Customs, Immigration and Tax Information

Please note: The Department of State assumes no responsibility or liability for the professional ability or reputation of, or the quality of services provided by, the entities or individuals whose names appear on the following lists. Inclusion on this list is in no way an endorsement by the Department or the U.S. government. Names are listed alphabetically, and the order in which they appear has no other significance. The information on the list is provided directly by the local service providers; the Department is not in a position to vouch for such information.

Customs, Immigration, and Tax Information: Ethiopia Updated March 2011

In recent months the Government of Ethiopia (GOE) has increasingly pursued arrests for customs and immigration violations. Recent cases have highlighted the need for individuals and organizations to carefully follow tax procedures in Ethiopia. The Embassy has learned that American individuals and organizations have not been following a consistent pattern regarding these issues.

Please Note:  The Embassy cannot act as your attorney or give you any legal advice. This handout is only a brief overview of issues your legal counsel may want to investigate on your behalf.  The Government of Ethiopia is the ultimate authority on customs, immigration and tax requirements.

Have you registered?

  • Signing up ensures that you will receive the most up to date information from the Embassy.
  • Registration also allows the Embassy to locate you in the event of an emergency.
  • If you work for an international organization, please include that information.


  • Non-residents traveling to Ethiopia must declare any/all foreign currency in excess of 3000 USD (or its equivalent).
  • Non-residents departing Ethiopia may carry a maximum of 3000 USD (or its equivalent), unless they can produce a customs declaration, bank slip showing the purchase of foreign currency, or letter confirming that they were paid by an embassy or foreign organization in Ethiopia.
  • Residents of Ethiopia must produce a bank slip showing the purchase of foreign currency, or customs declaration that is not more than 45 days old, in order to carry any foreign currency out of Ethiopia.
  • Any traveler entering or exiting Ethiopia may carry a maximum of 200 Ethiopian Birr on their person or in their luggage.
  • Any item that appears to be cultural, even items that are clearly commercial, must be examined and certified by the museum of history before leaving Ethiopia. .
  • See Proclamation No. 354/2003:13 (1) [Those who must register]
  • All foreigners who are residing in Ethiopia and/or who enter Ethiopia without a visa or with an immigrant, business or student visa and intend to stay for more than ninety days must register and apply for a residence permit within thirty days of arrival.
  • Any expat who works for an organization registered with the Charities and Societies Agency (CSA) must register (CSA Proclamation No. 621/2009)
  • Designed for short term business travel.
  • If you enter on a business visa but intend to stay for 90 days or more (180 in certain circumstances), you must convert to a residence card/work permit.
  • You must apply for the work permit in the first 30 days of your stay in Ethiopia.
  • Once you apply for a work permit, you may not work until it is approved, even if your 90 days have not expired.
  • If your employer is registered with CSA,
  • You should enter Ethiopia on a business visa. You should apply for residency and a work permit within 30 days.
  • You may not work until your work permit is approved.

20 (1) and 20 (2) Penalties:  If you enter or leave Ethiopia illegally, you reside illegally in Ethiopia, or you assist someone to reside illegally in Ethiopia, the penalty is a maximum prison sentence of 3 years and fines up to 10,000 ETB.  If you reside legally in Ethiopia (if you have the correct visa or residency status) and you are found guilty of assisting others to reside illegally in Ethiopia, the penalty can be four times greater.

Work Permits

  • The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MOLSA) has the authority to issue and deny work permits. If your organization is registered with CSA, then CSA must write a letter to MOLSA. If you are a businessman or an investor, you may apply for a permit before entering Ethiopia; if your organization is registered with CSA, you must apply after entering.
  • You may need a work permit even if you are working part time, as an intern, performing religious work, or even volunteering.  Check with your employer or spo

Tax Information

  • If you are a permanent resident of Ethiopia, you must pay taxes on all income.
  • The Ethiopian government considers some forms of compensation, such as per diem and lodging, to be taxable income.
  • It is an organization’s responsibility to withhold taxes for salaries, benefits, some profits, sales tax, donations, and large purchases.

The Bottom Line: Check with your attorney. Organizations which do not comply with MOLSA or CSA rules risk having their employees removed, or their funds or property seized or frozen.

Please note that the Embassy cannot offer legal advice, recommend a particular lawyer, approach the GOE regarding your specific problems, or intervene in the Ethiopian legal system in any way. However, the Embassy can approach the GOE regarding clarification of issues facing all Americans in Ethiopia, and monitor the Ethiopian legal process for irregularities and bring them to the attention of the GOE and the U.S Government.  You should contact the Embassy at +251-11-130-6000 or if you are arrested or detained by Ethiopian officials, your passport has been confiscated, or if you feel that you or your family is in danger.