Find A Job
Despite a degree of political unrest, Egypt might be an easier choice of destination for employment than one might think: the country has, after all, been a multicultural hub for centuries and there are currently many expats working in the region. The application process for obtaining a work permit is is complex and can take a long time (some expats report waiting up to a year for their permit), but it is not impossible. If you already work for a company which has offices in Egypt, you may also consider applying for a secondment.
You will need a work permit in order to work legally in Egypt, but you will be able to apply for one yourself if you do not have an employer lined up already. It is recommended, however, that if you are planning to work in Egypt, you secure a job offer before you fly.
If you are applying yourself, you will need to contact the nearest Ministry of Manpower and will need to submit the following documentation:
• passport (you will also need valid Egyptian residence status)
• 7 passport-size photos
• 2 copies of your employer’s incorporation contract
• 2 copies of your Tax ID card
• 1 copy of your employer’s commercial register
• 1 copy of a letter of sponsorship from your employer
• 2 copies of your academic qualifications (you may need to get these apostilled)
• licenses required for practicing your profession (e.g. medical licenses) and any approval from the local authority relating to your particular sector
• a letter from your employer explaining why it is necessary to hire you as an expat (hiring local workers is prioritized in Egypt)
• a test showing you are free of HIV/AIDs
• approval from Egypt’s State Security Service stating that you are not a threat to national security or public safety (you can consult the Ministry of Manpower about obtaining this)
You will also need to pay a fee for your visa.
Qualified English (TEFL) teachers are always in demand in private educational establishments, but you can also find work in other skilled sectors, such as architecture, medicine, pharmaceuticals and engineering.
Some casual labour, such as bartending, is also possible, but the country’s economy has taken a downturn since the Arab Spring and Egypt currently has a high level of unemployment, which can make casual jobs difficult to find. However, some recruitment sites list vacancies throughout the hospitality industry. Speaking Modern Standard Arabic will be an advantage if you are planning on working in this sector.
Most vacancies will be in Cairo, particularly with international companies, and the city already has a large number of expats working there. Alexandria has a number of maritime-related industries, such as dry bulk shipping, and if you have a background in this sector it might be worth looking at any job opportunities here.
Egypt officially operates a 48 hour maximum working week, from Sunday – Thursday (Friday is the Islamic day for prayer), although 42 hours is reported as more standard. You may find that you have to work a 6 day week, however, in which case the hours you work per day will be less. As an Islamic nation, Egypt may have reduced working hours during Ramadan, but this is unlikely to apply to foreign personnel unless they, too, are Moslem.
Annual leave is set at 26 working days per year for private-sector employees. In the public sector, employees are entitled to 32 days per year, increasing to 34 from age 50 and 36 from age 55. Egypt currently has 14 public holidays.
If you are pregnant, and have been working for a specified length of time, usually 10 months, you will be eligible for maternity leave: this consists of 90 days of leave. A company cannot ask you to return to work until 45 days after the birth of your child, and it is illegal to fire you during maternity leave.
Egypt does not have a minimum wage per se outside the public sector. Within that sector it is currently LE 1,200 (around $174 USD) per month, and is set by the government. There is no minimum wage in the private sector: you will need to negotiate your basic salary with your employer. Overseas personnel can usually command higher salaries than Egyptians, particularly within international companies.
Your spouse will be able to work but must apply for a separate work permit: they will not be permitted to work as a dependent of yourself. Remember, too, that social security and public health insurance in Egypt are not at the same standard as in European or North American countries and it is recommended that you have enough money to live on as well as private health cover if you are planning to move here to work, and are intending to bring your dependents.
You can make speculative applications to companies in Egypt.
There are a number of recruitment sites which cover the region, and you can also explore some of the online jobs boards. As mentioned above, secondment may also be a possibility if your current employer operates in the region.
Applying For A Job
It is advisable to have your CV/resume translated into Arabic, unless you are intending to work for an English-speaking international company.
Employers are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of gender, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. The country does not actually criminalize same-sex relationships but it has to be said that Egypt is not particularly LGBT-friendly.
Qualifications And Training
It is recommended that you have any copies of your qualifications translated into Arabic and apostilled.
Apply For A Visa/Permit
For nationals from the United Kingdom (UK), European Union (EU) and United States (US), it is a straightforward process to apply for tourist and business visas in Egypt. Indeed, tourists from these regions travelling to Sharm El Sheikh, Dahab, Nuweiba or Taba, for no longer than 15 days, do not require a visa at all – this is due to an entry stamp that will be provided on arrival. However, if you wish to travel outside of these areas, you must obtain a tourist visa. If you are within these areas without a visa and your plans change, resulting in you needing to leave the region, you can usually buy a visa at Sharm el Sheikh airport.
Single and multiple entry visas are available; both are valid for six months and allow a stay of up to 60 or 90 days respectively.
For nationals from the following countries, visa approval must be sought from the relevant authorities prior to entering the country: Iran, Tunisia, Somalia, Morocco, Algeria, Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine, Ethiopia, Sudan, Mauritania, Rwanda, Nigeria, Ghana, Israel, Afghanistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
If you are entering Egypt, you will need to obtain either a tourist or a business visa, depending on the nature of your visit. You can apply for a visa prior to your arrival, either online or at your nearest Egyptian consulate. Alternatively, you can buy one when you arrive at the airport, before you reach immigration. Visas granted on arrival are valid for 30 days rather than 60 days.
To obtain a tourist visa, you will need:
• A passport with at least six months’ validity
• Two recent colour passport photos
• A completed application form
• The visa fee (£20, payable in GBP, USD or Euros)
Children who hold their own passports, including babies, require their own visas.
Individuals travelling to Egypt for business purposes should apply for a business visa, which will require the following:
• A passport with at least six months’ validity
• Two recent colour passport photos
• A business introduction letter from your UK employer
• A letter of invitation from the Egyptian company you are visiting
• A completed application form
• The visa fee (£20, payable in GBP, USD or Euros)
Applicants should note that, for either visa, you must include your yellow fever certificate if you are travelling from, or via, a high-risk area. Individuals visiting Egypt from the UK do not need a yellow fever certificate.
If you intend to work in Egypt, you will need to obtain a work visa. You are permitted to look for work on a tourist visa, but you are required to exit the country and re-enter on a work permit, before you start your job. Work permits are valid for one year, but they may be extended for up to five years. It is worth noting that these permits are limited on an annual basis, so that no more than 10% of the country’s workforce is made up of foreign nationals at any one time. Work permits must be applied for by your employer.
Common documents required for a work permit include:
• A valid passport
• Seven recent passport photos
• A copy of your university degree
• Proof of relevant experience
• Medical test results, including an HIV-negative certificate
• Copies of birth and marriage certificates for any dependants included in the application
• A copy of your job offer
Additionally, the company looking to employ you will need to provide the following:
• The job description of the position applied for
• A list of foreign employees
• Copies of the previous year’s tax documents
• Company registration documents
Finally, you will need to provide the 1000 EGP fee, which amounts to almost £50.
Obtaining a work permit can be a long, arduous process and may take anything from three to 12 months to complete. It will also require significant dedication from your prospective employer, who must fulfil many necessary requirements before the permit can be issued.
Whilst a work permit entitles you to live and work in Egypt, it can be difficult to obtain. A better option for expats is usually to apply for a temporary residence permit. This enables individuals to reside in the country for one, three or five years at a time, and is relatively simple to acquire. You will need to apply at your local police station with your tourist visa, your valid passport, a passport photo, and a completed application form in both English and Arabic.
If you were born in Egypt before May 29th 1952, or have lived in the country for at least 20 years, you are automatically entitled to a residence permit.
You may apply for citizenship once you have lived in Egypt for 10 consecutive years. You must be at least 21 years old to apply, although younger dependants may be included on the application of a parent or guardian. You will need to demonstrate that you are mentally and physically healthy, and must provide a certificate that states you are HIV-negative. In addition to this, you will need to have no criminal record, and you must prove that you are proficient in Arabic. Finally, you must have gainful employment in Egypt, and be able to show proof of your savings, in order to be eligible.
Once your Egyptian citizenship has been granted, you will no longer need to obtain or renew visas or permits. You will also not need to renounce your original citizenship.
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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Rent Or Buy Property
If you are moving to Egypt for work, your employer probably has plenty of experience in finding rentals, so make sure you use it, as the best way of finding properties is word of mouth. You can also register with an estate agent, but note that the industry is not regulated. If any third party helps you find a property, then it is customary to pay a finder’s fee – this is often the equivalent of one month’s rent.
You can register with an estate agent, but never prepay a finder’s fee. Agents may try to push you towards expensive rentals with a higher commission, or rush you around every property on their books. Be firm; state your requirements and do not let them be disregarded. State the number of properties you are prepared to look at in one day, and take your time inspecting each one.
There are a few websites that can help you find property to rent in Egypt. Some popular examples are as follows:
Do not accept a verbal agreement. Make sure your lease is signed and witnessed, with copies for yourself and your landlord.
A deposit of three or four month’s rent is typical when you sign. It should describe and cover any pre-existing damage, and stipulate who is responsible for maintenance and repairs. If the owner says they will fix anything, record that in writing too.
Properties may be described as ‘empty’ or ‘unfurnished’, but still contain some furnishings. If these are not included in the lease, then you will be responsible for any repairs.The lease should also stipulate notice requirements. Thirty days’ notice from you or the landlord is fair and normal.
You will be liable for setting up and paying for all utilities. Keep a record of all contracts and payments, as they are proof you have been paying your bills and not giving the address a bad reputation. You are also responsible for any utility equipment in your property, such as meters, pipes, wiring and cables. Check the condition of all of these before moving in, and log any existing issues in your lease.
Rents will normally increase 10% per year. If you are asked to start increasing your payments after your first month, refuse. After six months, it is a reasonable request. Based on how long you are likely to be in Egypt, you can try to negotiate a lower total percentage increase and work out what this comes to on a monthly basis. Make sure this is included in your lease.
Many buildings combine office space and accommodation. Check what businesses are in the building, as their customers and staff may eat into the available parking space.
The main destinations are Alexandria and Cairo. Alexandria is cheaper, with properties costing between 1,700 LE and 3,200 LE (£87 and £163) per month. A flat in Cairo averages 2,000 LE (£102) per month, and a three-bedroom house averages 4,000 LE (£204) per month.
You will need air conditioning; summer temperatures can reach 50 degrees Celsius. When there is a sandstorm, you will want to stay indoors.
If you are in Cairo, try to base your life and activities – home, children’s school, place of work – on the same side of the Nile. Having to commute across the river on a regular basis is horrendous.
Cairo is a desert city, and the dust will get into your property even if your windows and doors are tightly shut. Electrical items in particular will need to be dusted frequently.
For national security, the authorities maintain a database of which foreigners are where. Your landlord will need to supply them with a copy of your passport.
If you are in an apartment building, you will have a bowab – a doorman, who lives in the same building and takes care of small tasks and errands, for about 20 LE a month. Do not try to be independent of his services – he can be your best friend, as long as you keep your relationship on a professional basis.
Word will get out that a foreigner has moved in, and for a month or so people will be calling to offer services, such as ironing or cleaning. If you don’t want them, decline in a polite and friendly manner. If you have a bowab, leave it up to him to arrange them.
Your landlord should have copies of the latest bills and invoices for all your property’s utilities. Use these to verify what is available and/or currently in use. Make sure you confirm that they really do relate to your specific property. You may be told the property is gas-heated. Look to see that it has a meter, which would mean it is on the mains. If there is no meter, then the property may require bottled gas, which it is up to you to acquire. Note also that the gas may have been shut off while the property was empty. As it is your responsibility to set up every utility and service, do not pay any deposits to the landlord for that purpose.
Telephone bills are not sent out to customers. About every six months, the newspapers publish a notice that they are ready to be paid. You can then call your phone company to find out the amount and pay it. Keep copies of the bill for yourself and for the landlord.
Electricity outages can be expected once a day, each lasting around five minutes. If you have anything that depends on electricity – for example, a computer – then acquire an uninterruptible power supply, and turn everything off if you are leaving the flat for any length of time. It is also a good idea to get a small torch for night-time outages.
Single women do not commonly live alone. Single people should beware of entertaining single visitors of the opposite gender, as it can get both parties a reputation you do not want. The small print of your lease may well have rules about guests, giving the landlord the power to evict you if you break them. It is also not considered proper for unmarried men and women to live together, even as platonic flatmates. Buying a couple of cheap wedding rings will preserve your reputation and avoid problems with neighbours and your landlord.
The Egyptian currency is the pound, and it uses the same symbol as the British pound, i.e. ‘£’. However, it is worth a lot less. If you see a price in pounds, make sure you know which type it is.
The following websites handle properties for sale:
However, the most reliable method of finding property to buy is to find a simsar. This is a man known to every bowab on the street, who knows what is for sale. Ask any bowab in the area you would like to live in who the local simsar is, and arrange a meeting.
Foreign nationals with a residence visa can purchase residential properties, but owning a property does not guarantee that your visa will be renewed.
As individuals, foreign nationals cannot own non-residential property, agricultural land or land that could be reclaimed for agriculture. They would need to incorporate a company that would own the property instead.
Some parts of the country have restrictions on the number of properties a foreigner can own – usually they can own no more than two. If you are not buying in a typical expat destination, then take legal advice on this matter.
The market consists of resale or key ready properties (which are ready to be moved into) and off-plan properties (which may be at any stage of construction, including not yet existing in any form but on paper).
Off-plan properties normally require a deposit of between 20% and 40% of the purchase price, and may allow interest free payment plans for a number of years. They are registered as complete properties at the point that they become inhabitable.
Other than that, all stages of the purchase process are the same as for key ready properties, which is described below.
By law, the purchase contract must be in both Arabic and English. You will need an independent solicitor, who can check the Arabic and English terms of the contract. They can conduct all due diligence: the seller’s history; all necessary ownership and building permissions for the property; and whether there are outstanding debts on the property that you will inherit as the new owner. They will also ensure that all due taxes and utility bills are paid on the property up to the date of purchase.
Always agree fees with your solicitor before proceeding, and be sure to choose one who is experienced in property sales. Do not go with a solicitor simply because they are recommended by the seller.
Once you have confirmed the price with the seller, you will normally pay a reservation deposit, which will secure the property and remove it from the market. This is normally non-refundable.
The purchase contract is then drawn up. This details everything about the purchase, including: the property (location, street name, building number and floor number); your details; the seller’s details; precisely what you are purchasing; confirmation that the building was constructed under license from the government; a date for the final transfer of funds and completion; and the payment method. You will sign two copies, and pay a further deposit, as specified in the contract. The seller then signs the contracts, keeps one copy and returns the other to you.
At this stage, you can opt to register your purchase immediately, or to wait until completion. There are two types of registration. Local registration (also known as Court Validity Suite) is carried out by a local solicitor and takes two to six months. National registration is with the Land Registry in Cairo and can take a long time for new properties, as the owner or builder cannot begin the process until it has been built. The process from there can take 18 months to complete, and then they have to transfer the registration to the new buyer. Therefore, most buyers opt for local registration first, then national when it becomes possible.
Once everything has been completed according to the contract (i.e. you have paid the asking price and, in the case of off-plan properties, the property is ready to be lived in), you can take possession, regardless of the stage of registration you are at.
A complete off-plan property will not necessarily have water, a water boiler or electricity installed, so you may need to take care of this post-purchase.
Egyptian law allows landlords to sell buildings without granting a share to the buyer of the land they stand on. Therefore, if buying an entire building, check that the contract states you will own the land on which it stands.
Make sure that the building you are buying is registered to the seller, and that their right to ownership – and hence to sell – is established by law. Many older buildings are not registered, and can be subject to disputes among family members claiming ownership. Your solicitor must verify the chain of transfers of title.
Mortgages are rare in Egypt, though there is no bar to foreigners having one. Some developers may offer you loans of their own, but check the conditions and interest rates carefully if you take this option, and engage independent legal advice.
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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Register For Healthcare
QUICK LINK: Egypt health insurance
The HIO covers around 60% of the Egyptian population, offering basic coverage to employees, students, and widows via its own hospitals and clinics. It was originally intended to provide blanket coverage for all citizens, but coverage has diminished over the decades since its inception.
The CCO contracts with individuals and companies to provide inpatient and outpatient care in specific Egyptian governates, such as Cairo and Port Said.
In 2019, the Egyptian government undertook a revision of national health insurance and is currently rolling out a new scheme, designed to offer truly comprehensive health cover under a more unified authority, the General Authority for Health Insurance. It also seeks to establish a directory of contribution payers and an electronic patient register, with a specific doctor and health clinic being responsible for each family (around 20,000 patients per clinic).
This is being organized by the WHO in co-operation with Egyptian health authorities, and its founding principles are based on need rather than ability to pay. It is organised on the principles of compulsory enrolment and subsidisation of the poor: everyone is enrolled in the system and no one will be able to opt out. The Egyptian government has committed to cover any citizen who is not able to pay for healthcare. At present, this new legislation does not cover foreigners.
The new scheme has begun in Port Said through 11 general and specialized hospitals and a further 32 healthcare units, and is destined to operate across the country by 2032. Its aims, as well as to provide cover for the poorest citizens, are to allow patients to choose their primary healthcare providers, and to reduce individual spending on medical care. Half a million people have been registered, and over 6,000 surgical procedures have been conducted under the new scheme.
The second stage of the new scheme will start from 2021 to 2023 in the Luxor, Matrouh, Red Sea, Qena and Aswan governorates. The third phase, from 2024 to 2026, will be in the Alexandria, Beheira, Damietta, Sohag and Kafr Al-Sheikh governorates.
The fourth, from 2026 to 2028, will be in the Beni Sweif, Assiut, Minya, New Valley and Fayoum governorates; the fifth phase (2029 to 2031) in the Daqahliya, Sharqiya, Gharbiya and Menoufiya governorates.
The final phase will be from 2031 to 2032 in the Cairo, Giza and Qalioubiya governorates.
Currently many expats either take out private cover, or choose to return home to receive treatment, or to travel to Dubai or the UAE, particularly for major surgery. This is expected to remain the case under the new system.
You should check with your employer to find out if you are covered under a group package. If you want to explore the possibility of making voluntary contributions (‘subscriptions’) into the system, then you will need to consult the Ministry of Social Solidarity (MOSS).
Open A Bank Account
Travellers are advised that they can freely spend English pounds, US dollars and euros in restaurants and shops based in the tourist areas of Egypt. However, you will often get a better conversion rate by withdrawing local currency from an ATM and spending that, so this is advisable for those living in Egypt.
Egypt uses the Egyptian pound, which is divided into 100 piastres or 1000 millimes. All coins and notes have the values shown in both Arabic and English.
On the streets you will see prices advertised as LE, which is the abbreviation of Egyptian Pound. This is derived from the French term Livre Égyptienne, reflecting the ongoing legacy of the influential French community that was established in Egypt in the 1700s. Commercial banking sites will abbreviate Egyptian Pounds to EGP.
The abbreviation of the piastres is pt.
Most Egyptian currency is in the form of notes. These are 25 and 50 pt, and 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 LE.
The only coins are for 25 and 50 pt, and 1 LE.
Larger notes should only be used in appropriate circumstances. Stallholders, shopkeepers and cafe owners will struggle to find enough change if you try to pay a small bill with a 100 LE note and will probably refuse to accept it.
In fact, the main issue with Egyptian cash is the battle to hoard enough low denomination notes and coins to cover all tips and small purchases. Once you have mastered this, you’ll be managing your cash like a local person.
Using Debit And Credit Cards In Egypt
Egypt may be relatively poor and have suffered a great deal of political and economic turmoil since 2011, but modern technology is being rapidly embraced by communities and business alike.
The acceptance of debit and credit cards is no longer restricted to upscale hotels and restaurants based in key tourist hotspots. Egypt is not a cashless society by any stretch of the imagination, but any business selling food, services or goods to middle class customers for a decent amount will accept card payment. Mobile payment devices are being rolled out in greater numbers than ever before, as widespread WiFi connections make this technology more accessible.
According to the British website Merchant Machine, VISA is the most popular credit card used in Egypt.
Obviously if you are in a small shop or cafe in a remote area, there is a much higher likelihood that only cash will be accepted.
ATMs And Bank Branches In Egypt
The populations of many countries on the African continent are showing a strong preference for digital banking. However, Egypt is different. While digital banking is increasingly used as a way for Egyptian individuals and businesses to organise their financial affairs, the overall preference for bank branches remains. As a result, Egypt has a higher number of bank branches per head of population than many other countries across the world.
The opening times of bank branches vary. Generally they are open Sunday to Thursday, from 8.30am until 2pm or 3pm. Some branches have extended opening hours, meaning they close as late as 5pm or even 7pm, usually in busy city centres.
Each bank branch will have ATM facilities, but these machines also exist in many other locations. Some of these will charge fees, so check the amount on screen before you continue. Your own bank or credit card company may have their own set of charges which will not appear on screen, so ensure you are aware of these.
If you are using a debit or credit card from your home country and a conversion to Egyptian pounds is made, you are likely to be charged a conversion fee, and the exchange rate is unlikely to be the most competitive on the market. So if you are living in Egypt for a while, it does pay to open an Egyptian account in the local currency.
If you are using an international card and the screen asks if you want to select Egyptian pounds or your home currency, choose Egyptian pounds. Whilst both options will issue you with Egyptian pounds, the conversion rate processed by the ATM owner is likely to be worse than your cardholder’s.
Is Your Money Safe In Egypt?
Obviously if you are opening a bank account in Egypt, you want to know that your funds will not disappear overnight.
For 30 years under Mubarak, fraud and bribery continued to be a normal part of business life. Tax evasion was, and is thought to still be, rampant amongst all levels of society.
In March 2017, Cairo Scene reported on the victimisation of an HSBC whistleblower who subsequently lost his job despite his evidence leading to the dismissal of several employees who had been committing fraud. This suggests there are still significant cultural attitudes to overcome about exposing fraud and wrongdoing.
Egypt has experienced several years of major political upheavals. Serious terrorist events and the ongoing threat of terrorism have had a major impact on the tourist industry, in turn causing significant economic damage to the nation. It may be some time before Egypt can be viewed as a politically and economically stable country.
However, the Central Bank of Egypt is at the forefront of banking reform and regulation. More information can be found on the Oxford Business group website.
You are far more likely to be the victim of a scam which could occur in any country. Phishing emails, unsolicited phone calls, callers pretending to be from your bank, tampered ATM machines, sending money to online romancers who you never get to meet – these are all scams that everyone needs to know about. Somehow, despite victims continually appearing on TV, radio and in the newspapers, these scams successfully find new targets every day.
Banks In Egypt
According to the Corporate Finance Institute, the top banks in Egypt in 2017 were:
● Credit Agricole, 79 branches
● HSBC Bank Egypt, 60 branches
● Alex Bank, 210 branches
● Qatar National Bank, 215 branches
● Commercial International Bank, 174 branches
● The National Bank of Egypt, 413 branches
● Arab Banking Corporation, 28 branches
● Banque du Caire, 150 branches
● Banque Misr, 511 branches
● Bank Audi, 45 branches
Each of these banks provides a full range of products, including current and savings accounts, debit and credit cards, and loans. Many also offer further services such as accounts for children and young people or business accounts.
Mortgages are a developing market; you are will not be offered one without a residency visa and strong evidence that you have a long-term low risk of default.
When choosing the bank that’s right for you, consider the access to English speaking staff and local branches, as well as the charges which will be levied for the different types of banking transactions. Small charges can add up if you have a lot of activity in your account.
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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Learn The Language
Egypt is an ancient country which has traditionally been the nexus of multiple trade routes, both by sea and by land, and if you are moving here to live and work, you will need to know a little about the languages that are spoken here.
The official language of Egypt is Literary Arabic, also known as Modern Standard Arabic, which is the written standard form of the language between a number of dialects. Arabic has been spoken in Egypt since the 7th century AD, when it replaced a number of local Semitic languages such as Syriac and Assyrian as the dominant tongue.
The vernacular is Egyptian Arabic, spoken by around 68% of the population, which is based on the Cairene dialect and is comprised of elements of Arabic, Coptic, Turkish, Ottoman, French and Italian. There are then a large number of minority languages, some of them forms of Arabic itself, but some which are completely different, such as Coptic and the indigenous Berber language of Siwi. Other languages, spoken by the many waves of Egypt’s immigrants, include:
Nubian languages are spoken in the south of the country, around Aswan, and so is Saidi Arabic. African languages such as Amharic are also in currency. It has been estimated that there are around 16 languages extant in Egypt overall.
Thus it can be seen that Egypt is a country in which multiple languages are spoken. If you are going to be living and working in the country, an ability to speak and read Modern Standard Arabic will prove immensely helpful and it is recommended that you learn some basic phrases before you enter the country, such as:
• meet and greet
• days of the week/months of the year
• shopping and food-related vocabulary, including eating out
• some basic medical vocabulary (e.g. asking for a doctor’s appointment)
• some basic banking vocabulary (e.g. opening a bank account)
Learning Arabic is, no light undertaking: you will need to learn a different alphabet, and both pronunciation and grammar can be challenging. It will take you a considerable time to become fluent in the language, especially if you are starting from scratch. When you are out and about, it is advisable to take a good phrasebook with you rather than relying on digital methods, in case you find yourself in a place with limited wifi or mobile phone reception.
Many Egyptians speak basic English, and a number of people are highly fluent, having either studied the language at school or university or having lived in Western nations such as the USA and returned home. Around 17% of the population are estimated to speak English at home.
However, it would be unwise to rely on this and try to get by with English alone. The older generation may speak French, which is historically one of the main languages in Egypt from the 18th century onwards, but English is growing in popularity throughout the country. Bank notes, stamps and some road signs are now in English as well as Arabic. The Egypt Daily Press is published in English.
There are a number of English language universities in Egypt:
• BUE (British University in Egypt)
• FUE (Future University in Egypt)
• Nile University
• AUC (American University in Cairo)
You will find extensive provision for learning Arabic formally in Egypt. Most schools are in Cairo or Alexandria and will cater for all levels of linguistic ability. Nasr City in Cairo has extensive provision for both group or private studying, but be clear as to why you are studying the language (for example, do you want to study the Quran in Arabic, or do you simply want to learn some vernacular vocabulary for everyday use in the street?)
If you have a TEFL certificate, you may wish to explore the option of teaching in Egypt. Qualified TEFL teachers are always in demand in private educational establishments. Most jobs will be in Cairo although you may find work in Alexandria also and possibly other towns: however, some education has been disrupted in recent years by the political unrest across the country.
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).
It is also 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.
Most institutions prefer at least a Bachelor’s degree: basically, the rule of thumb is that the more qualifications you have, both in TEFL and in academic subjects, the easier you will find it to get work. You will need a work permit but the hiring season runs all year round. You can expect a monthly salary in the region of US$400 – 2700, depending on where you teach and the level of your institution. Normally, you will be teaching a 20-25 hour week. There are a range of teaching options, from state schools, international schools, or private tuition in Business English. Some contracts include benefit packages, with flights and accommodation, but you should check this carefully. You may like to apply with a TEFL agency.
Translation and interpretation are employment options but you will need a very high standard of Arabic and qualified translators and interpreters will be preferred.
Choose A School
The Egyptian post-revolutionary government instigated huge reforms in the education system, to increase accessibility and quality. The program will take many years to reach its full effect, including training more teachers, and setting up more vocational/technical programs. Egyptian education expenditure still remains a little low by OECD reporting standards at around 4%. The literacy rate in Egypt is less than 75%, although young people are much more likely to be able to read and write.
State basic education in Egypt is compulsory for ages 6 – 14, and tuition is provided for free at all levels.
You will find that the education system here is very different from the UK or US systems. The system is vast, with over 20,000,000 students to provide for, which is achieved through 50,000 state schools, and at least 8,000 private schools, plus dozens of international schools.
Lessons in state schools will be conducted in Egyptian Arabic, although there are a number of experimental language schools where subjects like maths and science may be taught in French or English. If your child needs Arabic tuition to be able to enter the state system, this is best arranged privately beforehand or locally on arrival.
The current curriculum at all levels is controlled by the Ministry of Education. It is divided into several levels:
• pre-primary (optional before age 6)
• primary education (from 6 to 11)
• preparatory middle school (from age 12 – 14)
• upper secondary school (from age 15 – 17) or
• technical/vocational programs (from age 15 – finish)
After completion of compulsory middle school, students will have to choose whether to continue with general academic studies in upper secondary school, or alternatively to enter a technical school or vocational program. Subjects here would include teaching, medicine, construction, engineering, IT, agriculture and many other fields. The duration of tuition will depend on the field chosen, but is typically 3 – 6 years.
Tertiary education is provided by colleges or the universities, and tuition remains free for Egyptian nationals. There are also a considerable number of foreign students who choose to complete their studies in Egypt.
Homeschooling is not allowed under Egyptian law, although some Egyptian families are finding ways around this by enrolling their children at a school who will then allow them not to attend, but they must still sit all state exams. This may be problematic for expat families, and you are advised to check with expats on the ground who have tried this route for educating their children.
Private schools will generally have a similar curriculum to that in state schools, but are increasingly used by middle class locals and foreign nationals who feel that they might give their children a better education than that provided by the state.
There are also a large number of international schools, with around two dozen offering the full International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP). The IB is widely recognized throughout the world by further education institutions, for those wanting to go on and attend foreign universities.
Here are just a few of the international schools in Egypt:
• British School, Alexandria (English, IGSCE, A Levels)
• Schutz American School, Alexandria (US – pre-kindergarten to Grade 12)
• Canadian International School, Cairo (Ontario High School Diploma)
• British International School, Cairo (UK National curriculum to A Level)
• Malvern College Egypt, Cairo (UK, A Level and IBDP)
• Lycee Francaise du Caire, Cairo (French curriculum)
• Deutsche Evangelische Oberschule, Cairo (German, international and Egyptian student enrolment)
There are many others to choose from depending on your eventual destination in the country and your needs and budget.
You need to be aware that international schools are in general very popular with expats, so it will be necessary to contact them as soon as possible to secure a place for your child. Fees can also be quite expensive, which may need to be factored in to contract negotiations with your employer.