Bishkek's economy is not hugely developed, being based primarily around agriculture. Outside of the urbanized city center, fruits and vegetables are bartered and traded. The streets in several parts of downtown Bishkek are also lined with market stalls selling this kind of produce. Other districts are more developed, with banks and shopping malls. Also widely sold in many stalls are artisans' hand-crafted works; including carvings, statues, paintings and sculptures.
The country as a whole primarily trades with regional partners such as Russia and Kazakhstan. It exports tobacco and cotton and has plentiful reserves of gold, uranium and natural gas. In 2013, Kyrgyzstan's GDP was estimated to be 7.23 million USD.
There is a market for English teachers in Bishkek, earning around 800–1,300 USD per month. For fully qualified teachers, there are a handful of international schools with better salaries.
There are estimated to be only around 1,000 expats working in Bishkek, most for international organizations such as the UN, European Commission or NGOs, and most having been employed before moving to Bishkek.
Any foreigner wanting to work in Bishkek will need a work permit. Most employers will take care of the visa and work permit arrangements, but expats should be aware that the process can take a long time, often longer than advertised, and the time between being appointed to a job and arriving in Bishkek is usually several months. Smaller organizations, such as language schools, will not always arrange the work permit.
Employee Permits for foreign executives or professionals are usually valid for one year and can be extended annually. Employee Permits for skilled foreign workers are valid for a period of two years, while foreigners registered as individual entrepreneurs are able to get an Employee Permit valid for up to three years.
Work permits come under the jurisdiction of the Department of External Migration.
As with many former Soviet countries, Kyrgyzstan has a flat rate of individual income tax. The flat rate for anyone working in Bishkek or elsewhere in the country is 10%. Taxes are paid in monthly instalments.
An additional local tax, which expats are likely to encounter, is a tax for collecting garbage. As with all other aspects of a contract, those arranging their own accommodation should check this detail in their property rental contracts and ask a local to help if they do not understand the language.
Kyrgyzstan has double taxation treaties with a number of countries, and expats planning on working in Bishkek should check with their home country as to the status of any agreement. The US, UK and Australia are not included; however Canada does have a treaty with Kyrgyzstan.