- Jan-Peter van Tijk
What fascinates me about InterNations? I did not only make new friends but found new business partners, too.
Relocating to Morocco
- Many expats don’t need an entry visa for Morocco, but all foreign nationals have to apply for a residence permit within the first 90 days.
- Internet and networking are generally sufficient to find a good accommodation in major cities. Just in case, you can still use the services of a local real estate agent (samsar).
- If you want the best education for your children, international schools are your best bet. However, they tend to come at a high price.
If you are a citizen of Iran, Sudan, Egypt, or Syria, you must obtain an entry visa to visit Morocco. On the contrary, if you are from the United States or any of the countries that are part of the European Union, you do not require one. An entry visa is the only type of temporary visa available, and it is usually valid for three months. If you need a visa to enter Morocco, you should start the process well in advance of your trip or move to Morocco.
For a tourist visa, you will need to bring the following documents with you to your nearest Moroccan Embassy or Consulate:
- a completed application form
- your passport, which should be valid for at least six months after your arrival in Morocco
- a copy of the first three pages of your passport
- two passport photos
- a copy of your round-trip plane reservation
- a copy of your hotel reservation or a notarized letter of invitation from your host in Morocco (or, if you are married to a Moroccan citizen, a copy of his/her passport or national ID card and a copy of the marriage certificate)
- proof of valid health insurance for the duration of your stay
- proof of sufficient finances for your stay, e.g. bank statement, pay slips, employment contract
For a business visa, you will require the documents listed above, plus a copy of the invitation letter issued by the company you are planning to visit in Morocco, or a copy of your employment contract if you are planning on starting a new job there.
Requirements for obtaining a visa may differ slightly based on your nationality. You should therefore verify the visa information with your nearest embassy or consulate.
After moving to Morocco, you will need to obtain a residence permit (carte de séjour) if you are planning on staying for longer than 90 days. You can obtain this permit from the immigration authorities (Bureau des Étrangers) at the central police station in your district. Navigating Moroccan bureaucracy can be a slow and nerve-wracking process, which requires patience and persistence, so you should apply as soon as possible after moving to Morocco.
When moving to Morocco, you should make sure to get an entry stamp in your passport at your port of entry. In addition to your entry stamp, you will need the following items in order to apply for your residence permit:
- two completed application forms (available at the immigration office)
- ten passport photos (with your face taking up three-quarters of the photo)
- a work permit (attestation de travail) — see our Working in Morocco article for information
- a criminal record check from your previous home country (which can take up to 40 days to process)
- a statement from your Moroccan bank as proof of your local bank balance
- a medical certificate completed by a local doctor, certifying that you have no contagious diseases
Each of these documents needs to be legalized at your nearest local district office (Muqata’a) and presented in duplicate. Once you have successfully submitted your application, you will receive a receipt and be told when to pick up your temporary residence permit. The latter is valid for the first three months of your move to Morocco. During this time your official one will be prepared.
Residence Permit Renewals
You need to renew your residence permit one year after your move to Morocco. The permit may be renewed an indefinite amount of times and is valid for one or two years. As of 2013, new rules are in effect, which require you to present your birth certificate when applying for a new permit. You might also need to present your rental contract. In addition, you need a copy of your passport and your current residence permit, a medical certificate, and a criminal record check (Casier Judiciaire) from the Ministry of Justice in Rabat. You also have to pay a fee of 100 MAD.
If your family is moving to Morocco with you, they must independently inquire for residency and work permits. If you have children, they do not need student visas to attend school.
For more information on obtaining visas and permits for your move to Morocco, please consult the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Arabic and French).
Morocco: Accommodation and Education
Renting in Morocco
Many expats choose to rent a house or apartment during their stay in Morocco. Rental prices start quite low, but these are usually for apartments in low-income areas, without bathrooms which live up to Western standards. Most expats therefore choose to rent in middle-class neighborhoods where bathrooms have a Western toilet and shower.
As outlined in the 2014 Finance Act, middle class housing was priced at 7,200 MAD (around 740 USD) per square meter for living spaces ranging from 80 to 150 square meters. If you are on a tight budget, you can also sometimes find a room to rent in an apartment or house.
When looking at rental prices, you should check if this price includes utilities such as water and electricity. Most homes in Morocco do not have heating, but space heaters are relatively inexpensive. Some furnished apartments are also available, but they are considerably more expensive.
The internet is a good place to start looking for a place to rent. The following sites may be useful:
Utilizing your expat network is a good way to find an apartment or house without having to pay a commission. Otherwise, you probably need to use a real estate agent (samsar), who will require a small commission from yourself and the landlord for their services.
Buying Property in Morocco
The Moroccan government has encouraged foreign investment, and has therefore taken steps to simplify the process of buying property in Morocco. You will require the services of a real estate agent, notary, and lawyer to assist in the different steps of purchasing the property.
Once you have found a suitable property, you can make a verbal offer. Be sure to obtain the title deeds of any property before agreeing to buy it. Even if you have paid money for the property, if you do not have the title deeds, you are not the official owner. Upon acceptance of this offer, a preliminary contract, which is legally binding, will be signed by each party. A notary should assist you with this step, and a lawyer is also advisable to make sure you understand all the intricacies of the contract. A deposit will also be due at this point.
You will need to open a convertible dirham account for this payment. See our Living in Morocco article for more information on opening a bank account. After the deposit has been received, a final contract will be executed, the title deed will be transferred to you, and the property will be registered with the government of Morocco as belonging to you.
Education in Morocco is mandatory for children from ages 7 to 13. Even after the so-called “decade for education”, during which a National Education and Training Charter was implemented in 1999, UNESCO continuously shines light on the subpar state of Moroccan public schools, in its 2011, 2013, and 2014 reports. In fact, in 2015, 53% of Moroccan women — most of whom live in the countryside — were still illiterate.
Though 5% of Morocco’s GDP is currently directed towards education and facilities of the Moroccan ministry, it still ranks among the least effective educational systems on a global scale. Today the education system continues to falter in literacy and drop-out rates, as well as a mismatch between job requirements and education topics.
Most expats in Morocco send their children to private international schools. Schooling is offered in several different languages, predominantly French and English, with Arabic lessons often a part of the curriculum.
If you plan to live in Tangier, a possible choice is the American School of Tangier. In Casablanca, there are more options, including the Lycée Lyautey, the Casablanca American School and the George Washington Academy. The tuition for these schools can be quite high, ranging from about 3,000 USD to 17,000 USD per year.
Preschools and Daycare
Expats looking for preschools and daycare in Morocco should consult their expat contacts to find a suitable nanny or establishment. Children under four years of age are often cared for at home, with many expats choosing to hire a housekeeper who watches the children in addition to taking care of the cooking and cleaning. For children aged four to six, you may be able to find an opening at a preschool or kindergarten at one of the international schools. A housekeeper or nanny would cost you around 300 USD per month.
Morocco: Cities and Transportation
Top Expat Destinations
Casablanca is the largest city in Morocco with a population of 3.6 million. The town’s history stretches back to the 12th century when Spanish merchants began to settle there in the 18th century and renamed the existing city Casablanca. During the French colonial period, Casablanca became Morocco’s chief port.
Today Casablanca is the commercial and industrial heart of Morocco. Chief industries include textiles, electronics, food processing, and leather works. Jobs are available in this metropolis in the maritime sector and export industry, as well as in the production and distribution fields and the financial sector.
In December 2014, CNN even d믭 Casablanca as a finance hub of the future. The Casablanca Finance City Authority is intent on creating such a business center and has made efforts towards increasing the technology infrastructure and improving legal procedures in this city.
Rabat, the capital of Morocco, was founded in the 12th century; it was made the administrative capital of the country under the French. Upon independence in 1956, Rabat and nearby Salé were united as an urban prefecture with a total population of 1.9 million.
The city is a center of the textile industry and is known for the production of carpets, blankets, and leather handicrafts. As Rabat is the capital, many members of the diplomatic staff work there, as well as people employed with international organizations and NGOs.
Tangier lies 27 km from the southernmost tip of Spain, separated from the European continent by the Strait of Gibraltar. Tangier enjoys the status of being the country’s second-most important economic hub after Casablanca. As such, it attracts lots of expats, who work in trade and the shipping sector.
Fès (or Fez), which was founded in the 8th century, is the oldest of Morocco’s four imperial cities and has a population of 1.1 million. It enjoyed its height as a center of commerce and learning in the 14th century, and today it is known as a trade hub and for its production of traditional crafts.
Tourism is a major industry in Fès, and most of the crafts produced there are sold in the winding streets of the souk. The old town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981.
Marrakech (or Marrakesh) is the chief city of central Morocco. Founded in the mid-11th century, the city is a popular center for tourism and winter sports. Marrakesh attracts a lot of expats searching for a new life, but at the same time not wanting to move too far from home.
Planes and Ferries
Morocco can boast several international airports outside of its major cities, including the Mohammed V International Airport outside of Casablanca, as well as the Rabat-Salé Airport, Fes-Saïss Airport, and Marrakech Menara Airport. The cities of Agadir, Nador, and Tangier also have their own international airports. There are many flights daily to and from destinations worldwide.
Expats can also travel to Morocco from Spain by ferry. Several companies offer frequent daily ferry services from Algeciras, Tarifa, or Gibraltar to Tangier or Ceuta.
The train company ONCF offers services between most of Morocco’s major cities. The trains can be crowded, but they are generally reliable, and are the safest and most comfortable way of traveling throughout the country. It is advisable to purchase a first-class or second-class ticket, as you will then get a reserved seat and these train cars will usually be air-conditioned. From Fes to Marrakech you will pay 200 MAD (around 20 USD) for an eight-hour trip in second class. A train ticket does generally not cost more than circa 300 MAD throughout the country.
Buses are another form of transportation which can be used within and between major cities. Traveling by bus is a good way to get a taste of local culture, but they are often overcrowded. Tickets for inter-city buses can only be purchased at the station.
Bus services offered by the company CTM (Compagnie de Transports Marocains) often conveniently connect with the train service. Express buses, called Supratours, operate along the northern and southwestern coasts, where the trains do not run. A nine-hour trip between Fes and Marrakech costs around 160 MAD. However, it can also cost as much as 350 MAD if you opt for a Premium ticket.
Taxis and Cars
The so-called grand and petit taxis are another public transportation option. Grand taxis travel between cities and can hold a tightly packed group of six people. Petit taxis are used within cities, and can usually carry up to three passengers. Passengers in grand taxis should negotiate the fare at the beginning of the trip. Petit taxis usually have meters. A petit taxi will generally cost a maximum of 20 MAD within the city. For a grand taxi, it all depends on your negotiation skills because the fare is not fixed.
Another option, which will give you more mobility and flexibility, is to drive your own car in Morocco. This can be a dangerous venture, however, as the driving style is often quite chaotic. Modern freeways link the cities of Casablanca, Rabat, Fès, Marrakech, and Tangier, but in rural areas, road conditions are generally poor. During the rainy season, between the months of November and March, flash flooding can be costly, washing away vehicles and roads in these areas.
Foreign driver’s licenses are valid in Morocco for up to one year. After this period expats need to apply for a Moroccan driver’s license, which requires taking a driving test and passing a verbal exam.
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- Jan-Peter van Tijk
What fascinates me about InterNations? I did not only make new friends but found new business partners, too.
- Sharon McGinnis
The idea to connect global minds in Rabat is just great. This plattform should have existed when I first moved here four years ago.