Living in a country with one o the highest unemployment rates in the world, it’s almost impossible for foreigners to get employed here in Ethiopia. But there are some special circumstances where the Ministry Of Labor And Social Affairs allows certain foreignness to get employed in Ethiopia. These circumstances could generally be classified in to two. These are.

1. Foreignness who can work without any permit and

2. Foreignness who has a work permit granted from the Federal Investment Agency.

1. Foreigners allowed working without work permit

These are people, who can work at any respective agencies, due to their status. That is foreigners who were born in Ethiopia and have legible birth certificates and those foreigners who are granted immunity by the ministry of foreign affairs. These people could either be members of diplomatic missions, members of the council members of the UN, members of the AU or they could be members of other similar organizations.

2. Foreigners who need to acquire work permit in order to work in Ethiopia

With the exception of the people stated above, any foreigner has to earn a work permit in order to work in any institution. This work permit is given either by the Ministry Of Labour And Social Affairs or by the Federal Investment Agency and it can only be granted by the request of the employer for a specific task only.

Preconditions for Earning Work Permit

A foreigner can get a work permit through his employer if one of the following preconditions is met. These are.

1. Ifit is proved by the ministry that the foreigner has the required skill and it is it is found to be crucial in order to perform the particular task.

2. If the foreigner is engaged in giving educational and health related aid services in a Nongovernmental Charities Organization and if such service is considered to be valuable to the country.

3. If the organization’s head office is located in another country and this head office has represented a foreigner to handle its affairs in Ethiopia, provided such employment doesn’t jeopardize employment opportunities of nationals or if it provides new employment opportunities.

4. If the foreigner is working in an organization where he/she is part owner.

5. If the foreigner is hired as a result of a unilateral or multilateral agreement of the government.

6. If the employer, either individually or in cohesion with another employer needs high management members of foreigners for an organization which has not yet started functioning and proof to this effect is shown by the investment agency or by the ministry, if it has started to function.

7. If the employer, based on his agreement with a foreign enterprise regarding trade or other business activities, found the foreigner to be very crucial to the particular task and if proof to this effect is brought to the investment agency.

How to request a work permit

As mentioned earlier a work permit can only be forwarded to the Ministry/Agency through the employer. This employer has to first fill out any information required under the application form set by the Ministry/Agency. He has to also show replacement Ethiopians have been assigned or hired. These replacements, within the time frame of the permit, have to be trained and a report to this effect has to be submitted to the agency. The employer may also be required to provide a schedule of transfer of knowledge planned the replacement Ethiopian employees.

For foreigners whose time of work is incorporated under health or education, the employer has to bring evidence of professional competence from the concerned governmental institution. If the ministry deems it necessary it can ask any relevant information from the employer.

Things that need to be fulfilled to get a new permit

Any employer, before getting a work permit for a foreigner, has to first fulfill the following requirements. He has to have

1. A completed form requesting work permit;

2. Documents showing the foreigner’s educational back ground and work experience;

3. Copy of the foreigners travel documents;

4. The form in which the personal history of the foreigner is filled;

5. Four passport size photos of the foreigner;

6. An unexpired business visa;

In addition to the above requirements the employer has to also get a letter of recommendation from the governmental institution that directly controls the project.

But if the employer is an owner of a private company, in addition to the above requirements he also has to

–      Show certificate of trade or investment permit

–      If deemed necessary, letter of recommendation from the appropriate organs.

In addition to the above, if the employer is engaged in a non-governmental association certificate of registration from the non-governmental registration agency along with letter of recommendation from the concerned organs is required.

Time span of a permit

A work permit for a particular task can be granted for a period of three years but it has to be renewed annually is order to remain effective. But the three years period could be extended if it’s deemed necessary by the ministry. One of the circumstances could be if the replacement Ethiopian cannot cover the tasks performed by the foreigner and if it is proved by the ministry that the foreigner is a crucial asset to the task being performed.

The ministry could also refuse to renew the permit if the request for renewal is found to be inadequate.

Obligations of the employer

In addition to those specified under the labor proclamation, the employer has the following duties.

1. If the foreigner disappears from the place of work, he has to inform, in writing to the ministry with in 2 (two) days time of his awareness of the disappearance;

2. Whenever the work inspector requests for the appearance of the foreigner in person, he has to comply with the necessary obligations;

3. If the employer no longer needs the service of the foreigner and if the contract is ceased, he has to inform the ministry with in 5 (five) working days and return the permit;

4. If the foreigner changes his place of work the employer has to inform the ministry the new address with in 5 (five) working days of the change;

5. If it is found that the foreigner is in violation of Ethiopian laws it has to immediately inform the ministry and get his permit cancelled;

6. The employer has to register the residence of the foreigner and show it when asked by the appropriate organs.

Obligations of the Foreigner

In addition to those specified under the labour proclamation, the foreigner has the following obligations.

1. The foreigner can only work for the employer specified in the permit. He is also obliged to work only the specific task stated in the permit;

2. The foreigner cannot engage in any work activity unless he holds a permit;

3. If the foreigner is found to engage in any illegal or immoral activities he will be liable under the respective provisions;

4. Whenever the foreigner is requested by his employer to be present in the ministry, he has the obligation to comply.

Renewal of a Permit

A work permit can be renewed annually if the ministry believes that the foreigner has not yet finished his work. But for a renewal to be intact the following preconditions has to be met.

1. Application form of the renewal of the work permit

2. Passport and other relevant documents of the foreigner

3. Previous work permit granted by the ministry

4. Report on the training and knowledge transfer of the replacement Ethiopians.

Cancellation of a work permit

The ministry will cancel a permit given to a foreigner if

1. The ministry believes the foreigner is no longer necessary for the particular job.

2. The three year time limit elapses and if the ministry believes that these is no need to prolong the permit.

3. If the foreigner is found working in other tasks in which he has no permit on

4. If the task performed by the foreigner ends or if the organization is closed.

5. If the permit is not renewed in time

6. If its found that the foreigners stay is a threat to the country

7. If  he quits his job and

8. If he fails to perform the obligations set by the ministry.

If one of the above conditions is met, the ministry will automatically cancel the license, when that happens the employer has to return the work permit to the ministry.


Any foreigner who is found to work with out a work permit will be punished based on the penalties set under the labor proclamation. Additional penalties may also be enforced by the appropriate organs. Same penalties are enforceable on any employer who is found to hire any foreigner with out a work permit.

If you have an additional question or comment please Contact us.

Any pertinent information about investment in Ethiopia, tax in Ethiopia, can be available from an Ethiopian Investment Lawyer, Ethiopian Tax lawyer, Ethiopian, Ethiopian Employment Lawyer, Ethiopian Labour Relationships Lawyer, Ethiopian Immigration lawyer.