Are you planning to come to Ethiopia for investment, work, tourism or any other purpose? Here are the basic points you should be aware of.

Obtaining Visas

The first thing that you should do is get your visa from the nearest Ethiopian Embassy or consular office. Except Kenya and Djibouti nationals, visas are required for all visitors coming to Ethiopia. Visitors should obtain a visa from an Ethiopian Embassy or Consulates before departure. However Tourist visas are available on arrival at Bole International Airport for nationals and residents of the following countries; Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Democratic people’s Republic of Korea (northern Korea), Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea (south Korea), the Russian Federation, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States of America. Nevertheless it is advisable to get your visa before departure.

Customs Law

While traveling in or departing out of Ethiopia you must be watchful about the amount of local and foreign currency you hold with you. That same attention should be given to any item that appears to be cultural.

Foreign Currency: When traveling in or out of Ethiopia you will be required to comply with the following customs law of Ethiopia.

According to Ethiopian customs law you must declare any/all foreign currency in excess of 3,000 USD (or its equivalent).   When you finish your business and depart from Ethiopia you may carry a maximum of 3000 USD (or its equivalent) only, unless you can produce a customs declaration, bank slip showing the purchase of foreign currency, or letter confirming that you were paid by an embassy or foreign organization in Ethiopia.

Local Currency: You may carry a maximum of 200 Ethiopian Birr only, in your person or in your luggage while entering or exiting Ethiopia.    

Cultural Items: If you carry any item that appears to be cultural, even items that are clearly commercial, it must be examined and certified by the museum of history before leaving Ethiopia.     

Immigration Laws

In Ethiopia you will be required to fulfill the duty of registration. As per the Ethiopian Immigration Proclamation all foreigners who are residing in Ethiopia and/or who enter Ethiopia without a visa or with an immigrant, business or student visa and intend to stay for more than ninety days must register and apply for a residence permit within thirty days of arrival.

As per the Ethiopian Charities and Civil Societies Proclamation, an expat who works for an organization registered with the Charities and Societies Agency (CSA) must register.     

Immigration Penalties

If you enter or leave Ethiopia illegally, reside illegally in Ethiopia, or you assist someone to reside illegally in Ethiopia, the penalty is a maximum prison sentence of 3 years and fines up to 10,000 ETB.  If you reside legally in Ethiopia (if you have the correct visa or residency status) and you are found guilty of assisting others to reside illegally in Ethiopia, the penalty can be four times greater.      

Work Permits

The authority entrusted with powers to issue and deny work permits in Ethiopia is the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MOLSA). So your work permit requests shall be submitted to this ministry in the following manner.  

  • If your organization is registered with CSA, then CSA must write a letter to MOLSA. 
  • If you are a businessman or an investor, you may apply for a permit before entering Ethiopia;
  • If your organization is registered with CSA, you must apply after entering.

After due examination of your credentials and recommendation letter from your employer the Ministry will grant work permit. Even though you have applied for a work permit, you may not work until it is approved, even if your 90 days have not expired. Once you get the work permit you can start work. In Ethiopia you need a work permit even if you are working as a part time, as an intern, performing religious work, or even volunteering. 

For detailed idea on work permit read our blog on “How to acquire Work Permit and comply the Ethiopian Law

Tax Laws

If you are a permanent resident of Ethiopia, you must pay taxes on all income. It is an organization’s responsibility to withhold taxes for salaries, benefits, some profits, sales tax, donations, and large purchases. For detailed notes on tax please read The Direct and Indirect Taxes applicable in Ethiopia.

If you have an additional question or comment or need to get a practical legal support in this regard please  Contact us.

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“Copyright © 2003-2013 Fikadu Asfaw and Associate Law Office

Note: This guide provides vital information on Ethiopian Customs, Immigration and Tax law and is not intended to substitute legal advice with practicing lawyer. Such legal advice is available from any Customs or Immigration or Tax Attorney in Ethiopia.