Working in Sri Lanka



Sri Lanka is currently a prime destination for expat workers where wages are usually above average.

Although work doesn't pay as much as it does in Europe, the typical expatriate will afford a fairly comfortable life in this country given the right qualifications and positive relations with the employer.

Work requirements

Work visas are issued by the Controller of Immigration and Emigration where applications for residency will have to be lodged before the work visa may be obtained.

Once all the required documents have been submitted, the CIE's High Commission issues the visa. However, those who wish to move to the country without any pre-employment arrangements will need to obtain an entry visa also granted by the High Commission. Only then, can a residence visa and a work permit be issued.

Major industries

The country's main manufacturing industries include agricultural products such as: 

  • Especially tea
  • Coconuts
  • Tobacco

Other major industries are:

  • Rubber
  • Cement
  • Petrol refining
  • Manufactured textiles

After the United States of America, the United Kingdom is the island's biggest trading partner, followed by other important export markets including India, Germany, and Belgium.

With the high unemployment rate among local graduates, the Sri Lankan government has opened its doors to expat workers in the fields of technology, information technology and teaching. Of all the jobs that are currently in high demand, teaching English appears to be the most lucrative career for anyone.

Work culture

Typical working hours in Sri Lankan establishments begin at 9 am and close at 5 pm. Government offices are usually closed on weekends while some private businesses open half days on Saturdays. Workers usually take up a probationary status upon entry in a company (unless regularisation is pre-arranged) with pay ranging from LKR 5,000 - LKR 10,000 while incomes are taxed progressively.

Tamil and Sinhala are the official languages in Sri Lanka, but the majority of the population uses Sinhala, while English serves as the linking language. Because English is widely spoken, particularly in business circles, expats will most probably find it easy to blend in, especially in international companies where proficiency in this language is an essential requirement for graduate-level positions. Exchanging business cards is a common practice and is regarded as a way of acknowledging the connection between the person and the information in the card. To hastily stuff a business card away or even write on it is considered highly disrespectful. The European culture also highly influences business practices in Sri Lanka where transactions are normally carried out with a high degree of formality.

Although Sri Lanka may not be a luring job opportunity for expats, one can still find an amazing cultural variation and spirited development, and in the end, it's worth a try to find potential employment in this country.



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Continue reading:

Work Guide

Expat Services in Sri Lanka