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A Comprehensive Guide on Moving to Ghana

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  • David Thyne

    Sharing expat experiences about Accra and the way of life in Ghana was really helpful to me. Thanks to InterNations!

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Relocating to Ghana

A Quick Country Overview

Ghana is probably one of the first countries to come to mind when thinking of Western Africa. Located at the Gulf of Guinea and sharing borders with Togo, Burkina Faso, and Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana is a mostly flat country, its highest point hardly reaching 900 meters above sea level. For a country which is roughly the size of the UK, expats moving to Ghana will encounter a relative wealth of different ecosystems and climatic sub regions.

Common subdivisions you can use for orientation are the Ashanti region with its rainforests expanding along the western border, the central Volta Basin including the world’s largest artificial lake, Lake Volta, and the regions to the north, which feature a relatively high population density due to the arable land there. However, the prime choice of expats is the coastal plains along the south.

Most of the population is concentrated along the coast in the south as well as regions to the northeast of the coast. As large parts of the rural population are drawn towards Ghana’s metro areas, most notably the country’s capital Accra and the Kumasi area, the countryside is rather sparsely populated.

Let us end this section with a fun fact: those of you moving to the coastal areas in the south are closer to the intersection of the Prime Meridian and the Equator — or the “center” of the world, if you will — than anywhere else on the planet.

Say Goodbye to the Seasons

As per usual in tropical countries, expats moving to Ghana can kiss the seasons goodbye, at least to a certain extent. The only seasonal change you are going to experience is the switch between the rainy seasons and the dry seasons. While the southern parts of the country have two rainy seasons per year — one stretching from May to June and another from August to September, expats in Ghana’s north can look forward to a single, merged rainy season from May to September.

After moving to Ghana, you will realize that apart from differences in precipitation, there are also considerable differences in terms of temperature and humidity between the various regions of the country. Expats in Ghana’s southern coastal regions will probably have least problems dealing with the local climate, as it tends to be warm rather than hot, and not too humid. The southwestern corner of the country is hot and humid; fittingly, it is also the only part of the country covered by rainforest. The North is hot and dry, and the occasional drought is not an uncommon problem in the region.

Accra — The Place to Be for Expats

In case you have already preoccupied yourself with Ghana, you will surely have realized that the nation’s capital, Accra, is the dominant city of the coastal region, if not the entire country. Chances are that as an expat, you will also be moving to Ghana’s capital — that is, if you are not involved in mining, forestry, or oil production on location. The city of roughly 2.5 million is the anchor of the Accra Metro Region with a total population of well over 4 million, making it by far the largest urban area in Ghana and one of the largest on the entire African continent. Unsurprisingly, Accra is the country’s most important city not only in terms of official government business, but economy as well. If you are relocating to Ghana solely for business reasons, get acquainted with Accra right away!

For an African city of its size, the city center of Accra is very safe both for locals and people moving to Ghana. The matter of housing will most likely be handled by your future employer before your move to Ghana’s capital — your preferred choices should be located in the northern and western parts of town, or more generally, the high-income housing areas. Slums and urban decay pose major problems in parts of the city, often exacerbated by the influx of illegal immigrants from West African countries moving to Ghana’s capital. Expats should try to steer clear of those areas.

Ghana: Administrative Issues for Expats

Entering the Country

Nationals of a number of African countries do not need to apply for a visa in their country of residence before they travel to Ghana. Instead, they can acquire an entry visa stamp on arrival at the international airport in Accra as well as a number of seaports. Eligible nations are Malawi, Zambia, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Uganda, and Swaziland. Countries whose nationals are exempt from acquiring a visa altogether are the ECOWAS states as well as Kenya, Malaysia, Singapore, Egypt, and Hong Kong.

Everyone else is required to apply for an entry visa at the Ghanaian representation in their home country. A full list of Ghanaian embassies, high commissions, and consulates abroad can be found at the website of the Ministry of Tourism.

The requirements for entry visa include:

  • your passport, valid for at least six months at the time of application
  • two completed and signed application forms
  • two passport-sized photos
  • financial means to be indicated
  • names and addresses of references. If you are going to be staying in a hotel when first visiting Ghana, they will help you with this issue.

You have the choice between single and multiple entry visas, which are valid for three and twelve months after acquisition, respectively. However, the time of validity is not the actual permitted duration of your stay in Ghana. The immigration officials at your point of entry decide how long you may stay in the country, the usual duration being 60 days.

Relocating to and Working in Ghana

The steps to be undertaken in order to legally work and reside in Ghana are, unsurprisingly, far more time-consuming and elaborate. The recent change in work permit legislation did not help to alleviate this. While in the past, expats were able to enter the country while their work permit was still pending, they now have to wait until all documents are cleared.

We have shortly hinted at the immigration policy of the country in our article on working in Ghana. Foreigners are only allowed to take up employment in Ghana within an authorized immigrant quota which regulates the number of non-Ghanaians which may be employed by an enterprise. It is not unheard of that a company may only hire one single foreigner, making job opportunities for expats somewhat scarcer than in other African countries.

Getting Hold of a Work Permit

If you were able to successfully land a job, you have to apply for both a work permit and a residence permit, in this order. Applications for work permits need to be directed to the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS); your future employer should be able to supply you with the necessary forms.

Along with your completed and signed application, you need to supply:

  • a completed work permit application form
  • your CV
  • any educational and professional certificates
  • your work contract
  • a police report from your country of residence
  • a medical report
  • copies of the relevant pages in your passport

As the application for the work permit is to be handed in in person at the GIS headquarters in Ghana, you will have to submit all necessary documents to your employer who will then take the necessary steps. The usual processing time is four weeks.

How to Get a Residence Permit

The residence permit also requires teamwork: both you and your employer need to supply different documents in order to successfully acquire the permit. You will realize that the GIS should already have many of those from your work permit application; however, you will still need to hand them in all over again.

Requirements for the residence permit on the employee’s side:

  • your CV
  • your medical report
  • your police report
  • your passport with a validity period of at least three months
  • two passport-size photographs
  • proof of travel insurance
  • the completed application form
  • your employment contract

 Requirements on the employer’s side:

  • letter of application for the residence permit
  • Certificate to Commence Business
  • Certificate of Incorporation
  • company’s Code
  • tax clearance certificate
  • approval letter from Ministry of Interior

If everything is in order, you should receive your permit shortly after you have submitted your application. Congratulations! Your expat assignment to Ghana can now begin.

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  • David Thyne

    Sharing expat experiences about Accra and the way of life in Ghana was really helpful to me. Thanks to InterNations!

  • Johanna S. Mattikanen

    Finding work in Ghana is not easy for an expat woman. InterNations members helped me get involved in a charity project.

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