Morocco is a primary tourist destination, but what are the possibilities of employment in the country if you are an expat? Teaching English remains a popular choice, although salaries tend not to be high. Other expats are relocated to Morocco by their employers, if there happens to be a branch in the country, so relocation on secondment is another option.
Casablanca is the main centre for commerce, but if you are interested in work in the tourist sector, then Agadir or Marrakesh are likely to be primary choices. It is not easy to obtain a work permit, however, as most Moroccan companies prefer local hires, but the economy is growing and some expats have found success in opening their own businesses, particularly in niche sectors, or in translation work.
If you are intending to work in Morocco you will need both a work permit and a residency permit. The former will need to be obtained from the Moroccan Ministry of Employment, and local companies may have to prove that there is no Moroccan national who could perform the job. Unless you are on secondment, your employer will also have to apply for a certificate from ANAPEC. They may also have to travel to Rabat to collect the permit.
Once you have been issued with a work permit, you will be sent a residency card and you must register in person at the local police station. You will then be able to open a bank account. Your work permit will last from 1 – 3 years and can be renewed: your employer must do so to avoid violating Moroccan employment legislation.
In order to apply for a work permit, you or your employer will need to submit the following documentation:
• passport, valid for 6 months
• copies of your qualifications
• 2 x ID photos
• 4 x passport-size photos taken within the previous 6 months
• fee (this payable by postal order only)
• evidence of employment
• photocopy of flight ticket(s)
• photocopy of hotel reservation
Morocco is not always well-organised bureaucratically and you might find it helpful to take several copies of your pertinent documentation, keep them in a folder and keep them with you at all times until you have got your residence and working permits sorted out. This can save you having to make several trips back and forth to government departments.
If you are a freelancer or planning on becoming self employed, contact the Ministry of Labour in Rabat to check out their requirements.
Top industries (around 40% of GDP) are manufacturing, construction and mining. Telecommunications, tourism and textiles are also significant sectors. Casablanca tends to specialize in the export and maritime industries but digital industries are developing fast in this city, which is becoming something of a tech hub. The cement industry is also a major player in Morocco – worth bearing in mind if you have experience in this industry.
Rabat is home to the public sector and also has a number of NGOs and charities, as well as financial organisations, IT and communications.
Tangier also has a number of maritime-based industries as well as chemical and metallurgical sectors. There are significant opportunities for expats in Morocco if they have an engineering background, or experience in business, IT and communications.
Tourism is also a big sector with a number of jobs in the hospitality industry.
It is recommended that you speak either, or both, Standard Modern Arabic and French. TEFL is still a popular choice and private language schools and international schools are good options to consider if you have the relevant English teaching qualifications. Morocco has agreements with some countries, such as the USA, which somewhat streamlines the process of applying for work permits.
The maximum working week is set at 48 hours, spread over a 5 day week: in practice you are more likely to work 40 hours, from Monday – Friday, since business hours are typically 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
The minimum wage is currently 3000 MADs (US$310) per month in the public sector, 2,570.86 MADs (US$265) per month in the private sector, and 69,73 MADs (US$7) per day for agricultural workers. The average salary in Morocco is MAD 341,722 (US$18,183 per annum).
After one year of service, employees are normally entitled to 24 days of paid annual leave. There are 13 public holidays.
If you are having a baby, you will be entitled to 14 weeks of maternity leave at 100% of your salary, payable from social security. The father will also be eligible for three days of paternity leave at full pay. You will also be entitled to an additional year of unpaid leave if you wish.
Your spouse will be able to work but must go through the residency and work permit procedures above.
You will be able to make speculative approaches to companies, particularly if you are working in a specialist sector. You may also wish to explore possibilities of secondment.
Online job boards, networking if possible, or recruitment agencies all offer possibilities of finding work.
A standard one page format is acceptable for your CV, but you may wish to have it translated into both French and Arabic.
Morocco is not yet comparable to European countries when it comes to anti-discrimination legislation. For example, there is no law against discrimination or harassment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The country can still exhibit institutionalized sexism. Be aware that interview questions may reflect personal matters, particularly if you are female or a member of the LGBT+ community.
It is advisable to have any diplomas or certificates apostilled, and you may need to have Arabic or French translations of some of your documents.
Morocco is very popular as a tourist destination, but also holds appeal for adventurous expats seeking employment. Depending on your nationality, you may need a visa to visit, work or live there. Please read on for further information.
If you are a citizen of the UK or Northern Ireland, and are travelling on a British passport, you will not require a visa to enter Morocco. Neither will you need one if you are coming from Australia, the EU, the USA or Canada. If you are a national of any of these countries, you may enter Morocco for 90 days visa-free.
For citizens of other countries, you must obtain a visa for Morocco before you enter the country, unless your home nation has a reciprocal arrangement with the Moroccan government and you are exempt from visa requirements.
If you come from a country that is visa-exempt, you may remain in Morocco for 90 days. However, you will be fined or otherwise penalised if you overstay your visa. You will need:
• A passport with six months’ validity past your departure date, as well as room for entry stamps
• Proof of travel
If you wish to remain for a longer period, you should contact the Moroccan immigration authorities in the city where you are to obtain a residence card (carte sejour). Some expats note that applying for a visa extension can be time consuming. If you do not want to apply for residence or work in the country, but do want to spend longer than 90 days in Morocco, you may wish to enter the Spanish-controlled territories of Ceuta or Melilla and then re-enter Morocco for a new stamp.
If you are not from a visa-exempt country, you can apply for a Morocco tourist visa. This is issued to nationals who want to enter Morocco as a tourist or for other short-term purposes. These could include:
• Personal visit
• Attending a cultural or academic event, for example, a conference
• Sports events
• Medical treatment
Tourist visas for Morocco can be single- or multiple-entry. A tourist visa will allow a maximum stay of 90 days in Morocco.
If you are not from a visa-exempt country and want to apply for a long-stay visa – for example, to join a family member – you will need to submit:
• A visa application form
• Your passport and photocopies of your passport
• Passport-size pictures
• Return flight ticket
• Proof of accommodation
• Proof of sufficient financial means
• Travel insurance
• Proof of paid visa fee
If you are a student, you may also need to supply the following:
• Proof of enrolment into the educational institution
• Proof of paid tuition fees
• Proof of your financial means during the study period
• Letter from a guarantor in Morocco, stating that they will cover your accommodation and financial expenses and cover your repatriation costs, if necessary
A work visa is also a type of long-stay visa, and we will look at this below.
The Moroccan authorities say that a visa should take around two weeks to process, but they advise applicants to apply one month before they travel.
At the Moroccan mission in London, a tourist visa will cost £20 (single-entry) or £27 (multiple-entry).
If you are intending to work in Morocco, you will need both a work permit and a residency permit. You will need to obtain the former from the Moroccan Ministry of Employment. The company that employs you may have to prove that there is no Moroccan national who could perform the job. Unless you are on secondment, your employer will also have to apply for a certificate from ANAPEC. Your permit may need to be collected from Rabat.
Once you have been issued with a work permit, you will be sent a residency card, and you must register in person at the local police station. You will then be able to open a bank account. Your work permit will last from one to three years and can be renewed. Your employer must do this to avoid violating Moroccan employment legislation.
In order to apply for a work permit, you/your employer will need to submit the following documentation:
• A passport valid for six months
• Copies of your qualifications
• Two ID photos
• Four passport-size photos taken within the previous 6 months
• Fee (this is payable by postal order only)
• Evidence of employment
• Photocopy of flight ticket(s)
• Photocopy of hotel reservation
Morocco is not always terribly well-organised, and you might find it helpful to take several copies of your pertinent documentation, kept with you in a folder at all times, until you have got your residence and working permits sorted out. This could save you from having to make several trips back and forth to government departments.
If you are a freelancer or planning on becoming self-employed, contact the Ministry of Labour in Rabat to check the requirements.
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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Foreigners visiting as tourists are allowed to stay for a period of up to 90 days on a tourist visa. For longer stays, you will need to apply for a residency visa (Carte Sejour). If you are looking to rent in Morocco for the first time, it would be wise to set up a Moroccan bank account, as the majority of rentals are negotiated in Moroccan Dirham.
Lease terms vary depending on the type of property you are renting, where it’s located, and who you are renting it from. Generally, rental leases on a month by month basis are quite popular in Morocco, and more often than not, you will need to pay a 10% deposit. Many locals do not bother with contracts. If you are renting a room in a house, then this shouldn’t present a problem. However, if you are looking to rent your own property, you will need something more ironclad, and will need to get a rental contract.
If you wish to rent a place by yourself, you will need to present your passport to the owner. A contract will then be written up in Arabic, and you will have to go to Muqata (an office where they legalise documents) to present your passport again and sign the contract.
Business is most often conducted in Arabic, and so you will likely need to enlist the help of a translator when it comes to rental negotiations and your contract. Contracts need to be notarised at a local town administration building to be considered valid.
As a minimum, your contract should cover the following:
• The names of the landlord and the tenant
• Identification of the rented property and its use
• Terms of your rental lease
• The amount of rent to be paid and any additional charges
• Any tenant responsibilities for the property
You are likely to find that many of the cheaper properties in Morocco are quite bare. Many are not even painted before tenants move in. They may also not have a refrigerator, stove or oven, and bathrooms may be in the traditional style, i.e. they may not have western toilets.
Before moving in, it’s always a good idea to take photos and videos to keep as proof of the condition of the property. This will provide insurance against responsibility for previous damage.
For the most part, it is best to work with a local real estate agent. You may also need a lawyer and a translator, if you don’t have any local friends or relatives that can explain how things work and translate/negotiate for you. Local agents are often known as simsaar, and they very rarely speak English. More often than not, you can find a place by wandering around a neighbourhood and looking for a sign, or by simply asking around.
The majority of foreigners tend to gravitate towards the towns and cities of Casablanca, Rabat, Marrakesh, Fes and Tangier. In the larger cities, apartments can be rented for between US$250 and US$600 per month, depending on size and location. In smaller cities, the prices tend to be lower. It is important to note that mixed sex flatshares are illegal in Morocco. This can apply even to Western couples, who may be refused a rental if they are not married.
Foreigners are allowed to purchase real estate in Morocco, and there are very few restrictions on foreign buyers, although they cannot buy agricultural land. Additionally, there are attractive tax concessions, such as low capital-gains tax, no inheritance tax, and no property tax for the first five years of ownership. Foreigners are allowed to stay for 90 days on a tourist visa. For longer stays, they must apply for a residency visa (Carte Sejour).
There are a few things to bear in mind when it comes to purchasing property in Morocco.
Firstly, even after a buyer has made a verbal offer and agreement, and has submitted a deposit, the seller may receive and accept a better offer.
Secondly, although it is usual to pay a deposit once the purchase price of a property has been agreed upon, this is not a guarantee that the seller will take the house off the market. Therefore, it’s safer to make a small deposit, more like a reservation fee. Sometimes houses being sold are still occupied by current tenants, and the buyer may have to wait for the owner or occupant to move out and turn over the key.
Thirdly, in Fez (medina), houses do not have titles. Instead, an official scribe (adoul) writes scrolls to document the ownership of them. Some of these scrolls date back hundreds of years. It is possible to acquire a title for a house once it has been purchased, which can be done through a notary.
Other than the above, the buying process is much the same as in France and Spain, with a notary acting for both parties. Signatures on the sales deed of the contracting parties should be notarised, and the sales deed should then be registered with the relevant registration office. The buyer then applies for the listing of the registered deed to the land registry.
A registration duty of 6% is applicable on the acquisition of buildings by individuals or legal entities. This is also applicable on the acquisition of undeveloped land to build houses. The sales deed, like the registered deed, is listed in the land registry. The land registry fee is 1%. Notary fees typically cost around 0.5% to 1% of the property value. Stamp duty is around 1% of the property value.
Legal fees tend to be negotiable, and range from 1% to 5% of the property value. The real estate agent or simsaar typically charges the buyer 2.5% of purchase price as commission.
Challenges that foreigners might encounter when purchasing property in Morocco include scams and language barriers.
The UK Government website give the following advice:
Beware of identity theft
Before entering into a purchase agreement, check that the seller is who they say they are. Ask to see their ID and a recent photograph or their passport.
Establish that the seller has the right to sell
Request to see the deed to the property, or ask for proof that they have something similar to the power of attorney.
Check the property details
Double check the property details, such as the total square metreage, to ensure they are correct.
Ensure that there is no credit still outstanding on the property you wish to purchase.
Make sure you declare the full purchase amount on the contract of sale. Under-declaring the purchase amount has become common practice, but doing so will affect you later on if you want to sell.
It is possible for foreigners to get mortgages of up to 70% of the purchase price of the property, with a maximum length of 20 years. However, not all banks offer loans to foreigners, so you will need to do some research.
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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QUICK LINK: Morocco health insurance
Morocco does not currently have a universal or compulsory health insurance system, although it does have a public health insurance scheme, AMO: a voluntary health insurance system for certain segments of the population. You will be entitled to coverage under the scheme if you have been making national insurance contributions for 55 days.
The system is divided into the CNSS (Caisse nationale de sécurité sociale / National Social Security) for employees in the private sector and CNOPS (Caisse nationale des organismes de prévoyance sociales / National Social Welfare Organisations), for those employed in the public sector, such as civil servants. A system called RAMED (Régime d’assistance médicale aux personnes économiquement démunies) is available for those in lower socio-economic brackets.
You will be eligible as an employee if you are making national insurance contributions; it is likely that you will be paying into the CNSS, as most expats are private sector workers. Otherwise you will require private cover.
Private sector employers will need to enrol you in the CNSS, so that you can be issued with an insurance card and receive AMO benefits.
Public sector employees must register with CNOPS in order to access AMO benefits.
The company is free to add top-up cover to your basic insurance, so you may wish to discuss any health insurance packages with your employer.
by Mary Mimouna
Restricted Moroccan banking hours are definitely not what many foreigners are used to. Each bank has slightly different hours, so these hours are one thing that should be investigated before choosing to open your account there. Furthermore, summer hours (consisting of July and August) are different than year-round banking hours, so be sure you investigate both. Very occasionally, you can find a particular branch of a bank which is open different hours, or even different days. For example, some outlying branches (suburbs, Marjane) have Saturday morning banking hours, and are closed Monday mornings.
Here are two examples from banks in Marrakesh:
September – June M – F 8:15 AM – 11:30 AM; and 2:15 PM – 5:00 PM
July – August M – F 8:15 AM – 3:00 PM only
September – June M – F 8:00 AM – 11:30 AM; and 2:30 – 4:30 PM
July – August M – F 8:00 AM – 2:15 PM only
The currency of Morocco is the dirham. Each dirham is divided into one hundred centimes. Decimal places in Morocco are denoted with commas. In the places we write commas in numbers in English, Morocco uses the French system of decimals in the place of our commas. (In other words, the places of decimals and commas are reversed from English usage.)
Money minted under the reign of Hassan II is still in circulation, and is still valid. New bills and coins which look a bit different, minted under Mohamed VI, are also in concurrent circulation. The dirham is usually indicated by “DH.” Centimes can be noted as “cm.”
Current denominations of bills include 20 DH, 50 DH, 100 DH, and 200 DH. The old 10-DH notes have mostly been removed from circulation, having been replaced with 10 DH coins. Coin values in circulation are 1/2 DH, 1 DH, 2 DH, 5 DH, and 10 DH. Centimes (small, and entirely gold-colored) exist in values of 5 cm, 10 cm, and 20 cm.
If you are buying from small street vendors, they will not calculate prices in dirhams. They will use “riyals.” (Riyals were a system in place in Morocco before the arrival of the French. Many small shopkeepers are Berbers, and this group of shopkeepers has not yet made the switch to calculating in dirhams.) One riyal is equivalent to a five-centime gold-colored coin. There are 20 riyals to the dirham. (So if a price is given to you in riyals, you must divide by 20, in order to get the price in dirhams.)
Banking Facts for Tourists
If someone is meeting you upon your arrival in Morocco, and you have a transfer from the airport, then you wont need to worry about getting cash in advance of arrival.
Changing Money at the Airport
While there is an exchange office at the airport that often opens when flights arrive, it it not always reliably open. There are also now two cash machines in each terminal of the Marrakesh airport; however, they also do run out of cash at times.
Therefore, if you are arriving at night, or on your own without a hotel transfer, try to get about 200 Moroccan dirhams before entering the country. Even though Moroccan dirhams are not permitted to be exported, you can usually find them at airport money changers in New York, Madrid, Paris, and London. The rates are terrible, but if you are arriving in Morocco at a time when airport banks are closed, or the machines are out of cash, and find that you have no dirhams to get from the airport to the hotel, you will find yourself in a jam. (Some taxi drivers might accept foreign currency, but it would be at usurious rates!
Changing Money in Morocco
If changing cash, make sure that the currency is fairly new, not marked or torn, particularly at the corners. The following currencies are generally accepted for changing into dirhams in Morocco:
New Zealand Dollars (some places)
U. S. Dollars
Using foreign bank cards at automatic tellers in Morocco
Foreign debit cards do work in Moroccan automatic teller machines. As of this writing, this writer has not found any foreigers who have attempted to get a cash advance from a Visa or Mastercard CREDIT card out of an ATM machine. It could work, but few have ever chanced it, as the cards would be difficult to replace living away from ones home country. However, there is no problem with going into a bank and getting a cash advance on the credit card from inside the bank, although it can take up to a couple hours. (If any bank employee asks for your PIN number during this process–which once happened to me–of COURSE you should not give it to them.)
Cashing Travelers Checks in Morocco
Businesses in Morocco do not accept travelers checks. However, they can be cashed at any bank, and most money-changing offices, with your passport as identification. When checking in at a hotel, it is wise to ask if there are any upcoming holidays when banks might be closed, so that you are not caught unawares at check-out. (Also, if you are paying a hotel bill with a credit card, even five-star Moroccan hotels will not accept more than 3,000 DH a day on any one credit card–regardless of your personal limit in your own country. So that means you either must split the bill between several cards, OR each time your bill gets to 3,000 DH, pay it, and then continue your stay.)
Commission on travelers checks in Morocco is charged PER CHECK. What this means to you is that, when coming to Morocco, you should bring mostly HIGH DENOMINATION CHECKS (such as for $100). A recent per-check charge rate was 20 dirhams (about $2.20). If you have all your checks in $20 increments, this can be a substantial bite.
Banking Facts for Residents
Foreigners often wonder about bank safety in Morocco. For example, in the United States of America, banks pay into the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation), which insures deposits up to a certain maximum. According to one of the bank managers at Attijariwafa Bank, Morocco also assures safety of depositors money. If something should happen to depositors money, the Moroccan government will step in to pay back depositors money. According to the bank manager, there is no maximum as in the United States–ALL deposits would be covered. He did not say, however, how quickly depositors would be paid if this were to happen.
Choosing a Bank
For better service, Moroccans advise that the most important things in choosing a bank are that the bank is new and small (fewer customers means more attention to those customers), and/or knowing someone in that bank who can serve as your personal liaison. These two helpful hints keep you from getting “lost in the shuffle.” If you are fortunate enough to have Moroccans you trust make a personal introduction for you to certain bank managers, by all means, do try opening an account at that bank. You can always change banks later in the year if you end up having problems.
However, since few newcomers to Morocco will have such personal contacts, investigate the banks most convenient for you in terms of hours and locations, and hope for the best. Check out the peak-hour crowds in the lobby at 9:00 AM, 11:00 AM (except on Friday, when crowds will be light at this time), and 4:00 PM. Try not to choose the most crowded bank. Also try talking to people in the bank, and see which bank has the most helpful employees.
Checking Accounts and Other Types of Accounts
Morocco is still a cash society, and looks to remain that way for the forseeable future. Merchants do not want to accept checks, partly because in order to cash each check, the merchant has to pay a charge of 15 dirhams ($1.80). Furthermore, often checks are not cashed by being deposited, but instead by sending a secretary or assistant to stand in line for an hour or two to actually cash the check. So while checks can be used for large purchases or expensive services, including supermarkets (preferred in amounts of over 500 dirhams; a few merchants accept 200-dirham checks; and no one accepts checks for less than 100 dirhams), they are neither common, nor preferred. Generally, merchants will not accept a check drawn on a bank outside the same city.
The dirham is NOT a freely exchangeable currency. Therefore, upon arrival in Morocco (to stay), you should open a “CONVERTIBLE DIRHAM” account. This means that any foreign money you bring in (or have wired) can go into this account. While you can deposit foreign currency into it, NO MOROCCAN DIRHAMS can be deposited into this account. There is no minimum for opening this account. (If a bank tells you there is a minimum, and if that is a problem for you, go to another bank–they do sometimes “say” there is a minimum, if they dont know the customer.) Any monies in a convertible dirham account can be freely wired abroad, at any time. Checks written on convertible dirham accounts can be used to pay for anything in Morocco, just like normal checks from non-convertible accounts. If purchasing property, DO use convertible dirhams so that you can later prove you brought the money in from outside. (If you want to later take the money out of Morocco, you have to prove that it originally came in from the outside.) Debit cards can be requested and issued for convertible dirham accounts. To open a convertible dirham account, the only document you will need is your passport, as well as some money to make an initial deposit. Statements can either be sent to an address in your home country, or an address in Morocco.
Once you have become a legal resident, and obtained your actual plasticized, pink “resident card,” you are permitted to open a normal dirham account. It will take several months after applying at the police station for the pink card to actually arrive, so be prepared to have to wait to open a dirham account. Debit cards can also be requested and issued for convertible dirham accounts. To obtain a debit card on a REGULAR DIRHAM account, you MUST have a legal resident CARD (not just the “receipt” for the card), and an account. (The only exception I found is that one new accounts person at a BCME bank branch told me that they would open an account for someone with just the RECEIPT from the police station, saying that you have APPLIED for legal residence. So, if you are in a hurry for some reason, it might be advantagous to TRY one of the BCME branches.)
If you are a legal resident and have both a regular dirham account and an official work contract, your employer can direct-deposit your salary into your regular dirham account each month. Foreign workers who are residents, and who have an official work contract, can have up to half of their net monthly salary transferred into a convertible-dirham account. The bank must have all the proper paperwork in order to do this. Any funds in convertible accounts can be wired abroad, at will.
Neither a regular dirham checking account, nor a convertible-dirham checking account pay interest. Legal residents can open dirham passbook-savings accounts which do pay interest. Only Moroccan citizens residing abroad are permitted to have a special type of convertible account which also pays interest (which is to encourage Moroccans abroad to keep money in Moroccan banks).
Also, certificates of deposit are available, but NOT for convertible-dirham funds. They are only available for non-convertible accounts. Moroccan currency is NOT freely exchangeble (why Moroccan debit cards on normal dirham accounts are valid ONLY inside Morocco).
Foreign-denominated checks CAN be deposited into convertible accounts, but it will take between two and three months for those funds to be “available” to you (collected funds), and the commission will be extremely high.
Credit and Debit Cards
No banks have shown any interest in promoting Moroccan credit cards, as payment habits in Morocco are not yet reliable enough.
ONLY DEBIT CARDS ARE ISSUED IN MOROCCO. If a bank tells you they can give you a credit card, it is because they do not understand what you mean. If a bank tells you they can give you a “credit card,” what they mean is that you will actually have a debit card, with personal authority from the bank manager to exceed a zero bank balance. This is a privilege very rarely extended to any bank customers. Many people in Morocco, including many bank employees, speak of a “credit card,” but they are using this name very casually, actually calling ANY charge card a “credit card,” just as the WORD for the name of the card–without even knowing or caring that it is actually a DEBIT card.
Foreign credit and debit cards, as well as debit cards from Moroccan banks–both on Moroccan convertible dirham accounts, and on normal dirham accounts (which are valid ONLY in Morocco) are accepted at all mid-sized hotels, and restaurants catering to foreigners. They are also accepted by larger merchants, or merchants selling expensive merchandise. The main use for Moroccan debit cards is to get cash out of your dirham account at the automatic tellers (thus avoiding the 30-60 minute wait time in the lobby to withdraw money from your dirham accounts). There are now automatic tellers in many far-flung regions of Morocco, such as Ouarzazate, Taroudannt, Zagora, Azilal, and Layounne. However, the automatic tellers will often run out of money, especially on weekends. So, if you are traveling, or have cash needs over the weekend, be sure to withdraw enough cash in advance. You can, however, go into banks while traveling around Morocco, and get cash advances on your foreign credit or debit cards. Debit cards issued on Moroccan convertible accounts CAN be used abroad (according to the BCME).
Banks, Mergers, and Lending Practices
As elsewhere in the world, several banks in Morocco have recently undergone mergers. Morocco has a number of private national banks, all of which practice branch banking. This means that if you have an account at one bank, you CAN get your money out of any other bank in Morocco by that name (such as when you are traveling). However, it can be time consuming, as they have to send a “wire” to your actual branch to check your account balance, and that can take up to several hours to get a response (plan on from two, to three hours).
As of this writing (August, 2006), there are over 20 different banks in Morocco. Each bank concentrates its lending practices in specific areas–which doesnt really affect where you might want to open a checking account, unless you are thinking of borrowing money in the future. The following banks are among those used by most people:
Credit du Maroc
Societe Generale Marocaine de Banques
Banks are now offering a moderate amount of term life insurance whenever you open a new account. Banks policies differ. At Attijariwafa, the insurance is required with all new accounts; whereas, at the Banque Populaire, the insurance is still optional. In any case, it is no longer valid after age 65.
Internet banking, as we know it abroad, has not yet arrived in Morocco. For a monthly fee, customers can sign up at most banks for an on-line service where bank balances can be checked by mobile phone, or computer. But no transactions can be made yet over the internet (probably wise, from a security standpoint).
Wiring (Electronic Transfer) of Funds to Morocco (known as “Money Mover” in Britain)
Be sure to obtain the following information from your Moroccan bank, which your foreign bank will need: complete name of Moroccan bank; name of branch and/or branch number; exact street address of the branch, the branchs SWIFT number (this is an internationally used system of numbers which identifies each branch of each bank, in each country); and the precise name as it reads on the account; and account number that the funds should be deposited into. Also, SPEAK DIRECTLY to the Moroccan banks WIRE TRANSFER DEPARTMENT (not just ANY bank employee), and ask them WHICH CORRESPONDENT BANKS they use in the country you are having funds wired from. Ask whoever in your own country is wiring that money to REQUEST THAT THE FUNDS BE WIRED THROUGH THOSE CORRESPONDENTS. If you wire through the correct correspondents, your funds can arrive in your Moroccan account within three-to-five days. If you neglect to do that, the funds may not arrive for three-to-six WEEKS. (The BCME bank CLAIMS to have more direct correspondents than some other banks, which is one reason many foreigners choose it.)
Changing Normal Dirhams Into Hard Currency
There are two circumstances under which foreign residents can change ordinary non-convertible dirhams back into a hard currency. The first is for foreign travel, and the second is that up to half of your salary in dirhams may be put into a convertible account.
Foreign residents (or Moroccans) who wish to travel abroad are now permitted to change up to 15,000 DH per passport into the hard currency of your choice, in cash. That means if you are a family, you can also change up to 15,000 DH in each of your childrens passports–provided they have a separate passport from you. The amounts you change are marked in your passport so that the maximum per year is not exceeded. (These amounts have been increased in recent years. Just a few years ago, the maximum was 5,000 DH; it was then raised to 10,000 DH; it now stands at 15,000 DH as of August, 2006.)
If you are a foreign RESIDENT of Morocco, with the PINK RESIDENCE CARD and an OFFICIAL ORANGE-COLORED WORK CONTRACT (the paper having come back from the minister with the correct stamps on it, before taking it to the bank–and this can take several months), THEN you may have up to half of your Moroccan-dirham salary deposited into your convertible-dirham account (which can then be wired abroad at your leisure). The procedure is that all of your salary FIRST goes into your normal dirham account. Then, after your bank has correct paperwork, you can arrange with the banks foreign exchange department to have the specified portion of your salary transferred from your normal dirham account to your convertible dirham 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.
Compare quotes from leading foreign exchange currency brokers
If you are moving to Morocco to live and work, you may be wondering how easy it will be to communicate. What is the official language of the country, and how many languages are spoken in this North African crossroads between Africa and Europe? How widely is English spoken? We will find some answers to your questions below.
There are two official languages in Morocco: Standard Modern Arabic and Tamazight. The vernacular is Moroccan Arabic (known as Darija), but there are other languages, such as French, in common currency in the country, too. Many Moroccans have French as their second language, so if you have an understanding of this language, this will stand you in good stead during your time in Morocco.
Tamazight is a Berber (Amazigh) language, spoken by around 20 million Amazigh in the country. It was at one point on the decline but has been undergoing a process of revival in recent years.
Spanish is also spoken by a number of Moroccans, mainly in the north of the country: Spain is of course close to Morocco, a neighbour over the sea and there are two Spanish autonomous regions, Ceuta and Melilla, on the Moroccan coast.
Overall, around 98% of the population speaks Modern Arabic, 63% speak French, 43% speak Tamazight, 14% speak English and around 10% speak Spanish.
English is thus not widely spoken throughout the country although many Moroccans in tourist areas and the cities will speak it to some degree. The younger generation is likely to be a little more fluent as English has been introduced into primary schools in the state sector, and some private schools teach it as well.
French is the main language of education, government commuication and commerce, so you may well find that it is your workplace language. This is a legacy of Morocco’s colonial past, despite efforts by successive governments to impose a process of Arabization after the French Protectorate came to an end in the 1950s. Even now, some schoolchildren struggle with Modern Standard Arabic, as the vernacular is very different to this formal tongue, and it has not taken hold in some fields, such as science and technology, where French remains the dominant language.
If you are going to be working or residing in Morocco long-term, it is advisable to master at least a few phrases in both Arabic and French, and to take French classes for ease of communication in your workplace.
This will be particularly helpful if you are travelling outside the cities, and if you are travelling in Amazigh regions such as the High Atlas, you may like to learn a few phrases in Tamazigh also for the sake of politeness as well as practicality. French, as a Latin-based Romance language, will be easier for you to learn than Arabic if you are a native English speaker. If you are intending to approach Arabic, Darija will be more use to you than Standard Modern Arabic.
Darija contains a number of words from Tamazigh, Spanish and French, and resembles the Arabic dialects spoken in Tunisia and Algeria: it is very different from the Arabic spoken in the Gulf States. There are several online resources and apps for learning Darija, and you may wish to enrol in classes once you are on the ground. For example, the Qalam wa Lawh centre offers six levels of Moroccan Arabic, all of which are available on a year-round basis, in combination with cultural tours.
You can also learn French while you are in Morocco. Many language schools offer French classes at various levels, from beginner to advanced, and for different purposes, from conversational practice to business French for the corporate sector. You can either learn in a class group or on a one-to-one basis with a private tutor.
You may be intending to go to Morocco to teach English. 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. You may also find work more easily if you are experienced in teaching English for particular sectors, such as tourism and hospitality, or in summer schools.
It will also be helpful to have at least a Bachelor’s degree as most language schools require this: 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 can expect an average monthly salary of US$500 – 1K and are most likely to be hired by a language school.
If you are intending to work in Morocco you will need both a work permit and a residency permit. Morocco has agreements with some countries, such as the USA, which somewhat streamlines the process of applying for work permits.
If you are seeking work in interpretation or translation, you will need a high standard of either or both French and Darija Arabic, and will also need the relevant qualifications.
Public education in Morocco is free and is run by the Ministry of National Education (MNE) and Ministry of Higher Education and Executive Training. School attendance is compulsory up to the age of 13 and the education system is arranged into stages:
• pre-school (compulsory from 4-6)
• primary (6 years from the ages of 6-12)
• secondary (6 years from 12-18)
Students will need to pass the certificat d’etudes primaires at the end of primary school to be admitted into lower secondary schools. Secondary education at upper levels includes a one-year common core curriculum plus two years of specialised study leading to the Moroccan Baccalaureate. They can follow three tracks at secondary level:
• Modern Track: Continuation of the French system
• Original Track: Koranic teachings
• Technical Track: Education for the workforce
There are also a number of Koranic pre-schools in the country which have a religious emphasis, but which also focus on literacy and numeracy.
Moroccan education faces significant difficulties. Education suffers from a high drop-out rate and there are linguistic challenges: students from Berber communities may not speak Arabic, which is the language of instruction, resulting in a comparatively low student retention rate, particularly among girls. Literacy rates are also low and there is a problem with teacher absenteeism. Only 53% of students enrolled in middle school progress to high school.
Although there have been significant efforts recently to improve this situation, most expats opt for private education for their children during their time in Morocco, partly due to the issues with the public school system but also partly due to linguistic issues: if your child does not speak Arabic, they will have problems with understanding in public schools.
You will find plenty of choice in the private sector, however, with an international educational community around the major cities such as Casablanca, Rabat, Marrakesh and Tangiers. Schools offer British, French and American curricula but also other educational systems such as Saudi and Spanish. A number of schools are French-speaking, a result of the colonial history of the region.
Some schools may be bilingual and incorporate a Moroccan as well as an overseas curriculum, and some are trilingual, for instance the American Academy Casablanca which teaches in English, Arabic and French. A number of schools offer the International Baccalaureate as a graduating exam.
You may wish to check that your selected school is internationally accredited, for instance by the Agency for French Teaching Abroad, which is part of France’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the New England Association of Schools and Colleges; or COBIS, the Council of British International Schools.
As an example, the aforementioned American Academy Morocco offers a college preparatory curriculum based on US Common Core standards and uses a standards-based grading system to assess student learning in grades K-12. Fees will depend on your child’s age but nursery fees start at around US$5400 per annum and rise to around US$15K for senior high school.
The Anglo-Moroccan school in Tangier teaches in English and is based on an English National Curriculum, offering IGCSEs and A Levels, but also the International Baccalaureate. The International School of Morocco, which is blingual in English and French, also offers the IB. The British International School Casablanca offers the Cambridge International Curriculum, culminating in Cambridge exams, and this has strong connections with the English National Curriculum: a sound choice if you are British and based in Morocco but planning to return home while your children are still of school age.
You will need to contact your selected school directly for a full range of fees. Check not only for tuition costs, but also for one-off maintenance / capitalisation payments, registration and admission fees.
Homeschooling is possible in Morocco should you choose to go down this route, but it is advisable to check with the local education authorities to see if you need to register with them.