit until the first of April, if you apply for marriage in the first months of the year you have to get your new permit in advance.
- A document the parents of your Cambodian partner consent with the marriage, fingerprinted by the parents and signed by the village chief and the Sangkat
- A questionnaire for you and your partner about where the two of you met, etc etc.
- Pictures of you and your other half (2 at the MoFA and 2 at the MoI)
a. "Certificate of celibacy, widowhood, divorce" (single status) from Sangkat (validity 3 months)
b. National ID card
c. Birth Certificate
d. Family Book and/or Carnet de Residence
e. Pre-nuptial Medical issued by Cambodian concerned authority (same as number 6 for the foreigner)
The fees are clear: a medical check is 120 USD at Calmette Hospital for the two of you (but paperwork from all government hospitals will be accepted. MoFA told me Calmette would be cheapest), the MoFA charges 500.000 riel for their services and the Ministry of Interior charges 200 USD for their checks of the documents and their checks to see if you’re not planning on some trafficking. However, if the data on the birth certificate does not match the data in their computer there’s non-official 200-300 USD ‘convenience fee’ at the MoI. Don’t worry though, I quote: ‘most birth certificates from 2006 onwards are in the system correctly’. Ours probably was because no ‘convenience fee’ fee was asked for.
So far so good. Total fee about USD 325 not included the prices of the documents you have to present. You might argue it’s steep in a country where the average monthly wages are less than 350 USD a month, but the foreigner has to earn over 2.500 so then it’s maybe fair?
What they won’t tell you at this stage is all documents you have to provide have a three month validity from the date the document is issued. This means you have to get the documents, get them legalized and present them within 3 months. Seems fair enough. So why do I think it’s a scam?
As always, the devil is in the detail. As quoted you need to get the following documents legalized at your embassy:
- Single certificate (if widow or widower, spouse’s death certificate or divorce verdict (from court) issued by the authority concerned is needed).
- Criminal record or certificate of personal conduct issued by the concerned authority
- Certificate of monthly income and certificate of employment
- Copy of passport and entry visa in Cambodia
I made an appointment with the MoFA in Phnom Penh and discussed the problems I encountered with the legalization with them. They were all ear and understanding and they assured me they are aware of the problems around the ‘legalization by embassies’. Behind closed doors they assured me if I would opt for the ‘fast track’ at a 250 USD surcharge they would accept those documents without the legalization from the embassy, as long as they were still valid. MoFA legalization were no problem in that case, but ‘a few’ non-legalized original documents were fine too.
They are aware of the problems with the legalization but hey, they don’t make laws – they just have to deal with them. So fast track it was at the MoFA. My embassy would not legalize the documents if I offered them a million, and there was no way in hell the MoFA in my country would legalize a Cambodian visa because it’s not a document from my country.
So I handed over all the documents ate the MoFA. I had previously found out about the extra documents needed that were not on the list so I could present those too. The fee was 500.000r + 250 USD for their ‘fast track’ service. The fast track takes 5 working days, they start counting the day after you hand over the documents so actually it’s a bit more.
If you can provide all the documents with the legalization the ‘regular procedure’ costing 500.000 riels will take 15 working days. That’s three weeks, minimum. It could easily turn into a month depending on the public holidays falling in that period. No problem, your documents have been presented to the Cambodian government, so if their date of validity passes while the documents are at the MoFA they will understand that at the Ministry of Interior. Right?
No. If you get your documents back from MoFA with a letter in which they state they did their checks and all’s fine according to them, you have to go to the MoI (Ministry of Interior). All documents are checked again, and if one document is over its’ three months validity, or documents lack the stamp of the embassy, they are very sorry, all ear, but they are unable to process your request. The fact the MoFA approved with the documents already doesn’t change that, they have their own responsibility. They don’t make the law, just like MoFA. The fact your documents have been lying around at MoFA is of no importance, the fact you have a letter of approval is of no importance, the law is the law in Cambodia. However, there’s a way out. The MoI has a fast track too, it’s more expensive, but in that case the waiting time is reduced from 3-4 months to one month, minor flaws in your documents like a missing stamp from your embassy are accepted and they will even overlook the typo in the document from the MoFA. Seriously! The document I got from the MoFA had a typo in the name of our town in Cambodia. It’s the Kind of typo like ‘Kompong Cham’ versus ‘Kampong Cham’. But this typo blocked the application. I was directed back to the MoFA to have it settled and MoFA agreed to do it, free of charge, within 5 working days. By then one of my documents would be out of it’s range of validity so you get it. Even if I would have had all the correct documents, all legalized as required, a typo at the MoFA would still have blocked my application and I could have started collecting documents again.
So… I had to choose ‘fast track’ again. Missing stamps from my embassy, a typo in the document from MoFA and a nearly expired document due to that forced me to either choose fast track or start the procedure again. Price paid at the respective ministries turned out to be 375 USD (extra 250 USD) and 650 USD (extra 450 USD).
So why did I write this? First of all to get it of my chest, but second of all to provide those who will follow this procedure in the future with some advice. Don’t count on paying the regular fees, unless you get all your documents in time and get them legalized at your embassy. Finally when you present the documents you need at least more than 3 week of validity left to be able to pay the regular fees.
So, here’s my advice for you, based on my recent experiences:
- Try to get all your documents issued around the same day (I know, extremely hard), it makes the risk of expired documents smaller.
- Bring them all to your embassy at the same time for legalization. Make sure you bring the correct documents in order for your embassy to issue a letter you’re good to get married. If your embassy asks for a certified document for your other half not being married tell them the MoFA in Phnom Penh doesn’t issue it. A translation from Pyramid might do in that case.
- If you have been in Cambodia for a longer time make sure you get a Criminal record or certificate of personal conduct from the Cambodian authorities as well. Plan it accordingly; it just has a three months validity too and the validity doesn’t start the day they give it to you, but the day they sign it off.
- If you have problems getting all documents legalized by your embassy forget about paying the regular prices. Legalizations by others like the MoFA in your country are not accepted in the ‘regular tracks’. If your embassy for some reason doesn’t legalize them all, you’re still good to go, but fast-track only. And they might still ask for legalizations from the MoFA in your country, although I think greed will overcome that desire.
- Make sure your documents have about a month of validity left when you apply at the MoFA using the regular procedure. They still have to be valid when you present them at the MoI and the regular track at the MoFA will take at least three weeks. If you use fast track make sure there’s at least 2 weeks left and no major holidays coming soon.
- Ask for / collect the document of consent of the Cambodian parents and the questionnaires for you and your other half before applying at the MoFA. They will give it to you when you apply, but only accept your application when it’s complete, thus delaying your application. Of course they will happily accept it when you come to collect your documents, but at a surcharge. Completing the missing document will take a few days so you might get in trouble with the validity of your documents because of this.
- When you get the document at the MoFA READ IT. Check for any typo or other error. If you can’t do it yourself bring someone who can, or let them read out the document out loud and let your other (Cambodian) half listen or read it. If there’s a typo the MoI will direct you back to the MoFA, or …. (I guess you know what comes next). I really don’t know if the MoFA made the typo in my document on purpose, but it was there even though the underlying documents provided had the correct info and it was a ‘major issue’ at the MoI even though it was obvious is was just a typo.
- When you get the document from the MoI perform the same checks. Make sure there’s no typos or other errors, or your Sangkat might refuse to issue the wedding certificate.
- Finally, if you use the ‘regular procedure’ at the MoI, be prepared and bring a lot of 10.000 / 20.000r notes. Each and everyone will ask you for a small ‘donation’. The person accepting tour application, the policeman writing your name in Khmer on a piece of paper, the lady filling in your data in an already existing document (I came after an Italian guy apparently….) etc etc. However, if you chose ‘fast-track’ they will try but they will accept no for an answer. In that case don’t pay anything. Just tell them you already paid and your ‘contact’ asked you to call him in case someone asked for more.
i didnt read it as im not marriage minded but well done to the effort
Hahaha! You were the first person I thought of.
Did you eventually get married? It sounds an exhausting process, it reminds oe of the frustrations I experienced just getting my moto plated x 1000.
Pay the fixer. Provide the documents the fixer requests. Minor errors will be fixed. Other stuff might be waived.
And most of all, true love will be proven to that special someone.
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