Moving to Namibia
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A comprehensive guide to moving to Namibia
Will you soon be packing your bags and moving to Namibia? Do you still have questions about visas and work permits, or maybe about this African country’s culture, languages, climate, and geography? Our Relocation Guide is full of useful information to help you during your move to Namibia.
Relocating to Namibia
- Namibia has 14 regions, which are further subdivided into 121 constituencies.
- Though Namibia is still a developing country, all modern technologies and amenities can be found in its large cities and towns.
- While Namibia is known as one of the sunniest places on earth, flooding and droughts remain an issue in parts of the country.
- Successful work permit applicants must have qualifications that cannot be easily found among the local population.
Citizens of 49 countries do not require a visa to enter Namibia for tourism or business purposes for a period of less than three months. If you are moving to Namibia to work or live there for a longer period of time or if you are not a citizen of one of the countries exempt from these visa regulations, then you will need to apply for a visa or work permit before your departure. It is possible to obtain a tourism or business visa at your port of entry, but it is advisable to apply for one in advance to avoid unnecessary delays.
You will need the following items when applying for a business or tourism visa:
- a completed application form
- a valid passport with three blank pages and a remaining validity of at least six months a
- two passport photos
- an application fee
For a business visa, you will also need to supply:
- a motivation letter stating the nature of the business that will be conducted
- a letter of invitation or contact details of your business contacts
- the company’s proof of registration
the company’s proof of registration When entering the country, you must be able to produce a return ticket or at least prove that you have adequate funds for the duration of your stay and to get you back home. Alternatively, you can provide proof that you will be supported by a Namibian citizen or permanent resident. If you will be passing through an area of Africa where yellow fever is endemic en route to Namibia, you will have to prove that you have had a yellow fever vaccination that is at least ten days old.
You should submit your visa application at least 60 days before your planned date of departure.
As unemployment is high (see our article on working in Namibia for more information), the Namibian government takes strict measures to ensure that all possible jobs are filled with Namibian citizens or permanent residents. Thus, if you are planning on moving to Namibia, it’s important to remember that it can be quite difficult to obtain a work permit. Successful applicants must be able to show that they have expertise in a certain area that cannot be found among the local population. Even in these cases, your Namibian employer must prove that they are taking steps to help train local citizens for the position.
The following documents must be submitted when applying for a temporary work permit:
- a completed application form
- a copy of your passport and two passport photos
- certified copies of your training and experience, university degrees, and trade qualifications
- registration with a Namibian professional association, if required by your profession (e.g. doctors, engineers)
- a record of your employment history for the past five years
- a description of the last job you held
- a medical certificate
- a radiological report proving that you don’t have TB
- a police clearance certificate from your country of origin and your last country of residence
In addition, your prospective employer must submit various documents, including company registration documents and proof of why you are the best candidate for the job. Your temporary work permit will usually be issued for a period of two years, after which it can be renewed. If you change employer after moving to Namibia, you must apply for a new work permit.
All documents for temporary work permits and visas must be in English or translated into English by a sworn translator. Be sure to apply for your permit well in advance of when you plan on moving to Namibia, as it can be a lengthy process. For more information, please visit the homepage of the Namibian Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration.
Namibia: A Country Overview
Namibia and Its People
Namibia, officially the Republic of Namibia, is often referred to by expats as “Africa for Beginners”. Due to its relative safety compared to other African countries and its colonial past, especially in downtown Windhoek, you may sometimes forget you are living in Africa, and not somewhere in Europe! Namibia’s name is derived from the Namib Desert, one of the country’s most distinctive geographical features.
This country in southwestern Africa is bordered to the west by the Atlantic Ocean, to the north by Angola and Zambia, to the east by Botswana, and to the south and east by South Africa. Although it shares no official border with Zimbabwe, at their closest point they are separated by less than 200 meters of riverbed.
Namibia’s Political History
Namibia, then known as German South-West Africa, was governed as a German colony from 1884 until the end of World War I, when it became a South African territory. On 21 March 1990, following the Namibian War of Independence, Namibia gained its independence from South Africa. The sovereignty of Walvis Bay and the Penguin Islands (which include an Albatross Island!) was officially ceded to Namibia on 28 February 1994 upon the end of apartheid in South Africa.
Since independence, Namibia has successfully made the transition from white minority apartheid rule to a stable multi-party parliamentary democracy. The country is divided into 14 administrative units, which are further subdivided into 121 constituencies.
Main Expat Destinations
Namibia only has one real city of any considerable size — Windhoek, the capital — and that still only has a population of about 325,000. The next largest cities by population are Rundu (63,000), Walvis Bay (62,000), Swakopmund (45,000), and Oshakati (32,000). However, these population figures are from 2011 and have probably risen since then. Hence, updated statistics from official sources in Namibia are hard to come by.
Windhoek is the political, economic, and cultural center of the country. If you move to Namibia, chances are you’ll end up here. The city offers all the comforts of urban civilization — different restaurants, museums, clubs, and shopping malls — but it is far from being a bustling metropolis. Those accustomed to the wide cultural and culinary options of other world capitals should prepare themselves for an initial period of adjustment. Due to its historical links with Germany, Windhoek has a very European feel. Despite its small size, it is home to a wide range of people from a multitude of ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
Culture and Demographics
Namibians are a warm, friendly, and open people, who are very proud of their country, and with good reason. While still a developing country, Namibia has come a long way, and all modern technologies and amenities can be found in its bigger cities and towns.
Namibia has a population of about 2.5 million people. About half of the population lives in urban areas. Namibia is a diverse melting pot of different cultures and tribes, which can especially be seen in cities like Windhoek. About half of the population is comprised of people from the Bantu ethnic group. The Herero and Himba people, as well as the Damara and Khoisan, also make up a large part of the population. White people, mostly of German, British, and Portuguese descent, as well as Afrikaners, make up about 6.4% of the population. There is also a sizeable Chinese minority in Namibia.
The influence of the colonial period can be seen in Namibian’s religious affiliation. Approximately 80%-90% of the population identify themselves as Christians and 50% of these are Lutherans. The other 10%-20% follow indigenous religions.
Language and Ethnicity
Upon independence, the Namibian government consciously chose to take a different path than South Africa, and declared English as the country’s sole official language. English is now the language of government and business, and can be found on product packaging and public signs. Up until independence, German and Afrikaans also enjoyed official status.
Despite the official status of the English language, Afrikaans is still the more widely-used lingua franca spoken across the country between people with different native languages. Among the younger generation, however, fluency in English is increasing rapidly. In Windhoek and the bigger towns, you will probably get along just fine with English, but learning a few phrases in Afrikaans will be very useful if you will be spending much time in rural areas.
The results of the 2011 census show that Oshiwambo, a Bantu language, is spoken in 49% of Namibian households. Nama/Damara (11%) is the second most commonly spoken native language, followed by Afrikaans (10.4%), Kavango (9%), Otjiherero (9%), English (3.4%), and German (1.4%).
Namibia’s Geography and Climate
With an area of 824,292 square kilometers, Namibia is the world’s 34th largest country. Due to the fact that the super-arid Namib Desert covers much of its area, it is also the second-least densely populated country in the world after Mongolia. The country is not completely covered by barren desert, but instead has five unique geographical areas: the Namib Desert, the Central Plateau, the Great Escarpment, the Bushveld, and the Kalahari Desert.
Namibia’s Two Deserts
The Namib Desert, the oldest desert in the world, stretches along Namibia’s entire coastline, varying from 100 kilometers to several hundred kilometers in width. It includes such well-known destinations as the Skeleton Coast and the Kaokoveld.
The Kalahari Desert, as opposed to the Namib Desert, is only classified as a semi-desert, as it does receive small amounts of stable precipitation. This rainfall results in huge tracts of excellent grazing land and supports a large number of unique succulent plant species.
Further Geographical Areas
In between the two deserts lies the enormous Central Plateau, covering a large swathe of land running vertically down the length of the country. The majority of Namibia’s population and economic activity is located in this geographical area, and the capital, Windhoek, is also located here.
The Great Escarpment quickly rises to over 2,000 meters, and is located between the Namib Desert and the Central Plateau. Although the terrain is rocky with poorly developed soils, it is much more fertile than the Namib Desert because it receives more rainfall.
Finally, the Bushveld area is located in northeastern Namibia along the Angolan border and in the Caprivi Strip. It receives a significantly higher amount of rainfall than the other areas, averaging at about 400 millimeters per year.
From beautiful sunsets to powerful thunderstorms, from devastating flooding to equally damaging droughts — when it comes to climate and weather, Namibia is a country of extremes. Although overall classified as having an arid climate, the actual weather conditions, temperatures and amount of rainfall vary considerably throughout the country due to its different geographical regions. Located as it is between two deserts, Namibia has the least amount of rainfall in sub-Saharan Africa and usually has over 300 sunny days per year.
The coastal areas have a smaller temperature range, which increases as one moves farther inland. For example, Walvis Bay experiences temperatures ranging from 9°C to18°C in the winter, and from 14°C to 30°C in the summer. Temperatures here are kept mild by the cold Atlantic winds. Windhoek, on the other hand, has temperatures ranging from 7°C to 20°C in the winter and from 20°C to 30°C in the summer. In the Kalahari Desert, the extremes are even greater, with 0°C to 25°C in the winter and 18°C to 45°C in the summer.
Winter in Namibia is the dry season, and runs from June through August. The summer months are December to February. Namibia has two rainy seasons, a small one from September to November and a bigger one from February through April. During the rainy season it does not necessarily rain all day every day, however.
Large amounts of rainwater in Angola cause annual flooding (Efundja) in the north of Namibia, which often causes devastating damage to the local infrastructure and loss of life. The worst flooding in recent years occurred in March 2011, when it displaced 21,000 people. On the other hand, erratic rainfall, especially in the Caprivi Strip, can lead to harmful droughts. Namibia has been suffering from a persistent drought for the past three years (2013-2016). This has been the country’s most severe drought in over 25 years. In consequence, the president of Namibia declared a state of emergency in July 2016, due to lack of food sources.