1. Find A Job
The little state of Andorra is a tempting choice for anyone looking for a job in the Pyrenees. We will look at some of your choices for both seasonal and non-seasonal work: the main tourist activities in the country are skiing, hospitality and retail, but there are some opportunities for employment outside these sectors.
Your choice of employment will to some extent depend on your nationality: although Andorra is bordered by EU nations, it is not itself a member of the EU, so you may find yourself having the status of a third party national and will need official permission to take up work and residency in the principality. In practice, most potential workers come to Andorra with their documentation and take up temporary accommodation while applying for work and residency.
You will need both a work permit and a residence permit to work in Andorra. Self employed work/residency permits are capped: around 900 were available to foreign workers in 2018. Also, local workers have priority: for most jobs, employers must advertise on Andorran jobs boards first.
You will need the following documentation for a work permit:
• a report certifying that you do not have a criminal record from your country of origin (this is known as an ‘apostilled police report’ – a DBS check from the UK should be sufficient but note that there is a 3 month time limit on this document)
• a copy of your passport
• your CV
• certificate of your marital status if you are married
• certificate of your housing status (a rental agreement or a statement signed by your accommodation provider)
Residency applications for Andorra can be complex, and you may wish to seek specialist advice from one of the many consultancies who can guide you through the various categories of residence.
If you are offered employment in Andorra, your employer should sponsor you for a work permit.
You will ideally need to speak Catalan, Spanish or French, or all three languages: the first two are more critical and the official language is Catalan (bureaucracy will need to be conducted in that language). However, being English-speaking is also an advantage, given the number of English-speaking visitors to Andorra.
Experience in the hospitality and retail sectors will also be an advantage if you are aiming at working in these areas. Bear in mind that this kind of employment is seasonal – temporary winter employment is the most common form – and you will need to apply for jobs before the ski season starts: either September or even earlier. Most hiring takes place round about October, and you are likely to be employed either in Vallnord or Grandvalira, the main ski resorts. You will not be allowed to work legally as an independent instructor but must be employed by a ski school.
You will find work as a TEFL teacher, but this is likely to be in the private sector and may take the form of individual tuition rather than teaching in private schools as these are limited in Andorra.
You are not legally permitted to work more than 12 hours per day or 40 hours per week, unless you are paid overtime. This constitutes 2 additional hours per day. Over a week, you will be legally paid 25% extra for your first 4 hours, 50% for the next 4, and 75% for any work undertaken over your 9th hour. You will also be paid 20% above the minimum wage for any nightshift work.
You are entitled to one day off per week and a 30 minute break over the course of each 6 hour shift. There are also 4 official Andorran holidays per year.
Minimum wage in the country is €1,050.40 per month, although you will have to pay a form of national insurance out of this wage (around 6.5%), plus any tax. This will cover you for public healthcare in the principality. Salaries are commensurate with neighboring Spain and France but the cost of living is lower, making Andorra an attractive proposition despite its rather convoluted employment regulations.
Your spouse will be allowed to enter the country as your dependent, but will need to make a separate application for a work permit. Check this out with Andorran immigration before you enter the principality.
You can apply for work in Andorra via a direct application and/or via one of the principality’s job boards: the principal one is Buscofeina.
Job fairs featuring Andorra are not common but there are agencies which cover ski/chalet work and employment in hospitality in the principality’s hotels in addition to the country’s job boards online.
Applying For A Job
A basic but detailed CV will usually suffice. Do your research and check whether the company to which you are applying has any specific requirements.
Discrimination against women is illegal, but non-governmental organisations have reported that institutionalized misogyny is still an issue in Andorra, so be aware of your rights if you are going into an interview in the country.
Qualifications And Training
Having a qualification as a ski instructor (equal to the British Association of Snowsport Instructors (BASI) Level 2 Instructor Qualification) will also be essential if you are planning to work directly with the ski industry. Similarly, in other forms of sport such as snow-boarding and paragliding, you will need to have the relevant qualifications if you wish to work as an instructor.
If you are intending to teach English, a TEFL qualification will be needed: remember to take a copy of your TEFL certificate along with you to interview. Experience in international teaching is also desirable.
Banking is also an option as Andorra has an active financial services industry: again, you will need the relevant qualifications and experience. Employment in this sector is competitive.
2. Apply For A Visa/Permit
Landlocked between France and Spain, and consisting of a cluster of mountain valleys, streams and rivers, Andorra is one of the smallest countries in the world, measuring just 468km². One-tenth of the country is covered by the Great Valira River, which flows through the capital city, Andorra la Vella. As Andorra does not have its own airport, the easiest way to get there is to fly to either Barcelona Airport in Spain, or Toulouse-Blagnac Airport in France. Once there, there are several bus routes and car services that can take you straight to Andorra. A bus ticket will cost you around €15.
A valid passport or EU identity card must be shown upon entering the country, but you will not need an entry visa to visit for less than 90 days. Although a visa may not be needed to enter, one will be required to exit Andorra and cross back into France or Spain, since the country is not, as yet, part of The Schengen Agreement.
The Schengen Agreement
The Schengen Agreement is an intergovernmental agreement signed in June 1985, promoting the relaxation of border controls between participating European countries, and leading to the creation of the Schengen Area in Europe. To date, 26 European countries have signed the Schengen Agreement, covering a population of over 400 million people and an area of 4,312,099 km². Andorra began Schengen negotiations in 2015.
At external borders of the Schengen Area, non-EU nationals must present their travel document and visa, or a relevant residence permit, along with any supporting documentation for their visit. When applying to become a resident of Andorra, it is suggested that a multiple-entry Schengen visa be acquired before submitting the appropriate residential visa application.
The multiple-entry Schengen visa
The multiple-entry Schengen visa allows the holder to travel to or through Schengen Areas multiple times using the same visa, for up to 90 days at a time in any given 180-day period.
With its balanced economy, inviting tax incentives, and sporty culture, Andorra is overall a healthy place to live and is actively attracting new citizens and foreign investors. However, none of this matters if you don’t have a residential visa.
The process to acquire residency is straightforward, but one thing you must know is that all official documentation is in Catalan, and you’ll need to fill out several forms to apply for residency. As this can be a very tricky process, it would be advantageous to be accompanied by a competent Andorran who’s willing to help.
All residency visas must be applied for in person, with any dependants aged over 18 years old at the time of the application. An immigration quota system, based on the analysis of the needs of the country’s economy and society, is in place so that social cohesion and job balance is maintained.
The quota system
The number of visas available to applicants each year is set by the Andorran immigration government quota system. Places are limited and decisions are made based on what an applicant has to offer in the way of qualifications, employment, investments and collateral.
As a general rule, seasonal visas, passive residence visas and highly qualified job visas usually have higher quota percentages than other forms of visa, because they are considered of high interest to the country.
Applicants wishing to obtain a job in the skiing and tourism industry in Andorra are typically offered a seasonal work permit or tourist visa, which is valid for a maximum of three months, between November and May. After this period expires, you have seven days to leave the country.
If you wish to apply for a residency-only visa, you can apply for a passive residency visa; however, if you will be working locally then you should apply for an active residency visa.
The passive residence visa
Andorra’s passive residence visas are for individuals that wish to only live in the country, for more than 90 days, while performing most of their economic activities outside of it.
Applicants of the passive residence visa must prove that their income will be at least 300% the average Andorran annual minimum salary of €12,604.80, while each family member must prove that their income will be at least 100% of the annual minimum salary. A mandatory investment may also be required.
The active residence visa
Those with an active residence visa are expected to live in the country for at least 193 days a year. They may work locally, having the same rights as other Andorran citizens, automatically becoming a fiscal resident.
The active visa holder is required to pay into the social security program CASS and to make a deposit of €15,000 with INAF. As a self-employed active residency visa holder, you are required to make a mandatory investment deposit of €3000 share capital with an Andorran bank. This amount then belongs to your company.
The documentation required to accompany visa applications differs depending on the type being applied for, but is likely to include a passport, EU identity card, birth certificate, criminal history, medical certificate, job offer letter and a tenancy agreement or proof of purchase of accommodation in Andorra. If any of the documentation is originally from outside of the UK, Spain, France or Portugal, it will have to carry an apostille, according to the convention of The Hague.
The first residential visa issued is valid for a period of one year and can be renewed three times for periods of two years, after which a ten-year visa may be granted.
When it comes to buying a property, floor space in Andorra ranges from €2,500 to €15,000 per m2. The desirability of certain property types (especially chalets on large plots) makes them a very secure investment for the future, so owners are keen to hold on to these properties.
Rental contracts are legally five years in length and are heavily in favour of tenants. Deposits are typically two months’ rent (that will be refunded), as well as the first month’s rent in advance. A one or two bedroom apartment can cost anywhere between €350 and €800 per month, while a Chalet or terrace house is going to set you back between €1,500 and €4,000 per month.
If you require further assistance or have any questions, either contact your local government office or contact the Andorran Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Please see contact details below:
Obac Services Building Address:
Carrer de les Boïgues, 2, ground floor
Telephone: +376 872 072
3. Get Health Insurance
Many expats take out private medical insurance, even if this is not a requirement of residence, because healthcare is expensive in their destination country or because certain treatments and procedures are not available.
When taking out health insurance, be sure to check factors such as the annual and lifetime policy limits, whether there are any exclusions which are likely to affect you, whether you are limited to treatment from specific types of healthcare providers, and whether the policy covers emergency evacuation for medical treatment.
Too frequently, potential buyers of health insurance look only for the lowest cost of premiums before really considering the specific benefits and areas of cover they may actually need. Some plans are cheaper for a reason. Often they include large voluntary deductibles on any claim you might make in the future and may severely cap the benefits received under the plan. Clients should define their needs first, establish the particular area of cover they need, then determine their annual healthcare insurance budget. Only then should they look to premium comparisons, last of all.
Do not buy a plan without studying the policy wording carefully. If in doubt, ask, and only when completely satisfied complete all application forms fully, to the best of your ability.
Important questions to ask the insurance provider:
1. Does the plan allow for cooling off periods, cancellation and then repayment of premium in full?
2. Does the plan offer “Moratorium” or is it “Full underwriting” and do you need to have a medical examination before joining?
3. Does the insurer offer a 24 hour help line, 7 days a week, available from anywhere in the world (freephone)? Most insurers now offer this facility.
4. Are pre-existing conditions excluded when joining and if so, for how long are such conditions excluded?
5. Are all and any nationalities accepted or are there restrictions which apply to local nationals? Some insurers will only take expatriates abroad and not local nationals into an overseas plan.
6. Does the plan allow you to continue cover unbroken through your lifetime? In most cases insurers will continue to offer existing clients cover year on year, irrespective of age or claims history, although premium rates charged can increase dramatically with age.
7. Does the insurer allow for any doctor or consultant or hospital within the plan? Are there any restrictions in this respect? Most international plans do not place restrictions on either hospitals or doctors, but almost all demand that their help lines are called first, prior to approval of any inpatient care.
8. Does the insurer provide for the direct settlement of bills presented by hospitals worldwide, regardless of location (or do you have to pay first)?
9. What are the insurers procedures for outpatient claims? Do these require any pre-authorization or if stated in the plan can you just pay and claim? How long before you get money back from the insurer? 14 days? 28 days?.
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4. Rent Or Buy Property
Renting in Andorra is an excellent way to get to know the country and experience different neighbourhoods, without the huge financial investment and commitment that buying a property entails.
The housing market in Andorra has experienced its fair share of ups and downs. There was a housing boom in the 1990s, then another in the 2000s, but this came to an abrupt halt when the global markets crashed in 2007.
Since then, the real estate sector has held steady, with the high-end luxury market going from strength to strength. Because of this, the top-end of the housing market can be incredibly competitive, which often limits the market for those with middle and lower-end budgets. But fear not, there are still properties to be found; you just have to know where to look!
The best way to search for property rentals in Andorra is in person, which can be inconvenient if you’re trying to arrange your accommodation before you arrive in the country. You will also need a lot of patience, as the market is practically “closed”, and as a result, the options available are limited.
You won’t find many property options online, as estate agents in the country have a fairly tight grip on the rental market. However, whilst this could be viewed as a negative, it can actually work in your favour, as estate agents have a lot of knowledge about the areas and properties available in the country, and can therefore make your search for a property more efficient.
Having said that, there are a few places online where you can find real estate available for rent, including:
Rental prices in Andorra vary depending on location, property type and the condition of the property, so it’s difficult to give an estimate without knowing the specifics. However, as a guideline, here are some examples of current properties that are available for rent:
Three-bedroom (unfurnished) apartment
€1,100 per month
Andorra la Vella
Unfurnished studio apartment
€500 per month
Carretera de Montaup, Canillo
Four-bedroom (furnished) house
€7,000 per month
Two-bedroom (unfurnished) apartment
€800 per month
Carrer Prada Motxilla
One-bedroom (furnished) apartment
€1,000 per month
Once you have found a property you would like to rent, the process of actually renting it is straightforward. The initial payment for the property can be a large investment, as most rentals require four months of rent upfront. This is because two months’ rent will be used as your deposit – this will be returned to you when your tenancy is over – one month’s rent will be for the estate agent, and one month’s rent must be paid in advance.
The good news is that the legal system in Andorra tends to favour tenants in rentals. The standard lease contract lasts for five years and, during this time, the property owner cannot evict you or sell the property, without proof that you’re misusing or not looking after it.
Also, even though the lease agreement can last for five years, this does not mean you have to rent the property for that long. You can get out of your contract early, by giving one month of notice for every year that is left on your contract. For example, if you have four years left on your contract, you’ll need to give four months’ notice to the letting agent or property owner (depending upon who your contract is with), before you move.
It’s also important to note that rental costs can only increase according to Andorra’s annual inflation rate, and property owners and estate agents cannot enforce large rent hikes.
Once your rental agreement has been completed and you’re ready to move in, there are two procedures you must follow:
1. You must visit the COMU (local municipal administration office) to register the leasing contract. This must be done, otherwise the contract is not considered valid.
2. You must visit the FEDA (Andorra’s energy company) to have electricity connected to your property and the billing documents placed under your name. You will receive a document once this is done, which costs between €50 and €150.
Whilst real estate in Andorra can be expensive to purchase, you should not give up. The market is still growing and, as a result, new opportunities are starting to form – but you need to be ready, as competition can be fierce!
There aren’t currently any legal restrictions on buying property in Andorra as a foreign national. However, there are certain stipulations in place.
You can only buy commercial property if it is for your business and, if you’re a non-resident, you must obtain purchase permission from the government. However, even once you have this, you can only acquire two title deeds for apartments, or up to 1,000 m2 in space.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to purchase property as a resident, you have more options. It used to be the case that you could make unlimited property purchases in Andorra if you had held a residence status for 20 years or more. However, this rule was recently amended to free up the market, and now residents can acquire more property. But in order to hold passive residence, you must spend at least 183 days in Andorra every calendar year.
Pricing in Andorra varies. The cost of floor space ranges from €2,500 to €15,000 per m2. In comparison, floor space in Monaco (a rivalling tax haven) fetches between €30,000 to €60,000 per m2. This makes it an attractive country to prospective buyers.
Unlike other countries, Andorra has a standardised process, which must be followed for all purchases. This provides an efficient service, and means that the purchasing of property only takes between four and six weeks.
The Andorran process for buying property is as follows:
The buyer and seller sign a “commitment of sale” agreement, which stipulates the property price and any additional conditions.
The buyer secures the property, by placing a non-refundable 10% deposit. Local banks do not offer mortgages to foreign nationals, and so, if you’re looking to secure a mortgage, you’ll need to do so from an overseas lender.
If needed, the buyer heads to the local government office to apply for permission to purchase the property. This requires a simple form, known as Autoritzacio d’inversió estrangera en immobles, which will be listed under the authorisation for foreign investment section. The form is in Catalan and, once completed, can take one to two weeks to be authorised.
The building is surveyed. A local architect will be hired, by the person selling the property, to inspect the property. Once this inspection is complete, they will produce a Certificat d’habitabilitat – this is otherwise known as a Habitability Certificate. This guarantees that the property is adequate for living in, and that it fulfils all legal requirements.
A notary is contracted to oversee the last few steps of the sale. This provides help impartially, and serves as a guarantee to the interests of both parties.
The notary will write the Escritura Publica (otherwise known as the Public Title Deed). This will be signed by the seller and the buyer in the notary’s office, to complete the sale. It is at this point that the cheque with the final price of the property and any fees must be provided.
The cost of property purchase fees will vary depending upon the price of the property you are buying. But to give you an idea, the following fees may apply:
• Acquisition tax: 4% (paid by the buyer)
• Notary fee: ranging from €600 to €1300, plus 0.1% of the property price (paid by the buyer)
• Estate agent’s fee: 5% to 10% (paid by the seller)
• Habitability Certificate: 0.07% (paid by the seller)
• Capital gains: 0% to 15% (15% is applicable if you sell your property within a year, 13% if you sell within two years, 10% if you sell within three years, and, after that, it decreases by 1% each year)
5. Move Your Belongings
Consider if you want (or are able) to transport your belongings yourself or whether you will need the services of a removals company that deals with international moves. Unless you are travelling very light, or making a fairly short move by road, you will probably need professional help to ship your possessions. Ask for quotes from several companies first, ensuring that they visit your home to carry out a survey of your requirements. It may be worth paying extra for the removals firm to pack your possessions for you, particularly if they are going to be transported to a distant country and need special protection for the long journey. Make sure you bring to their attention anything fragile or precious that needs particularly careful wrapping and packing.
Before agreeing to a quotation, ensure that you are fully aware of exactly what is covered in the price, and that the service to be provided meets all of your requirements. For example, does the service include both packing and unpacking of your household effects? What about disassembling and reassembling of furniture? If you are planning to put anything into storage in your destination country while you find accommodation, does the price include final delivery and unpacking at your home, or will you need to arrange collection of the items? Obtain a firm estimate of the likely arrival date of your items and obtain contact details for any agents that will be dealing with the removal in your destination country. Ensure that the removals company is aware in advance of any practical considerations such as the lack of an elevator to your apartment, or likely parking problems.
If using a removals company, you may be required to take out their insurance cover for your possessions. Whether or not this is the case, ensure that you have adequate insurance for anything of actual or sentimental value that could get lost or damaged during the move. Take the time to accurately complete or check an inventory of your possessions to be moved, as this will form the basis for any insurance claim for losses or damages. Find out if insurance is included in the price quoted by the removals company, or whether you are required to pay extra for this.
The removals company should arrange any customs and importation documents on your behalf, but if you are arranging the move independently you will need to find out what documents are required and what import duties and taxes are payable (and whether you are eligible for exemption from these).
Make sure that you set aside the important documents you will need for the journey, such as passports and air tickets, and keep these easily accessible in your hand luggage.
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6. Register For Healthcare
QUICK LINK: Andorra health insurance
Emergency healthcare, for example in the case of accidents, is free for everyone, including people who do not have health insurance. Ongoing healthcare after the critical period has passed may entail a fee, however, so it is advised that you have private cover if you are not eligible to access the Andorran national scheme.
Andorran citizens and salaried employees are entitled to sign up with CASS. Note that residency permits are time-limited, and it is very difficult to become a citizen here. Criteria are very strict and you will need to have been resident in the country for 20 years before you can apply, or 10 years if you have been educated in the Andorran school system. In practice, attaining Andorran citizenship has been described as ‘next to impossible’.
However, there are various forms of residency programs, including passive residency, in which your main source of income lies outside Andorra. Expats often take advantage of this for tax reasons. There is a minimum income cap on this – your income must be at least 300% of the average Andorran annual minimum salary (currently around €12,600 per annum). In addition to this, you will need to make an investment into the Andorran economy, usually by means of buying a special government bond.
If you are intending to apply for passive residency, however, you will not be entitled to access the national healthcare system. You are required by law to demonstrate that you already have coverage for three types of insurance in place:
• old age
You will thus need to take out private health insurance before you apply for any form of residency in Andorra and if you are applying only for passive residency, you will need to keep your private cover in place, since you will not be entitled to use the national healthcare scheme. The law states that passive residents must “justify and have in force for Andorra coverage and insurance for illness, disability and old age for the applicant and for their dependents or the dependents of their spouse or stable partner for the entire period of validity of the passive residence.”
However, if you are employed in Andorra and are not, for example, funded primarily by investment income outside the state, you can apply for active residency. This is mainly for expat employees and in this case it is compulsory for you to be registered with CASS by your employer. Thus, although you may need to prove that you have private health insurance cover to begin with, you will then be eligible for treatment under the Andorran national scheme.
If you are self employed, you must register yourself as a self-employed worker or autònom with the CASS and you must also register any dependents.
If you have an EHIC card, you will not be able to use this in Andorra.
If you are working, your employer will need to register you with CASS when you start working: this is mandatory. You can also register yourself if you are self employed.
Around 75% of your outpatient medical expenses will be covered by CASS, along with 90% of any hospital expenses. The main cause of accidents in Andorra is winter sports and if you are planning on undertaking regular activities such as skiing and snowboarding, it is advisable to take out specialist private cover.
The national scheme includes:
• primary care
• hospital treatment
• specialist treatment (you may need a referral from your GP)
• maternity care
• childhood medicine
• Andorran medical institutions usually require upfront payment, so be aware that you may need to pay first and then claim the money back from your insurance provider, so make sure that you have all your receipts. Your doctor should give you a stamped voucher, which you can then submit to CASS. Make sure that your health provider, such as your GP, is registered with CASS if you are entitled to access the public healthcare system.
Note that Andorra, as a small state, has limited facilities: although the country’s single hospital (Hospital Nostra Senyora de Meritxell, or the Centre Hospitalari Andorrà / CHA) provides care of a very high standard, you may find yourself having to seek treatment over the border in France or Spain.
If you are unemployed, you can register with CASS but will need to make a contribution of between €200-400 per month.
As an employed worker, you will be paying 6-9% of your salary into the system each month, and your employer will contribute 15.5%.
If you are self employed, your fixed-rate payment to CASS will be €453.68 per month. If you set up a new company you may apply for a 50% concession within your first 12 months: thus paying €226.84 per month. Companies with less than €12,000 in profit and €150,000 in turnover in the last financial year can also apply for a 50% concession of €226.84 per month.
7. Open A Bank Account
Although Andorra has never been part of the European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA), and is not part of the Schengen Area, it has been using the Euro as its sole official currency since January 2002.
Using Credit Cards In Andorra
Andorra is a modern, developed principality with world-leading interconnectivity to broadband and IT systems. As a result, credit cards are widely used by cafes, restaurants, hotels, shops, leisure activity centres and most other establishments. Visa, Mastercard and American Express are the most commonly used credit cards.
Using Cash In Andorra
Cash will be welcome in nearly all transactions where you are present unless that transaction involves a large sum of money.
There is a good coverage of ATM machines in all urban areas of Andorra so accessing your cash is not likely to be a problem.
In the event that an ATM charges you for withdrawing your money, the fee will be clearly displayed on screen before you proceed.
If your account is in a currency other than euros, you may see an onscreen query about which currency you should be charged in. Always select euros. Your own bank will almost certainly have a better conversion rate than the ATM will use.
Foreign currency withdrawals attract a currency conversion loss and usually also incur a small transaction fee. You have two ways to minimise this. If you intend to live in Andorra for at least a few months, it will be worth the time and hassle of opening a local account to avoid these charges. If your stay will be relatively short, you could instead look for a credit card in your own country which gives good currency conversion and does not charge foreign currency conversion fees.
Just remember to top up your account before you withdraw any money though, as interest will be incurred on the balance outstanding from the day you withdraw the cash, and at a higher rate than purchases incur.
Banks In Andorra
Banking and finance form 20 percent of the principality’s economy, meaning it is a very important sector.
There are five banks based in Andorra. They offer checking and savings accounts, as well as insurance and loans.
Andbanc is a private bank with a presence in eleven countries
Banc Sabadell d’Andorra is a commercial bank which was established in the principality in the year 2000.
Credit Andorra was founded in 1949. Its headquarters are located at Andorra La Vella.
The MoraBanc Group is the third largest Andorran bank when comparing total assets held.
Vall Banc was created in 2015 when the government seized control of the now defunct BPA bank before sale to US firm JC Flowers. By assets held, it is now the fourth largest bank in Andorra.
Bank branches usually open at 9am Monday to Friday, and close at 5pm each evening. However, accounts can be accessed online or by using telephone banking services, up to 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Significant Events In The Andorran Banking Sector
It is alleged that the Andorran bank BPA was involved with money laundering, and lawsuits related to this case in both Spain and Andorra are expected to last several years. Criminal charges have been issued, whilst the previous owners have taken international legal action in an attempt to recover their lost fortunes.
Up to 26 directors and employees may have been part of the illegal activities. Essentially, it is alleged that a deposit would be made in Spain into a Banco Madrid account – the Spanish bank was a subsidiary of BPA – before funds would be transferred to Andorra into a BPA account, and then transferred to the international client abroad. This avoided exchange controls.
Action started when US treasury officials accused BPA of taking bribes to facilitate money laundering on behalf of Russian and Chinese criminal gangs, as well as on behalf of the Venezuelan state oil firm PDVSA, which was subject to US state sanctions. In response to this, the Andorran government seized control of BPA in 2015. Millions of government euros were spent on identifying the genuine and legal clients and assets of BPA, with the work undertaken by Price Waterhouse. These genuine clients were transferred across to a new bank, Vall Banc, which was sold to JC Flowers following an international tender process.
For months, the customers of BPA experienced the serious financial consequences of having their accounts frozen. Access to wages and benefits was stopped, property deposits were lost and damage was done to local businesses. This affected many people in Andorra who had no part or knowledge of the criminal activities.
This episode clearly damaged the reputation of Andorra’s banking sector, although the speed with which the government acted to resolve the situation drew international praise.
The government has also decided to take a further step to help improve the country’s reputation regarding banking secrecy. The OECD “grey list” of non-cooperative tax havens, which was part of a crackdown on tax evasion in the wake of the global financial crisis, briefly included Andorra.
However, from January 2018 onwards, information about Andorran accounts held by residents of other EU countries will be automatically shared with their home countries. This is standard international banking practice, and Andorra has signed an agreement with the EU confirming it will be implemented and maintained
As of 2018, Standard & Poor’s rating of the Andorran banks is BBB, meaning the banks have adequate protection parameters. This reflects the end of the BPA crisis, and a settled period of the European debt crisis which affects all countries whose official currency is the euro, balanced against the lack of a central bank.
How To Open A Bank Account In Andorra
The procedures for opening a bank account in Andorra have been tightened. Bank personnel can be held responsible for allowing funds from criminal sources to be processed, and consequences include imprisonment and/or a fine. As a result, you will need to attend the branch in Andorra and bring all the correct documentation.
Before you arrive, make an appointment with the bank branch so they have the appropriate member of staff available to meet with you. You will be informed of which documentation to bring along to the appointment.
You will need to show proof of identity, evidence that you are resident in Andorra, and documents to show you are a taxpayer there. If you have been paying tax in another country, perhaps because you have only just moved to Andorra, the bank staff will need to see original and convincing proof of this.
You will also be asked about your sources of income and wealth. You must be able to show that they are legal and legitimate.
It is possible to open a non-resident account, but your options will be limited, and your financial circumstances closely examined. Your account will not be held in secrecy from your domestic tax authorities.
8. Transfer Money
There are many ways of sending money from one country to another. As always, expats can save themselves a lot of trouble and expense if they do a little research and shop around for the best deal.
International Bank Transfers
For most expats, currency transfer involves transferring small to medium sized amounts regularly from an existing bank account back home into a new overseas bank account in the local currency. These may be pension payments, benefits, or any other form of income.
Your home bank will usually be glad to oblige. You can set up facilities with them “on demand” whereby you fax or call them on the phone, provide a secret code or two, tell them the amount in question, and they will transfer it to your new bank, automatically converting it into the relevant local currency. Some banks also allow you to make international payments online. Whatever method you choose, transfers normally take between 3-7 days although 1-2 day transfers are often available but be prepared to pay more for these.
You can also set up regular transactions that are processed automatically on a fixed day of each month. Many state pensions and benefits can be paid directly into your new bank abroad without going through your home bank at all. Some private pension organisations may also offer the same facility.
When you first set up a transfer of funds abroad, the sending bank or institution will ask you for various codes that identify the destination bank. Often they will ask for IBAN (International Bank Account Number), BIC (Bank Identifier Code) or SWIFT codes but don?t panic – your new bank will give these to you and they may even already be listed in your new chequebook or bank statements.
As far as charges are concerned, you will probably be required to pay a flat fee per transaction. Additionally a percentage fee is often charged for the currency conversion itself. You may also find that your receiving bank charges you for receiving the transfer. Charges vary by bank but can quickly add up – ask your bank(s) for an indication of the fees involved.
As a general rule, transferring larger sums less frequently usually works out cheaper than transferring smaller amounts more often. However, if you need to transfer regular amounts of at least a few hundred pounds/dollars or need to make a larger one-off payment (e.g. for a house purchase) you should consider the services of a currency broker.
Cash Machine/ATM Withdrawals
Thanks to modern technology, most people abroad can go to a cash machine/ATM and withdraw local currency funds directly from their home bank account. This is a useful option to have for expats but exercise caution – many banks make hefty charges for using this type of facility. You may also find that withdrawal limits are in place (as a security measure) even if you significant funds in your account back home.
You can also use VISA or Mastercard credit cards to obtain cash in this fashion and if you pay the amount off quickly and avoid interest charges then fine – but once again credit card charges for cash withdrawals can be high. Check the rates carefully.
Currency brokers (also called foreign exchange brokers) offer significant advantages over traditional banks. Firstly, brokers will often be able to offer you a better rate than your bank. Secondly, the entire process is more transparent – many banks require you to accept the exchange rate available on the day they process your transaction, whatever and whenever that may be, but a specialist broker will offer greater flexibility, even allowing you to specify the rate you want in advance.
Currency brokers are smaller companies than major banks so always check their background carefully. Ask existing expats for their own experiences and recommendations before choosing a firm to handle your own foreign exchange requirements.
A good broker will discuss all the options with you and enable you to make the best decision for your circumstances. Using a broker will typically off the following advantages:
1) Currency brokers generally provide superior exchange rates to the high street banks. The currency brokers have access to the interbank rate and do not have the high costs that the banks have. This means that they can usually offer better exchange rates.
2) Use of a free Market Watch/Order Service: This allows you to tell your currency broker your target or budget exchange rate and they will ring you if that exchange rate level is reached. As the rate moves every few seconds, currency brokers can act as your eyes and ears on the market.
3) Ability to fix the exchange rate in advance using a Forward Contract. If you know you need to convert/move funds in the future but don?t yet have the money you can reserve a rate in advance using a Forward Contract. During this period, you are exposed to exchange rate movements and therefore, a forward contract is ideal if, for example, you have agreed to buy a house and want to fix the rate now but will not be making payment for a couple of months.
Savings from currency brokers can vary from between 1 and 4 per cent on the exchange rate alone, and specialists do not typically charge any fees for transmitting the funds abroad, unlike banks which often levy expensive fees or charges. If you are emigrating and transferring a large sum of money – such as the proceeds of a property – a foreign exchange company could potentially save you thousands.
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9. Learn The Language
Andorra is a tiny independent principality in the eastern Pyrenees tucked between France and Catalunya, Spain. The population is roughly 80,000, and two thirds of those are non-natives: mostly Spanish and French, with a significant Portuguese group.
If you are moving to Andorra to work or perhaps retire, you will need to consider the ease with which you are able to communicate. Learning at least some of the local language is one of the best ways for an expat to integrate and begin to feel more at home, and in Andorra this is vital, as English is not widely spoken, and the government places an emphasis on the official language, which is Catalan.
Andorra is popular for several reasons. It is a great tourist destination, for skiing and spectacular mountain scenery. It also has low taxation and a low cost of living.
There are more than four million native Catalan speakers mostly in neighbouring Catalunya, which is seeking more independence from Spain and is also passionately promoting the language. However, Andorra is the only nation in the world which uses Catalan as its sole official language, and roughly half the population use it daily, with most understanding at least the basics. Road signs in Andorra are also monolingual.
In addition to its constitutional status, the Catalan language is actively promoted by the government via the education system at all levels up to university. Additionally, all foreign residents are strongly encouraged to learn and communicate in it.
Other minority languages spoken in Andorra include Spanish, spoken daily by around a third of residents, but again understood by almost the entire population. Interestingly, a large Portuguese / Brazilian influx has meant that Portuguese is used in some sectors, especially in the hospitality industries. French can also be heard in some areas, especially near the French border.
It must be stressed that although the provision of English teaching has been augmented this century, English is not so widely spoken or understood, and it can be quite difficult on occasions to find an English speaker at all, even in the Tourist Offices. There is an education program in place to expand the teaching of English, even to university level, which means that younger residents are more likely to be able to communicate in English.
Any competent Spanish or French speaker will generally be able to make themselves understood, but there are significant vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation differences between the three languages.
The Andorran Government Education Department, with assistance from the French and Spanish Education Ministries, aims to have all school leavers fluent in at least three languages, and it actively encourages all foreigners to learn Catalan as well, by providing free facilities in each of the seven administrative districts. These classes can be taken in groups or on an individual basis, and trying a mix of both will improve your abilities quite rapidly. Classes are available five days a week, and intensive classes are also available to take you to good basic conversational level.
There is also one free school for learning French, which is very popular and generally classes are crowded and lively. Spanish is already so widespread in the population that no free learning facilities are provided in Andorra.
Linguistic experts generally recommend an immersive learning experience, as the quickest way to attain fluency, and if you are planning to go out as a couple, it is a good plan to make a pact to speak in Catalan together during your time out of class. Immersing yourself in Catalan language television and newspapers is also highly productive.
There are also a number of courses available for self-teaching on the internet, many of which are free.
The administrative districts augment their commitment to the promotion of the Catalan language by offering one-to-one study buddies, where conversations may be had with a language centre employee at a café or whilst walking about. This is quite unique, and it can be an excellent way to improve your vocabulary and fluency quite quickly.
In Andorra it is particularly important to rely on your own knowledge and a good phrasebook, rather than digital translation. Whilst internet connection throughout the country is excellent, it is very mountainous, and there are consequent wifi black spots.
You may find English being used in the workplace in some international companies, such as banking, airlines and tourism, but it would be unwise to count on this.
If you wish to teach English in Andorra, several international schools offer language teaching posts on yearly contracts. These are available to anyone with a Bachelor’s Degree and a TEFL certificate.
Please note that it is always easier to get work in international education if you have at least a certificate in either TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages).
Most language teaching jobs would be in the capital, Andorra la Vella. Rates of pay may not be sufficient to allow you to stay permanently, but for a working holiday, it can be fun and rewarding.
If you intend to teach English in Andorra, it is preferable if you have experience in teaching schemes such as the Cambridge English exams or IELTS (International English Language Testing System): the English test for study, migration or work. Some teaching experience in the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) will also be helpful. This assesses analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English for use in admission to graduate management programs, such as the MBA.
You may also find work more easily if you are experienced in teaching English for particular sectors, such as tourism and hospitality. You are most likely, however, to find work in either public schools or private international institutions. You should be paid more in the private educational sector.
There may also be some demand for translation or interpretation services between Catalan or Spanish and English, for instance in translating newspaper articles into English, if you have a high level of proficiency in either.
10. Choose A School
Andorra is a tiny, mountainous, independent principality in the eastern Pyrenees tucked between France and the region of Catalunya, Spain. The population is roughly 80,000, and two thirds of those are non-native – mostly Spanish and French, with a significant Portuguese group.
Andorra is popular for several reasons. It is a great tourist destination for skiing and spectacular summer mountain scenery. It also has low taxation and a lower cost of living, and because it has a lenient tax regime, the cost of living is notably lower than neighbouring France and Spain.
If you are lucky enough to be coming to Andorra you will find it unique in many ways, especially the state education system. First you must appreciate that it is the only country where the official language is Catalan, which makes Andorra different in educational terms.
Andorra has 100% literacy, with a school age population of only around 11,000, and yet it spends almost 4% of GDP on education.
Uniquely, there are essentially three co-existing education systems.
Approximately 40% of children in Andorra go to Catalan-speaking schools, which are run and funded directly by the government, with the rest roughly evenly divided between the French system (paid for by the French Education Ministry), and Spanish provisions (largely paid for by the Church).
The Andorran system is extremely popular with the expat community not only because it is free, but particularly because of its additional emphasis on teaching (and teaching in) the English language.
The Andorran education system strongly encourages multilingualism, but the three streams operate more or less autonomously. The Andorran Government Education Department, with assistance from French and Spanish Education Ministries, aims to have all school leavers fluent in at least three languages, and it actively encourages all foreigners to learn Catalan as well, by providing free facilities for all ages and abilities in each of the seven administrative districts. Adult classes can be taken in groups or on an individual basis, and trying a mix of both will improve your abilities quite rapidly. Classes are available five days a week, and intensive classes are also available to take you to good basic conversational level.
Education for Andorran and immigrant children at elementary and secondary level is compulsory, and all children must be enrolled from ages 5 to 16. There are also pre-school provisions in every district. Homeschooling is not allowed under Andorran law.
Pupils are streamed and taught according to the general curriculum of the national provider, and children will be taught in whatever language their particular school promotes, but they will also have significant second, third and even fourth language tuition. For example, the teaching of English has been a priority for most of this century, at all levels in the education systems.
Under the French system this means starting elementary school at age 8, secondary school at 13, and higher/professional education at 15. The other two systems are essentially a year behind the French one.
Whilst elementary schools may be found in each district, secondary schools are based in the cities, which again may affect where you choose to live, although nothing is very far away in such a tiny country.
There is a university as well, which teaches largely in Catalan, and Andorra has expanded the diploma program now covering social and medical care, arts and communication, IT, and multilingual secretariat, amongst others, and this has now been expanded to offer professional bachelorships. Andorran diplomas are recognized in Spain.
Given that the population of Andorra is so tiny, many graduating high school children in Andorra expect to further their education in the neighbouring countries, or indeed further afield, and if you are considering your own children’s education in Andorra, you will need to factor this in eventually.
The administrative districts actively promote the use of Catalan, and your children will be encouraged to use it in daily life.
Even in such a small country, there are two private international schools as well, which can be an excellent option for expat children.
Agora International School was established at the end of last century, and now provides for the education of expat children from nursery and pre-school right up to baccalaureate level, with an alternative American high school diploma programme for those children who are going on to higher education in the USA. Emphasis is on multilingualism – Chinese is taught here as well. Fees at Agora start at around $7,500 per annum.
The British College of Andorra is gradually increasing the range of ages they can cater for. They are already offering classes for various age groups, which will be expanded as the age of pupils increases. BCA will eventually provide nursery to baccalaureate level education for expat children. It is operated on the National Curriculum of England and Wales. BCA fees start at around $9000/£8000 per annum.
Whichever system or individual school you choose, you can be sure that your children will be offered some of the highest quality education in the world.