Expats hoping to work in Mozambique will find that obtaining a work permit can be very difficult. There are quotas in place to restrict the employment of foreigners. That said, those with exceptional skills that are in demand in Mozambique, such as engineers, can get a work permit fairly easily.

Work permits for Mozambique are granted on either a short- or long-term basis. The application processes for these vary greatly. Work permit applications need to go through the Department of Labour in Mozambique and therefore tend to take a long time to process.

Types of work visas for Mozambique

Business visas (short-term work permits)

When an expat is employed for projects that will last a maximum of 90 days, they need to apply for a business visa. Approval and renewal for business visas in Mozambique is at the discretion of the Department of Labour.

Traditionally, a business visa is designed for people travelling to another country to attend meetings, conferences, seminars or corporate events, but in Mozambique, this visa also enables the visa holder to work legally. The business visa can therefore serve as a short-term work permit in Mozambique.

Application for a business visa needs to be made before travelling to Mozambique. Applications can be submitted at the Mozambican mission or embassy in an expat's home country. If a country doesn't have a Mozambican embassy or consulate general, expats can contact an agent in Mozambique, who can arrange a 'letter of approval'. This letter of approval is used to travel to Mozambique. Upon entry, expats will then have their visas endorsed. Alternatively, an expat may travel to the Mozambican representation closest to their country of residence in order to submit the application.

Long-term work permits

Long-term work permits for Mozambique are initially valid for a period of up to two years. These are renewable if the applicant is able to meet certain requirements. Processing times tend to be lengthy. Waiting periods can be anything between two and six months.

This application process is more complex than that for a business visa. These work permits are generally only granted when the employer can prove that the position can't be filled by any suitable Mozambican citizen. The quota system in Mozambique gives a company the right to employ a certain number of foreigners. Quotas are awarded depending on the number of nationals employed. If the company has exhausted its quota, it may apply for 'out-of-quota' authorisation with the Department of Labour.

Expats will first have to establish whether the company they will be working for has quota left, or if an out-of-quota application has to be processed. If an expat can be employed within the quota, there is no need to prove that they have specific skills. The employer can then simply obtain an authorisation letter from the Department of Labour.

When the Mozambican company has exhausted its quota, the out-of-quota route has to be taken. This is the most complicated route to employment and can take months to process. An application for out-of-quota authorisation is based on merit. Mozambican officials will have to determine whether there are sufficient grounds to grant the request. Relevant factors would include the sector in which the foreigner is employed, the intention to transfer skills and the number of local people benefiting from the project.

Obtaining authorisation from the Labour Department will be challenging. The process is time consuming and unpredictable. Applications need to be accompanied by a strong motivation explaining why foreign skills are required. An application for a work permit can only be submitted at a Mozambican mission after obtaining this authorisation.

Finally, expats with a long-term work visa for Mozambique need to apply for a residence permit as soon as they arrive in the country. The residence permit is also referred to as local registration. Obtaining local registration is straightforward. An application must be made by submitting several personal documents and a work authorisation. The permit should then be issued for a period corresponding with the work authorisation.

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