If you are reading this article, I believe it’s either because you are tendering for a project in Mozambique or you have already been awarded a contract to develop a project.
If you are still in the tendering phase of your project, this article might just be for you, so please continue reading. If you have already been awarded a project, the question you may have is,
“how do I bring workers to Mozambique?”.
Or maybe you have already sent your team to Mozambique and have received an inspection visit on site and you were not aware what to do when inspection threatened you with a fine or got the passports of employees on site.
If your operations have already been initiated, I assume that you sent your staff on business visas, which you applied for at the Mozambique embassy or consulate abroad and thought all would be ok.
You were happy that you could “solve this problem” and specially because the visa application was “cheap” and quick.
Regardless of your situation, if you have read this article until this point, it’s because you have business to do in Mozambique. In this article I’ll explain about the implications of immigration in every project in Mozambique. I’ll explain why the business visa might not be the right choice of entry and what are the visa and work permit requirements and the practicalities to obtain such.
The topic of immigration may be seen as a small detail at first, but over the course of this article I will elaborate that it can became a very expensive problem, specially when you have thousands or millions of dollars invested in a project but cannot start your project, or has to stop your operations because you can’t bring your people.
Before I go into details, let me explain that this is a country where law and practice work independently, and everything written in this article regarding the requirements and the procedure to apply for a work permit today can be changed tomorrow without notice.
As a point of departure it is important to note that there is a distinctive difference between a work visa and a work permit. Do not underestimate and think that the visa you apply at the embassy is enough for you to work in the country – that is only the start of the procedure
Regarding Work Permits (also called work authorization):
All work permits are applied for in Mozambique before the employee enters the country. Work permits are applied for at the Department of Labour at the province where the work activities will take place. Before you apply for this permit you must have a registered entity in the country and have all your company registration documents and social security document (INSS) in order.
Many companies struggle with this requirement either because their client in Mozambique does not agree with the “sponsoring” of the work permits, or because it’s not feasible for the company to register in the country to develop one project for a short term. If that is your case, then you might think that you got stuck.
What we have seen so far, is that there is a solution for it, and that is because in Mozambique there are several companies offering Employment of Record services. Those are mainly HR companies that will employ your employees under their name and apply for work permits through them.
In case you would like to register your company in Mozambique and apply for work permits through your own company, then you must be aware that it’s not only about registering your company in the country, you must also comply with several other HR related matters. This is an important point to note and either have a local HR representative or your law firm or accounting company looking after these matters, because it’s the smallest things that can cause you trouble with the departments of labour and immigration in the country.
If you have the above in order, then you are able to submit work permit applications. In our article for Africa Immigration Series in Mozambique, we explain in details what the requirements are.
Short Term Work Permit
If your project is for a short term, meaning less than 3 or 6 months, then your employees must apply for a short term work permit. As described above, the permit application is submitted at the Department of Labour at the province where the work activities will happen. If the duration of the project is 3 consecutive months, then you will be required to apply for the work permit once valid for the total duration of the project.
If the work will be carried out in a rotation basis, then you are required to apply for the permit before each rotation. Meaning, if your employees are on a rotation 6×2, then you must apply for the permit every 6 weeks, not exceeding a total of 90 days or 180 days if the company is operating in the mining or oil and gas sector. Be advised that Mozambique immigration law does not yet recognize work being conducted on a rotation basis and that is why the permit must be applied for every rotation.
The processing time of the work permit is usually 15-20 working days. The procedure is quite complex and in practice we have noticed an increase demand for additional documents, certifications and authentications that, despite not being listed in the law, is still required by Labor authorities. The government fee paid directly to the Department of Labour is not a fixed number, and it depends on the minimum salary of the prescribed profession and the sector which the company in Mozambique is registered, which could be from approximately USD 150 to USD 1,200 per application. Please note that if the employee is on a rotation basis, this fee is payable every time a new work permit application is submitted.
Work Visa for Short Term Work
Once the Work Permit has been approved and issued by Labour authorities in Mozambique, your local representative must collect your work permit document and use it to apply for your work visa at the Mozambican embassy or consulate of the applicant country of residency.
Usually the work visa application can take 3-5 working days and is also subject to a fee that is different in each consulate or embassy around the world. As per the legislation, the work visa, how it is called, require a complex list of documents such as local work contract, police clearance certificate and medical certificate. Most consulates require those documents to be legalized. The visa is issued for 30 days and it must be renewed in country for the total duration of the permit.
In practice, companies operating in Mozambique, have for many years, applied for business visa for purposes of short term work, meaning that, after you obtain the work permit/ work authorization in Mozambique, then you apply for the business visa at the consulate for the purposes of work.This visa is usually issued for a period of 90 days and is multiple entry. However with a condition that one cannot exceed 30 days in the country, meaning that one must exist and re-enter the country every 30 days.
I know you must be thinking that this doesn’t make sense…I know and I’m sorry. We are hopeful that with the great number of companies and people in the private sector going to Mozambique due to the booming economy (we hope), the government revisits its immigration law for the better.
As explained above, there is a huge difference between immigration law and practice in Mozambique – the work visa is a prime example of this difference. In past years, when companies applied for work permits and it is issued, they would then apply for business visas for the purpose of work at the Mozambican embassy or consulate abroad. In practice, the immigration department does not distinguish between the work visa and the business visa – that is, as long as the employees are holding a valid work authorization. We have consulted with Mozambican Consulates and Embassies in 32 countries across the world and have seen no consistency in the interpretation of which visa should accompany a short-term work permit.
Long Term Work Permit
As explained above, in order to apply for a long term work permit, the company applying for it must be registered in Mozambique. It can either be through your client, or your own company or even an HR/ Employment of Record company.
Long Term Work permits are generally only granted in instances where the employer can prove that the position cannot be filled by any suitable Mozambican applicants. For that, professional qualification documents are very important.
Long Term Work permit is defined by an In Quota and Off Quota regime.
The quota system essentially grants a company the right to employ a certain number of foreigners. Quotas are awarded depending on the number of nationals employed:
1-10 local employees – granted a quota of 10% foreign staff
10-100 local employees – granted a quota of 8%
100+ employees – granted a quota of 5%
If the company has exhausted it’s quota, the company may apply for “off quota” authorization with the Department of Labour. Long Term Work Permits are valid for up to 2 years and it can be renewed. The processing time after the application is submitted is 1-3 months. The fee payable to the Department of Labour when you apply for the visa varies according to the sector which the company in Mozambique is registered, and like the short term work permit, it varies from x5 / x10 minimum salary in Mozambique.
In practice, the procedure to obtain a long term work permit can be very complex. Different provinces have different requirements, and the requirements are not consistence. Sometimes, Labour authorities might require additional documents, legalizations and notarization stamps, different wording on work contracts or invitation letters and all this may affect the processing times.
It’s also important to mention that not only what I explained above can affect processing time, but also other factors such as lack of electricity at the Department of Labour, slow internet connection, the system may be down, road closures near the office so the officials are not able to come or national holidays and others.
Work Visa for Long Term Work
Despite the long processing time of the work permit, you are only allowed to submit a work visa application after your work permit is issued.
Then you must submit the work permit document, together with other documents such as police clearance and medical certificates, the application for work visa at the Mozambican embassy or consulate abroad. The visa is valid for 30 days, but it must be extended for the total duration of the work permit at the immigration department in Mozambique at the province where work activities will take place. The processing time of the work visa is 3-7 working days. The fee payable at the embassies or consulate abroad differ from country to country, in South Africa for example, government fee is ZAR 5,000.
The work visa in essence, has become into what was known as DIRE, the residency permit. As per the legislation DIRE is no longer required unless you obtained your DIRE before the legislation change.
There is much more to be said, however according to all I mentioned above, I hope it has became a bit clearer the process for applying for visas and work permits for Mozambique. We highly recommend that if you are still in the tender phase of your project, please consult with an immigration specialist to understand what is required to send your employees to Mozambique, how much it will cost and how long it will take.
On another occasion I’ll write a bit more about the horror immigration stories that we have seen in Mozambique since middle last year. In the meantime, don’t be afraid to drop us an email and request more information or double check all information that you have received so far. This way you avoid having to hide for hours behind containers or have your passport taken for days or receive a fine worth thousands of dollars.
by Fernanda Braz