To obtain a work permit in Ghana, individuals must find a job and secure a contract.

For foreigners who can secure a job in Ghana, the next step is to apply for both a work- and a residence permit. 

The process is complicated and tedious. Fortunately, most employers assist with the work permit application process, as the onus is also on the company to organise and hold a valid permit allowing them to hire foreign employees.

Whilst the employing company must organise this, there are certain requirements of expats. Work permits are issued by Ghana Immigration Services (GIS), Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) and the Ministry of the Interior (MOI). Depending on the route taken, the company will inform the applicant on necessary documents they must provide and the implications of each permit.

Work permits through the GIS

Work permit applications must be done in person at the GIS headquarters in Accra. In most cases, the employer will submit the documents on a foreign worker's behalf before they arrive in the country.

The processing time for work permits in Ghana is four to six weeks, so it is advised to apply early as it is not possible to start working until the permit has been fully approved.

Work permits are usually granted for one year, the length of the contract or a maximum of two years. After this period, expats will need to apply for a renewal.

The company applies for the work permit on behalf of the applicant with certain company-specific documents, but it also requires certain personal details and particulars of the expat. These are subject to change, but often include passport-sized photos, a curriculum vitae and a copy of their passport.

Organisations in the mining and petroleum sector and those registered as Ghana Free Zone Board entities have additional and separate bodies to report to. Fortunately, expats will not have to worry as the company arranges this on their behalf.

Work permits through the GIPC

The GIPC can issue an automatic expatriate quota (AEQ) dependent on the foreign equity capital investment capital made by the company the expat works for. Companies with foreign participation must register with the GIPC and thereafter can apply for work permits in this way. The higher the capital investment band, the more foreign nationals the company can employ. 

However, with negotiation and discretion, a company may be granted a short-term or temporary quota from the GIPC. These permits are valid for no longer than five years.

Work permits through the MOI

Companies can also go through the MOI to obtain an immigrant quota (IQ). These have a maximum period of three years and foreigners staying for a shorter period can be replaced by another foreign employee when they leave. Once the IQ is received, the expat does not need to apply for a work permit. They must, however, apply for a residence permit through the GIS.

* Visa and work permit requirements are subject to change at short notice and expats should consult their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.