Brief Note on the Immigration Law of Ethiopia

Freedom of movement, freedom of choosing residence and other related rights are the basic constitutionally guaranteed rights given to any Ethiopian or any lawful foreign national. But not every foreigner can enjoy the above rights without conditions attached. In order to do so one has to fulfill the requirements set under the Immigration Law of Ethiopia under proclamation 334/2003. 

This proclamation along with regulation 114/2004 sets out rules and regulations for foreigners the requirements of getting into or departing from Ethiopia. It also gives a guide to how a foreigner can register and earn a residence permit.

Entry in to Ethiopia 

Before any foreigner enters into Ethiopia, one has to make sure to possess the following things.

–      a valid travel document 

–      valid entry visa or a valid permanent residence permit 

–      Health certificate, as may be necessary. 

In cases where a foreigner is holding a transit or a tourist visa, in addition to those specified above one should also posses the following.

–      a ticket valid for travel from Ethiopia to another country and 

–      Unless it’s deemed not to be necessary a valid visa and heath certificate which will enable him to enter the country of destination.

In cases of minors, it is possible for them to enter Ethiopia if registered in the travel document of the person who accompanies them but if they happen to be traveling alone there should be a person who will assume responsibility for the minor in Ethiopia.

Departure from Ethiopia 

Unless prohibited to do so by an order of court given in accordance with law any person can depart from Ethiopia. The same requirements as entry to Ethiopia also apply for a person departing from Ethiopia.

Travel Documents and Visas

Travel Documents

Travel documents issued by either the ministry of foreign affairs or the security immigration refuges affairs authority in accordance with Proclamation 354/2003 and Regulation 114/2004 are the following.

  1. Diplomatic Passport
  2. Service Passport
  3. Ordinary Passport
  4. Laissez – Passport
  5. Emergency Travel
  6. Refugee Travel Document
  7. Other travel documents to be prescribed as may be necessary

A.    Diplomatic Passport

This passport is issued by the Ethiopian Ministry Of Foreign Affairs after an application is submitted to it by the concerned government office or by the applicant him self. It is given, free of charge, to those people who are

–      Ambassadors, Diplomatic Agents, Attaches And Consular Representatives who are assigned in the Ethiopian Embassies, Permanent Missions And Consular Posts abroad and to their spouses

 –      Ethiopian government envoys holding such ranks as may be specified by directives of the ministry and who travel abroad to participate in conferences or meetings or for other government business; 

–      Government officials holding such ranks as may be specified by the ministry and who travel abroad for various purposes; 

–      Ethiopian employees of international and regional organizations with the rank of diplomatic status and their spouses and 

–      Distinguished dignitaries specified by the ministry.


B.    Service Passport  

This pass port is also issued by the Ministry Of Foreign Affairs free of charge to people who are

–      Ethiopians assigned as staff members in Ethiopian embassies and permanent missions and consular posts abroad. 

–      Ethiopians who don’t qualify to earn a diplomatic passport but who travel abroad for government business. 

–      Family members of persons holding diplomatic passport pursuant to their status as ambassadors, diplomatic agents, attaches and consular representative assigned to the Ethiopian embassies. 

–      Ethiopians who are employees of international or regional organizations with international civil servants status and their spouses.

These people have to submit an application specifying the grounds that will qualify them for grant of such passport to the ministry of foreign affairs.    


C.    Ordinary Passport 

This pass port is granted to any Ethiopian citizen upon request. This pass port is issued by the Security Immigration and Refugee Affairs Authority. Unless it is renewed, it will remain effective for a period of five years. The fee payable for this passport is three hundred Ethiopian birr for students and one hundred and fifty birr for non students.                

D.   Laissez – Passport

This passport is issued to an Ethiopian, up on payment of twenty dollars to a foreigner who is not holding a passport and is returning from abroad. A person holding this passport can use it up to one year. Application to the issuance of this passport shall be submitted to Ethiopian embassies and consular posts abroad.

E.    Emergency Travel Document  

An emergency travel document is issued by the authority for a one time exit only. It shall be issued to a foreigner who is unable to obtain his national travel document or who is stateless and is departing from Ethiopia. This passport will be issued after paying 20 dollars.

 F.     Refugee Travel  Document

A refugee travel document is a document issued, free of charge, to persons recognized as refugees in Ethiopia. This document may either be issued for exit only or for re-entry. This passport is valid for a year. Application for this passport is submitted to the authority.

 G.    Other Travel Documents  

This incorporates hajj and umrah passports and alien passports. Hajj and umrah pass port may, if deemed necessary, be issued to hajj and umrah pilgrims. This passport will be valid for a year while alien passport is issued to a resident foreigner who is unable to obtain his national travel document or who is stateless. Just like the hajj and umrah passport this passport will also remain affective for a period of one year. The fee payable for both passports is 200 Ethiopian birr.  

An application for a travel document shall be made by filling a form issued for such purpose and shall be accompanied with an identity card issued by the appropriate organ and in addition to the above photograph and finger prints also needs to be furnished.

If one of the travel documents is lost or damaged or where its validity period expires a request for the replacement of the travel document may be submitted.


With the exceptional circumstances where exemptions are provided in any other law or treaty to which Ethiopia is a party, all foreigners who want to enter is to Ethiopia has to have visas. 

But before any visa is issued, it should be ascertained that the applicant is not amongst the following. Hence a visa will be denied or cancelled if the holder applicant

–      has no viable means of support or is likely o become an public burden 

–      is found to be a notorious criminal 

–      he has been declared to be a drug addict 

–      has been suspected of suffering from a dangerous contagious disease 

–      has been found to be a threat to the security of Ethiopia 

–      has furnished fraudulent information   

–      has violated any provision stipulated by the ministry

If an applicant or visa holder is free from the above, he/she has a right to get a visa. 

The visas issued by either the ministry or the authorities are the following.

A.    Diplomatic Visa

B.    Service Visas

C.    Business Visas

D.   Immigrant Visa

E.    Tourist Visa

F.     Transit Visa

G.    Student Visa

H.     Exit Visa

I.       Reentry Visa

J.       Other Visas

A.      Diplomatic Visa  

This type of visas can be issued only where a diplomatic note from the department of foreign affairs, embassy or consular posts of the requesting state or from the concerned international or regional organization has been presented.

 Diplomatic visas are issued to   

–      Ambassadors, diplomatic agents, attaches and consular representatives who are assigned in foreign embassies, permanent missions and consular posts in Ethiopia and to their spouses. 

–      Officials having diplomatic status, of international and regional organizations having their seats in Ethiopia  to their spouses 

–      Foreigners holding diplomatic passports and coming to or transiting through Ethiopia for government business. 

B.      Service Visa

These visas are issued by the ministry to the following people

–      Permanent employees of foreign embassies, Permanent missions and consular posts in Ethiopia who are holding service pass ports and to members of their families. 

–      International civil servants assigned in international or regional organizations having their seats in Ethiopia and to members of this families 

–      Foreigners holding service passport and coming to or transiting through Ethiopia for government business. 

–      Family members of persons issued with diplomatic visas. 

Both diplomatic and service visas are issued gratis. 

C.      Business Visa  

Business visas will be given either for a single or multiple entries to foreigners who come to Ethiopia for

 –     Investment activities 

–      Employment in any activity with accordance to the law concerning work permits.

–      Various activities to be carried out as a result of an agreement entered in to with a foreign government, an international or regional organization or non-governmental organization. 

–      Humanitarian service with out remuneration 

–      Participation in symposia, exhibitions, work shops and similar activities to be held in Ethiopia or for giving training 

–      Study and research and mass media activities 

This visa is issued after payment of 20 dollars for a single entry, 30 dollars for multiple entries for three months, 50 dollars for multiple entries for six months and 100 dollars multiple entries for a year. 

D.     Immigrant Visa 

This visa is given, after payment of 50 dollars, to foreigners 

–      Who have been adopted by or have valid marriages with Ethiopians and are coming to reside in Ethiopia 

–      Family members of foreigners holding  permanent resident permit 

–      Foreigners coming to reside in Ethiopia with out becoming a public burden, to members of thief families.

E.      Tourist Visa  

These visas are issued to foreigners who are coming to visit Ethiopia. The visa may be issued for a single or multiple entries but any foreigner who has entered Ethiopia by a tourist visa can’t work in Ethiopia. 

This visa is issued after payment of 20 dollars for a single entry, 30 dollars for multiple entries for three months and40 dollars for multiple entries for six months 

F.      Transit Visa  

This visa may be issued either for a single transit, 20 dollars or double transit, 30 dollars to a foreigner who is traveling to another country across Ethiopia.

G.     Student Visa

If a foreigner, who is coming to Ethiopia, for education or training, can provide evidence showing his admission to an educational or training institution in Ethiopia and the financial means to cover his educational and accommodation expense, a student visa will be issued. This visa will be issued when 20 dollar fee is paid. 

An application for a visa has to be made by filling in a form issued for such purpose and it shall be accompanied with a valid health certificate as may be necessary.

In case of diplomatic and service visas the application shall be submitted to the ministry of foreign affairs or to Ethiopian embassies or consular posts abroad. 

Registration of Foreigners and Residence Permit  

Registration is a mandatory requirement to any foreigner

–      who is residing in Ethiopia 

–      Who enters Ethiopia with an immigrant visa with in thirty days of his arrival 

–      Who enters Ethiopia with a business or student visa and intends to stay for more than ninety days with in thirty days from the date of his arrival

–      Any foreigner who is allowed to stay with out a visa and who intends to stay for more than ninety days, with in 30 days of his arrival. 

Diplomats and international civil servants their families, refugees recognized by the government of Ethiopia and the UNHCR and foreigners exempted from registration and residence permit in accordance with other laws or treaties to which Ethiopia is a party are not required and register. 

But they are obliged to obtain an identity card issued by the appropriate authority with in thirty days from the date of arrival. 

An application for registering a foreigner shall be made by filling a form issued for such purpose by the applicant has the obligation to attach a valid travel document when relevant, evidence showing reasons for residing for more than 90 days and other information and documents that may be required by the authority. Miner children shall be recorded in the residence permit of their parents. 

Hence any foreigner, who has been registered, upon payment of the fee changed, shall be issued either with a permanent or temporary residence permit.

Permanent Residence Permit  

A permanent residence permit is given to a foreigner

–      who entered to Ethiopia by an immigrant visa 

–      Who has established his domicile in Ethiopia and issued in Ethiopia for at least three years preceding the submission of his application 

–      Who has a sufficient and lawful source of income to maintain himself and his family and is known to have a good character 

–      Who is married to an Ethiopian national if at least one year has enclosed since the conclusion of the marriage. 

–      Engaged in investment or humanitarian cavities in Ethiopia or who has made or is expected to make out standing contributions in the interest of Ethiopia 

A foreigner fulfilling at least one of the preconditions set above can earn a permit after paying 500 Ethiopia birr to the authority of immigration not with standing the provisions of financial regulations 17/1997. 

After obtaining a permanent residence permit, a foreigner will be issued with a work or an investment permit in accordance with the appropriate laws.

Temporary Residence Permit   

A temporary residence permit will be issued to any foreigner who has been registered lawfully and who is not entitled to a permanent residence permit. This permit shall only be valid for a period not exceeding one year from the date of issuance and shall be replaced by a new one if it becomes necessary to stay longer. The amount paid to earn a temporary permit is 400 Ethiopia birr for non students and 200 Ethiopia birr for students.

Revocation of Residence Permit  

Any foreigner who is a holder of a residence permit shall give the obligation to return to the authority if he/she is leaving Ethiopia for good. These are also some possibilities where a residence permit may be revoked. These are where:

–      its found to have been obtained and presenting false evidence 

–      The holder of the permit left Ethiopia and stayed abroad for a consecutive period of ore than one year or 

–      Where the permit is found to have been obtained on the basis of a marriage of convenience. 

Port Of Entry, Exit and Immigration Control  

Immigration officers appointed by the authority shall be responsible for controlling entries in to and departures from Ethiopia. This officer shall, at ports of entry and exit control persons entering in to or deporting from Ethiopia to ensure that they have fulfilled the requirements specified, or where they are exempted from such requirement, that they are holding the appropriate identification cards.

 The ports of entry and exit shall be

–      by air: Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa 

–      By land: Moyale, Dewole, Galafi, Metemma, Humera, Omorate, To Go Chale And Dolo Odo. 

Other than these, where a hotel a lodging house or an institution provides accommodation is a non-resident foreigner, it shall have the obligation to report to the authority, the organ delegated by the authority or the resets police station within 24 hours. 

On the other hand any resident foreigner who intends to lodge at any hotel or any lodging house shall have the obligation to present his valid travel document and be registered in a form prescribed by the authority.

 Deportation of Foreigners from Ethiopia

If a foreigner’s visa is cancelled by the authority, a deportation order may be issued. This order shall also include the family members of the deportee other than those having Ethiopian nationality. The order of deportation should specify the reason for deportation of the foreigner, the date of departure from Ethiopia and the port of exit. The foreigner may be deported to the country of origin or to any other country willing to receive him. The foreigner is expected to cover his/her traveling expenses.   

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Any pertinent information can be available from an Ethiopian Lawyer, Ethiopian Immigration Lawyer, Ethiopian Investment Lawyer, Ethiopian Tax Lawyer, Ethiopian Employment Lawyer and Ethiopian Labour Relationships Lawyer.

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