All foreigners who intend to work in Ghana must be sponsored by a host entity in Ghana. An offer letter or a valid contract must exist between the host entity and the assignee to trigger the work authorisation process.
Foreign nationals may only work in Ghana after obtaining a work permit issued to the company by the GIS or an automatic immigrant quota issued by the GIPC. A holder of a work permit or GIPC quota must subsequently apply to the GIS for a residence permit to be fully authorised to work.
i Work permits
It is mandatory for all foreign nationals seeking work in Ghana to have a relevant work permit. Corporate bodies and other institutions that wish to employ foreign nationals may obtain work permits for these employees upon application to the Ministry of the Interior through the Director of the GIS. As mentioned above, there are two main types of work permit issued by the GIS: temporary and long-term work permits. Generally, the requirements for obtaining a work permit are as follows:
- from the employer:
- business registration documentation;
- corporate tax clearance certificate;
- application letter;
- audited accounts (if available);
- letter of support from government agencies (where applicable);
- GIPC registration certificate (if applicable);
- completed, signed work permit application form; and
- offer or appointment letter, or contract of employment; and
- from the employee:
- copy of bio data page of passport;
- curriculum vitae;
- professional and educational certificates;
- medical certificate indicating fitness to work;
- police clearance certificate from country of origin or current residence; and
- evidence of efforts to recruit a Ghanaian for the position (i.e., advertisement of the job vacancy).
The residence permit allows multiple entries into Ghana by the holder during the period of validity of the permit. An application for a residence permit may require an assignee to surrender his or her passport during consideration of the application. Other conditions must also be met before a residence permit is issued, including providing a copy of the applicant’s non-citizen identification card and passport-size photographs.
Dependants of a residence permit holder must demonstrate their connection to the permit holder to be issued with a residence permit. A spouse may be required to submit evidence of marriage and copies of relevant birth certificates may be required for children. No work for remuneration by those on a dependant’s permit is permitted.
- multiple entries into Ghana during the period of validity of the residence permit;
- dependent children may enrol in schools and are entitled to all benefits accorded to Ghanaians; and
- access to all services, including banking and insurance.
Additional requirements of regulators and government agencies
Additional requirements may be imposed by government and regulatory agencies that play a part in the work authorisation process. These include the GIPC, the Free Zones Authority, the Petroleum Commission and the Minerals Commission. Their level of involvement varies from simply issuing automatic immigrant quotas to complete control of the process. Companies that fall within the sectors overseen by these bodies must register with the relevant regulatory agency.
A person (other than a prohibited immigrant)17 aggrieved by a refusal to grant or renew his or her permit, or by a revocation of permit or repatriation, may petition the Minister of Interior for redress within seven days of the action and the Minister may take appropriate action to redress the matter.18 Recourse to the law courts is also available to an aggrieved party in respect of a decision of the immigration authorities.
ii Labour market regulation
The Constitution of Ghana offers protection to all persons in Ghana.19 Foreign workers therefore have the same rights as Ghanaian workers and cannot be subject to discrimination at work on the basis of their nationality.
Labour Act of Ghana
Ghana’s Labour Act20 is applicable to all workers and employers in Ghana. The law defines a worker in broad terms irrespective of nationality.21 The law prescribes the rights and obligations of employers and employees.22 The law provides protection against unlawful termination of employment23 and provides remedies for unlawful termination.24 The law further guarantees employees the freedom to form and join trade unions of their choice25 and generally prohibits unfair labour practices.26 To further protect the rights of both employers and employees, the National Labour Commission (NLC) was established by law to receive complaints from workers, trade unions, employers and employers’ associations in the settlement of industrial disputes.27 In settling disputes, the NLC has the powers of the High Court of Ghana.28 There is a right of appeal to the Court of Appeal against a decision of the Labour Commission.29
The NLC is the main administrative adjudicating body in charge of ensuring a congenial atmosphere for all labour market participants. The NLC has resolved countless industrial disputes using effective industrial relations mechanisms outlined in the Labour Act, the NLC Regulations30 and the Labour Regulations.31
Its duties include receiving labour-related complaints, facilitating the settlement of industrial disputes, settling industrial disputes and promoting effective cooperation between labour and management.
The establishment of the NLC has enhanced cooperation between social partners, which has translated into a harmonious industrial relations environment in the country.
Since July 2013, the National Pensions Regulatory Authority has required foreigners working in Ghana to make social security contributions. The definition of a worker under the National Pensions Act32 covers all workers, including foreign workers, who are therefore required to make the statutory pension contribution. Employees are expected to make a mandatory contribution of 5.5 per cent of their basic salary to the scheme on a monthly basis while the employer makes a compulsory contribution of 13 per cent on a monthly basis. Employees may elect to make additional voluntary contributions. There is also voluntary coverage for self-employed persons and previously insured persons who are unemployed. The Act provides for a sanctions regime for non-compliance.33
An employer engaging the service of a foreign national in Ghana must present evidence to satisfy the GIS that attempts have first been made to recruit a Ghanaian to the position.34 This evidence may be in the form of a newspaper advertisement or any other mode of advertisement. Oil and gas service companies are also mandated to incorporate the dictates of the ‘local-content’ regulations applicable to their sector in recruiting foreign labour to undertake work activities in the sector.35 Companies in the oil and gas sector are required to submit local-content plans for approval of the Petroleum Commission prior to registration to undertake petroleum activities.36 It is further required that the local-content plan should contain a sub-plan on employment and training of the Ghanaian workforce.37 Preference must also be given to Ghanaian companies in the acquisition of goods and services.38
Resident and non-resident taxpayers
An individual who is not a citizen of Ghana is resident for tax purposes in any particular year if he or she resides in Ghana for a period exceeding 183 days in a 12-month period that commences or ends during the year of assessment.39
Non-residents are liable for tax on income earned or derived in Ghana. They are not liable for tax on income brought into Ghana or received from a source outside Ghana. Tax relief is available where Ghana has a tax treaty with the applicable country.40
iii Rights and duties of sponsored employeesRights
The sponsored employee has a right to work and reside in Ghana, freely going about lawful activity. They are also guaranteed the fundamental freedoms in the Constitution.41 As with many countries, foreign nationals working in Ghana are also accorded certain rights and privileges enjoyed by Ghanaian42 workers, including all rights to redress available to Ghanaians. Specifically, the rights and duties of an employee provided in our Labour Act are applicable to sponsored employees working in Ghana.43 These include the right to work under satisfactory, safe and healthy conditions, to receive equal pay for equal work without discrimination of any kind and to receive information relevant to the work undertaken.44
- an obligation to notify the Director of Immigration within seven days of commencement of employment or cessation of employment;47 and
- an obligation to submit an annual return, not later than 14 January in each year, to the issuing authority with a copy to the Director of Immigration, giving names and addresses of all foreign employees in their employment as at 1 January.
Other particulars that may be prescribed will also have to be provided.48
The Labour Act of Ghana further imposes general duties on workers, including the following:
- to work conscientiously in the lawfully chosen employment;
- to enhance productivity;
- to obey lawful instructions regarding the organisation and execution of the work undertaken; and
- to take proper care of the property of the employer entrusted to the worker or under the immediate control of the worker.49