Egypt is a dream destination for many, thanks to its various famous sites. The cost of living is low and expats can settle in Cairo, Egypt’s largest city, to find work if they’re looking for it. Most American and European expats are known to head to that city for work opportunities, but they can be difficult to find. There is a high unemployment rate, which means that, although you may be lucky enough to find something just right for you, chances are you’ll have a tough time of it. This doesn’t mean, however, that opening a business in Egypt would be a bad idea. The people are relatively educated and looking for work. Whichever course of action you prefer to take to enter the workforce in Egypt, here are some things that will be important to know.
You can work in Egypt as a foreign national as long as you have a work permit. You’ll obtain an entry/tourism visa upon entering the country, and from there you can apply for the work permit. In order to do so, you’ll have to have a job already lined up, so that your employer can be available to participate in the process. The work visa is valid for one year and it is renewable. The Egyptian bureaucracy is known for being a bit difficult to work with in these matters, so it will be helpful to have your employer highly involved in pushing things along.
The list of the necessary documentation for applying for the work permit is extensive. You’ll need all of the same items you’d need to apply for a visa and more. Here is a list, but double-check with your local embassy just in case anything changes:
- A valid passport (with valid Egyptian residence status)
- 7 passport-sized photos
- Two copies of your employer’s incorporation contract
- Two copies of your Tax ID card (go to the Ministry of Manpower for help on getting this)
- Two copies of your academic qualifications (such as university degrees and professional certifications)
- A copy of the commercial register from your employer
- Any licenses required for practicing your profession (have both the original and copies, just in case)
- A letter from your employer explaining why it is necessary to hire a foreigner rather than a qualified Egyptian citizen
- Approval from the Authority related to your profession (e.g. Investment, Petroleum – get this from the office of that Authority)
- A representative from your employer who will “sponsor” your work permit
- Proof of test showing you are free of HIV/AIDs
- Approval from Egypt’s State Security Service showing that you are not a threat to national security or public safety (this can be obtained through a division at the Ministry of Manpower).
The application fee is 1,000 EGP, which translates to $56.28 USD.
Starting a Business Abroad in Egypt
There are typically three types of companies you can start in Egypt as a foreigner. You can begin a sole proprietorship, a joint stock, or limited liability company. No matter which company type you choose, you’ll still have to register it with the General Authority for Investment (GAFI). You’ll need a lawyer in order to prepare the necessary paperwork for this.
If you are interested in starting a sole proprietorship, or a company with a single owner like a restaurant or shop, you’ll need to supply the proper paperwork. You’ll need a permit for pretty much every aspect of the business, from serving food to hygiene and everything else. Again, a lawyer can help you with this.
For joint stock companies, you’ll need at least three shareholders to go in with you. The minimum for issued capital is around $50,000 USD, and at least 25 percent of that must be paid at the time of incorporation – the rest can be paid within 10 years. At least 49 percent of this capital must be available to the Egyptian public through the Egyptian stock exchange. In addition, employees will have to have a role in company management and receive a minimum of 10 percent of net profits.
Finally, if you’re interested in starting a limited liability company while abroad in Egypt, that company will not be allowed to participate in banking, finance, or insurance activities. The starting capital is about $2,813 USD and one in three managers must be Egyptian. However, the LLC does not have to share profits with employees unless they rise above 250,000 EGP ($14,000 USD, roughly).
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