All you need to know before moving to Albania
With an estimated population of over 3 million, Albania is on the lower end of the most populous countries around the world. Moving to Albania opens up a whole new world to expats, with opportunities for work in various industries. Albania is considered an upper-middle income economy and has a high Human Development Index, which proves that the quality of life is more than satisfactory.
Albania is a nation with nearly three million residents on the Adriatic coast of Europe. In the year 2009, it joined Nato, and also applied for membership in the European Union but is not yet a member of that organization. An obscure Illyrian tribe known as the Albani and their city Albanopolis was mentioned as being in the area around the year 150, but the precise origins of the modern people and their Albanian language are not without controversy. At any rate, for the last 500 years or so, the people have not called themselves Albanian, but rather Shqiptare, meaning those who understand each other. It was controlled by Turkey from the late 1400s until 1912 and was a communist country between the end of the Second World War and 1991. All religion was banned during the Marxist regime, and believers were persecuted. Since its collapse, the population has largely reverted to its former Muslim (70%) and Christian (30 %) faiths.
Albania today is still known as a country from which people emigrate, rather than a country where foreigners are moving to. The population has tended to decrease from past years on account of this emigration, rather than increase. While it is still one of the poorest countries in Europe, the outlook for Albania's future is considered to be promising with the prospect that more international companies might choose to locate there. At present, the economy is largely based on the agricultural sector and farmland. There is also a vast amount of wildlife in Albania. Albanian farms produce massive quantities of figs, olives, corn and tobacco.
Albania did away with Marxism-Leninism and switched to an open market economy in the early 1990s with much privatization, especially of agricultural land. Private car ownership has been on the increase, as it was illegal under the Communist regime when most people were expected to take trains. The tourism sector has now been seeing yearly increases as more travellers consider Albania as a holiday destination. Albania was also one of the only economies in Europe to record any growth in the 2009 recession. There is a significant unemployment rate of at least 12.5 percent. The national currency of Albania is the Lek, which is worth around 2 US cents. The average wage in Albania is about US $3.83 an hour. About 15 % of the cash flow is sent in by Albanians working in Greece or Italy.
In July 2011, the Albanian government deregulated vehicle insurance, allowing insurers to set their rates. There is a public health care system in Albania, overseen by the Albanian Ministry of Health and Environmental Protection, but private insurance health care is also available for those who can afford to pay the higher premiums. All Albanian citizens are guaranteed equal access to medical care by law, which is funded by the Albanian government. Employers and employees in Albania also make contributions to the national health schemes that are withheld from their paychecks. However with the high levels of poverty and unemployment in Albania the state insurance plan is usually underfunded. The Private facilities are not covered by the public insurance, and the medical services in Albania want cash to be paid up front in the time of service to the patient. Patients are supposed to get a referral from a general practitioner for a specialist, but because the general practitioners have a reputation for lacking expertise, many Albanians will skip them and try to go directly to the specialist, despite the introduction of a fine to discourage them from doing this. Private health insurance opens the doors to a much broader array of treatment facilities and clinics.
Essential relocation information
Make sure that your legal documents such as passports and permits are all up to date. Your visa needs to be valid for up to 90 days. Albanian embassy also requires you to have at least two blank pages in your passport for any necessary stamps upon arrival. If you plan to bring pets, you need to secure Veterinary Certificates. Be sure to contact the Country/Embassy of Albania for other documents needed for the import of domestic animals.
Next that you have to do is to check your bank account if you have enough resources to get you through the first few months. Though the cost of living in Albania is considered cheap, but it's still important to manage your budget. Make an inventory of your current belongings. You can sell those that are no longer needed and only bring the most important ones, like clothes and essential appliances, furniture, etc.
It will be better if you put all the documents in one envelope and keep it in your hand carry bag, which will make it a lot easier for you to present them anytime needed. Keep a list of all the items that you sent out for shipping and make sure that you ask for the tracking number.
Be mindful that the country implements a strict prohibition for entry of items such as firearms, narcotics, illegal drugs, weapons, pornography, toxic and radioactive materials and yes, stuffed animals.
Shipping and Removals
Before contacting a removal company, make sure that you have checked your housing options first.A huge majority of expats are living in Tirana, the city capital and also the centre of market and business. If you are planning to move into an apartment with limited space, then it might not be advisable to bring large furniture and too many appliances.
The cost of shipping varies with every company. You can check their website and utilise their online rate calculator to have an idea on how much it will cost to move your belongings.You can call international or local shipping and removal companies to help you import your belongings to Albania. The regular shipping process is 1 to 2 weeks for airfreight and 1 to 8 weeks for ocean-based transport, depending on your country of origin. There is an additional 7-14 days process for clearance of necessary documents such as your passport, visa, etc.The main and largest port in Albania is the Port Duress. It has all the best facilities and where most of the shipments/containers arrive.
Importing household and personal goods require documents such as an invoice which states the quantity and price of each item, declaration of value which will be the basis of duty and tax, certificate of origin and declaration if there are any Special Goods included in the shipment. There is a 20% VAT rate applied, and you need to pay the moment your goods enter the Albanian custom territory.
Once you are done with all these arrangements, what you need to do is to wait for the most awaited day of your departure as you start a new life in the beautiful seaside country of Albania.
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How to live like a local?
Albania is known officially as the Republic of Albania. Located in Southeastern Europe, the country is a member of the United Nations and the World Trade Organization. Historically part of Roman provinces, Albania established itself as independent in the year 1912. Expats looking for work in the country will no doubt be fascinated by Albania’s beaches, archeological sites and vast mountains. Albania mostly remains to be one of the poorest European countries with a struggling economy -- along with Ukraine, Kosovo, and Moldova, among others. The country is also an unpopular destination for expats looking to work or retire abroad, mostly because Albania does not offer much when it comes to salary, benefits, or health services.
The country’s economy is largely dependent on agriculture and is considered the most important sector, accounting for 21% of Albania’s total GDPand employing almost half of the total population. Albania is known to produce huge amounts of corn, figs, tobacco, olives and wheat. Tourism is also fast-becoming a vast sector of Albania’s economy, with approximately 4.2 million tourists in 2012 most of which come from countries like Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Greece, and Italy. As of 2013, the tourism sector supplies 10% of the country’s GDP. In terms of Global Competitiveness Index by the World Economic Forum, Albania ranked 89 out of 144 countries in the world.
Expats coming from the EU/EEA member states need not procure a work permit in order to find work in Albania. However, foreigners from non-EU/EEA member states will require a Type D long term visa in order to secure a work permit in Albania. Once the visa is issued, a temporary residence permit is required to apply for a residence permit in Albania. Along with the work permit application, other documentation will be submitted to the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs – the government sector that will issue the work permit of the foreign national. The application for the work permit can also be submitted to the diplomatic representative office of Albania (like the Albanian Embassy) in the foreign national’s country of residence.
Foreign nationals hoping to find a job in Albania may prove the process to be quite a difficult one. If they wish to work for an Albanian company, they must first have an adequate knowledge of the Albanian language. More often than not, this is the medium of communication in Albanian offices (except maybe for multinational companies), and most locals cannot speak or understand English. Another factor as well is the small salary. Compared to other European countries, Albania does not offer much when it comes to wages – even for foreign nationals. The current minimum wage in Albania is 21,000 ALL or about $210 a month.
The standard working hours in Albania is forty hours per week or eight hours a day. Most large scale businesses and offices operate from 8AM to 5PM, Mondays to Fridays. Meanwhile, banking hours are shorter, mostly running from 9AM until 2:30PM. Shops open at 8AM until 7PM, although sometimes they close for siesta breaks from 12PM to 4PM, then resume operation at 4PM until 8PM.
Finding an accommodation in Albania is relatively easy. Expats can find affordable and expensive apartments – furnished or unfurnished – in and out of the city center, depending on their preference. The average cost of rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Tirana, the capital city of Albania, is €236 a month. A similar sized bedroom outside the city center costs approximately €121 a month.
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