The Republic of Zambia is located at the crossroads of South-Central Africa, which makes it a strategic location for businesses and is becoming an increasingly attractive jurisdiction for companies with African business interests.

Zambia's corporate immigration framework

The regulation of the employment of foreign nationals in Zambia is governed by the Immigration and Deportation Act No. 18 of 2010.

Which visa/permit is required?

Two permits may be used to second employees: (i) Temporary employment permit; and (ii) Employment permit.

Temporary employment permits are short-term work authorisations. The Zambian Department of Immigration has an entire department which deals solely with temporary employment permit applications. In order to acquire a temporary employment permit, an undertaking from the legal entity in Zambia is required, in terms of which it must accept responsibility for foreign workers. The entity will have to explain the nature and anticipated duration of the work to be performed and provide motivation as to why a foreigner is needed.

Employment permits are long-term work permits. An individual applicant is required to use a registered immigration practitioner or have an employer in Zambia to arrange the process. Qualifying members of Human Resources departments in Zambia may register with the Immigration Board and members may be authorised to submit the application with the Immigration Department on behalf of the applicant. In order to obtain an employment permit, the most crucial documents required are the employment offer, degree/s and qualifications of the employee. Once an employment permit is issued, the applicant will be issued with an approval letter. This letter allows the applicant to travel into Zambia. The successful applicant may then visit the Zambia Immigration Department and the permit will be endorsed in the passport. The applicant must collect the first permit in person and sign for receipt. Usually, obtaining employment permits for generic positions, for example, a manager, is difficult as emphasis needs to be put on the scarce skills an employee possesses.

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Spouses and children 

The spouse of the main applicant can apply for an accompanying spouse visa. This application can be done simultaneously with the main application. A marriage certificate is required to establish the relationship between the main applicant and the accompanying spouse.

The spouse or life partner of an employment permit holder may only work in Zambia if s/he qualifies in his/her own right, independent of the main applicant for an employment permit.

In order to establish a relationship between the main applicant and his/her dependents, an unabridged birth certificate showing the parents details must be submitted.

Zambia does not recognise life partnerships for immigration purposes. Only a marriage certificate of a heterosexual couple is relevant to obtain any rights under the Zambian immigration framework.

Zambia does not recognise foreign marriage certificates of same-sex couples. The partner of a same-sex main applicant will need to qualify in their own right.

Practical Considerations 

After securing immigration approval for the employee's assignment in Zambia, the employer should ensure that the employee has signed the requisite employment and secondment agreements. Employers should take care to avoid any conflicts between the two agreements (local and foreign jurisdiction). Lastly, the employer should also determine an action plan to follow the termination of either of the employment agreements, for whatever reason.

Dean Joffe, a trainee associate in the Johannesburg office, also contributed to this client alert.