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Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Coming to live in Cairo for a year - Summary

Having just made this huge post on another place in answer to someone's questions, I have copied it over here!

The original question related to some of the practicalities of actually being here for a year including the cost of living. Please note I have excluded accommodation discussions because my situation is a little different. The best advice is usually to get here and then look, not try to fix up from abroad.

What visa can I get?

The only visa you can get yourself in your own right - without being married to an Egyptian or without having a job with work permit - is 'touristic'. If you come into the country and get the usual 30 day effort at the Airport, then before 30 days is up, make your way to one of the places you can get a touristic visa - there may be one nearer where you end up living than Mogamma. You can ask for a one year visa but don't be surprised if they offer you a 3 month or 6 month instead.

What if I want to be able to leave Egypt and come back?

If you plan on leaving the country and coming back you MUST get a reentry visa before leaving Egypt otherwise your residency visa is cancelled when you leave. As far as I know, the only place you can get a reentry visa is Mogamma.

Can I get a work visa?

There is no such thing as a work visa. To work legally you need to get a job from an employer who offers a work permit. Or get married to an Egyptian, get the 5 year permanent residency, then have him go to Mogamma with you and sign papers saying that he assumes full responsibility for your work.

The position of 'freelancers' who are not confined to one employer is vague to say the least.

While many people are working here illegally, that choice is between you and your Maker! Just imagine if they had the equivalent of the Daily Mail here [Wink]

What about tax (in Egypt)

If you have a job with a work permit, then the employer should be paying your taxes. As we all know, there are companies which deduct the tax from your pay but don't in fact hand it over to the authorities.

What do I do about healthcare?

Healthcare - again, some companies will include it as part of a package, otherwise you're on your own. Having said that, paying private here is probably cheaper than getting health insurance if you are relatively fit. My view is, keep at least one of your UK credit cards with a big balance clear (well use it once a year so they don't close it!) just in case. A friend's husband had quadruple heart bypass and it cost something like 130000LE I seem to recall, just to give you some idea of an upper cap.

I did look into private health insurance and it would have cost about £40 per month when I looked (holiday insurance won't do btw!) - about 20% of my typical monthly expenditure. Total health care costs for me todate 'paying as I go' (including seeing cardiologist, neurologist, ECG, electrocardiogram, blood tests) in over 2 years = £35.

A trustworthy Egyptian friend has access to an account with some money set aside in it in case I ever get in a situation where medical care needs to be paid for quickly and when I am not in a position to be able to get to the ATM myself. I carry the friend's contact details on me just in case. (I think it's best if the emergency contact is an Arabic speaker!)

UK Tax

The UK has a double-taxation treaty with Egypt so if you are working here, money earned here is not subject to tax in the UK and vice versa (caveat - I am not a financial adviser, this is not advice and legislation may change at any time). (This isn't, say, the case for Canadians who have to pay tax on world wide income even if it is taxed in the other country!!!!!) Depending on your financial position back in the UK (eg are you going to be receiving rental income, savings income?) - you may still have to complete an annual tax return and there is a nice fat fine for not doing so. Call the Inland Revenue begin_of_the_skype_highlighting     end_of_the_skype_highlighting and ask to register as 'non resident for tax purposes'. They are very helpful!

UK National Insurance

You have to pay 30 full years (under current legislation and if you are under, say, 50) to get full pension. You can make voluntary contributions if you want to keep up your record and if there's no danger of you going back - but you have up to 6 years after the relevant year to make voluntary contributions.

It's worth getting a statement from them as to how many years your record is - I was amazed to find I had 29 years in and so it's not worth me paying voluntary until much nearer the retirement age unless the rules change! (Apparently all the time I was at Uni, contributions were made for me by the State!)

(And btw even if you have got 30 years in - if you continue to work, you continue to have to pay NI so keep your eyes on the legislation in case the 30 years changes again and decide whether it's worth you paying voluntary).

Opening a Bank Account in Egypt

You can open one easily with a tourist visa + passport + credit card or similar from the UK. Unless or until you get a job, open a savings account. There are some very nice juicy interest rates here and most transactions are still done in cash.

You can open in more than one currency so, say, you could move sterling over here into a sterling account and just have it sit there and change it up when you need it or when exchange rates are good.

Your choice whether to go for a European-name bank (eg HSBC or Barclays or Credit Agricole or BNP Paribas or whatever) or an Egyptian bank eg Arab African or United Bank or whatever. Note that there are many banks with slightly different names!

How much does it cost to live here?

Not including accommodation costs: my monthly Opex - living expenses are about 2000LE averaged over the year: (including electricity (100), broadband (150), phone (25), gardener (130), 300LE for catfood, transport - mainly buses, microbuses and metro - I use taxis rarely - food, cleaning materials,toiletries, going out about once a week, mobile top ups etc).

You will find that I am probably at the lower end for an expat.

My vices are drinking gallons of milk (costs me around 200LE per month [Eek!] ) and my inability to go to Hyper1 without spending 40LE in Cilantros on iced white chocolate drinks. Hence I avoid going to Hyper more than once every 6 weeks. It is physically impossible for me to go in Cilantros and just have a coffee for 10). My name is OBC and I am a milkoholic.

The other thing you may want to factor in is a gym or similar. I joined a club way back when I first started coming here - before I moved here - offering a quick prayer - because the cost now would be way out of my reach. I haven't included the 'write down' of that in my monthly expenditures because it came out of 'capital'. (Sorry - too many years of corporate budget models!)

Full gory details of my 2008 costs are here: Gory Details

Finding somewhere to live

Here's a useful link for flats (apartments) and sharing. Obviously, keep your wits about you and don't do anything here you wouldn't do in your home country.

Expatriates.Com - Cairo Housing Classifieds


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