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Explainer: Can foreigners own land in Cambodia?

Gareth Johnson

Can foreigners own land in Cambodia? The short to this is no they cannot, but foreigners may buy property, as well as use various legal methods to manage land ownership within the Kingdom.

Can foreigners buy property in Cambodia?

In short, yes foreigners can own property, what they cannot do is technically own land. Expats may buy properties, such as condominiums, apartments, or offices, so long as they are not located on the ground floor of a building, not dissimilar to laws in other jurisdictions, such as the Philippines.

Various developments also offer financing to foreigners, with the downpayment and financing terms varying greatly. 

Buying land in Cambodia through a nominee

Using a Cambodian nominee, also known as the nominee structure has traditionally been the most popular way to circumvent prohibitions on foreigners owning land within the Kingdom.

Under this structure, the foreign national, or company needs to appoint a Cambodian citizen to be the legal owner of the land being purchased. Afterward, a trust agreement is signed whereby the land is held in the Cambodian’s name, but control of said land is exercised by the foreign national, or entity. 

This obviously throws up risks based on who you decide to use and how much you trust the person you set as the nominee of your land. An alternative to this is to use a trusted nominee service provider, of which there are numerous within Cambodia. 

To read about the nominee structure click here.

Buying land in Cambodia through marriage

Marrying a Cambodian citizen does not automatically make you a Cambodian citizen and therefore does not change your ability to purchase Cambodian land per se. It is possible for a foreigner to buy the land and place it in the name of their spouse. In this respects, it works in the same way as the aforementioned nominee system.

If the foreigner later acquires Cambodian citizenship through marriage then both names are entitled to be on the land title. 

Citizenship through investment and buying land, or property

As previously reported in Cambodia Investment Review citizenship by investment is another viable for those with sufficient capital. To qualify for the program a foreigner needs to invest at least 1.25 billion riels (around $312,500) to be eligible for citizenship through investment, although the following requirements must be met:

• Any foreigner who had received a letter of authorization for investment from the Cambodian Development Council (CDC) and who had implemented concretely an actual project, OR

• Any foreigner who has no letter of authorization for investment from the Cambodian Development Council (CDC), but who had received authorization for investment legally from the Royal Government.

As such this makes the scheme one of the cheapest in the world, as well as a bonafide alternative to using a nominee structure for foreigners wishing to buy land in Cambodia. 

Can foreigners own land in Cambodia – Leasing land in Cambodia

Another alternative to the nominee system is leasing land under a long-term contract, or a leasehold. 

Foreign nationals and foreign entities can may enter into long-term leases that will guarantee the foreigner, or foreign-owned entity has rights over the property for the duration of said lease. 

Property lease agreements within Cambodia may be termed at a minimum duration of 15 years and up to a maximum of 50 years, which can then be extended for consecutive periods up to another 50 years.  

Furthermore, lease contracts can at prior request contain provisions that the land may not be sold to a third party without the express consent of the lessee. 

This article is part of Cambodia Investment Review’s Explainer series. A simple guide to everything you need to know about business and investment in Cambodia.

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