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Foreign nationals are prohibited from working in Iran unless they receive a work permit (even if they are supposed to receive their wage or salary outside of the Iranian territory). The work permit serves as the employment license for foreign nationals in Iran.
Work permits for the employment of foreign nationals in Iran are issued by the “Department General for Employment of Foreign Nationals” (also called Department for Employment of Expatriates) of the Ministry of Cooperatives, Labor and Social Welfare upon request by Iranian employers.
In provincial capitals, it is issued by the Foreign Citizens Divisions of the Department General of Cooperatives, Labor and Social Welfare.
Iranian employers are obligated to seek the permission of the Department General for Employment of Foreign Nationals before concluding any contract that may lead to the employment of foreign citizens in Iran.
The rules and regulations relevant to a foreign national seeking to acquire a work permit are available in the Labor Law of the Islamic Republic of Iran, ratified in 1990 (articles 120 through 129 and executive bylaw of Article 129).
Due to an abundance of educated job-seekers in the country and for the purpose of reducing unemployment rates of the educated and skilled job-seekers, the Technical Board for Employment of Foreign Nationals has strict rules and regulations (stipulated in Article 121 of Labor Law) for issuance of work permits.
However, the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Act (FIPPA), passed in 2002, provides promising provisions for issuance of work permits for foreign investors, managers and experts in the context of investments covered by the FIPPA.
In general, a work permit will only be issued to a foreign worker if there are no Iranians with the same level of education or expertise.
Foreigners cannot apply for a work permit on their own unless they establish a legal entity in Iran.
Employers need to submit their request along with the documents that are listed and announced by the Department General for Employment of Foreign Nationals for verification. This list normally requires identification documents of the applicant including resume and expertise documents, a letter of request from the employer attached with company official documents (registration notice, latest changes, chart, etc.). A few forms including a letter of commitment should also be filled out and signed by the employer and employee. On occasion, the Department may also invite the employee for an interview before issuance of his/her work permit.
By virtue of Article 35 of the Executive Bylaw of FIPPA:
“The relevant executive agencies, including but not limited to, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs [since 2011 and after merging of ministries, the Ministry of Cooperatives, Labor and Social Welfare] and the Disciplinary Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran (the Police) are required to proceed with the issuance of visas, residence permits and work permits for foreign investors, directors, experts and their immediate family members in relation to the investments covered by FIPPA, at the request of the Investment Organization confirming their status as investors…”
The work permits of foreign nationals can be issued, extended or renewed for a period of one year.
According to the executive directive to FIPPA, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has an obligation to ask Iranian embassies to issue a single or a multiple-entry visa clearance (with a validly of three years) and a three-month residence permit upon receiving a request from the Organization for Investment Economic and Technical Assistance of Iran (OIETAI), which is also in charge of issuing a FIPPA license for foreign investors.
People who enter Iran using this type of visa can obtain a three year residence permit and will get a work permit, which is valid for one year but is renewable once the FIPPA license of the investor is issued.
Upon expiry of the work permit, if the Iranian employer still needs the specialty of expatriate he can apply to extend the work permit of his foreign laborer or expert. The application is sent to the Technical Board for Employment and upon approval the permit is extended for a period of one year.
Foreign nationals with valid work permits whose contracts with their employer has become null and void for any reason will have their work permit renewed once they have changed employers.
The renewal of the work permit-upon the change in employer or type of work-will be carried out by the responsible divisions of the Ministry of Cooperatives, Labor and Social Welfare after the approval of the Technical Board for Employment of Foreign Nationals.
In cases where, for any reason, the employment relationship between the Iranian employer and foreign national is terminated, the employer is obligated to report this occurrence within 15 days to the responsible division of the Ministry of Cooperatives, Labor and Social Welfare to ensure nullification of the work permit.
Similarly, foreign nationals are obligated to deliver their work permits to the Ministry of Cooperatives, Labor and Social Welfare within 15 days against a receipt. The law has stipulated punishments for those violating the rules and regulations.