Mauritius is becoming an increasingly attractive jurisdiction for businesses due to its strategic geographical location, secure economy and flexible regulatory framework. There are a plethora of benefits to working in Mauritius, but one of the most enticing would be the tax benefits such as harmonised income and corporate tax rates of 15%, no capital gains tax, no withholding tax payable on interest or dividends, no custom duties on importing or exporting equipment, as well as free repatriation of profits, dividends and capital.
Mauritius' Immigration framework
The employment of foreign nationals in Mauritius is a distinctly flexible process which encourages entrepreneurship. Immigration and temporary work by foreign nationals is regulated by the Immigration Act, 13 of 1970, the Non-Citizens (Employment Restriction) Act, 15 of 1970 and the Investment Promotion Act, 42 of 2000.
Which permit is required?
Another unique characteristic of Mauritius is its immigration regime - for short term business visits, there is a list of countries which are exempt from visa requirements and another list of countries whose nationals may apply for a visa upon arrival, the remaining foreign nationals must apply beforehand. At the entry point, an Immigration Officer will determine the length of a foreign national's stay - this may vary from 14 to 120 days per calendar year.
Foreign nationals who would like to live and work in Mauritius for longer than 120 days require an Occupation Permit (OP) which is a combination of a Work and Residence Permit.
The application requirements for OPs are as follows:
Once a foreign worker has worked in Mauritius for a minimum of three years, he/she will be entitled to apply for a Residence Permit.
Spouses and Dependants
Spouses and dependants (not older than 24) of an OP holder may apply for a Residence Permit.
In terms of a PRP, only married spouses or dependent children (younger than 18) may apply for the Permit. If however, the dependent child is older than 18, but enrolled in full time study in Mauritius, they may also qualify to apply for a PRP.
The government of Mauritius may at any time cancel or withdraw a PRP if the resident has violated any Mauritian laws or provided false and/or misleading information when applying for the permit in question.
Furthermore, any person, who makes false representations, makes unlawful use of a permit or contravenes any regulations and conditions imposed under relevant legislation is committing an offence and on conviction may be liable for a fine not exceeding MUR 10 000 or imprisonment not exceeding 12 months.
After securing the immigration approval for the employee's assignment in Mauritius, the employer should ensure that its employee has signed the requisite employment and secondment agreements. Employers should take care to avoid any conflicts between the two agreements (local and foreign jurisdiction). Lastly, the employer should also determine an action plan to follow the termination of either of the employment agreements, for whatever reason.
Penjani Mseteka, a trainee associate in the Johannesburg office, also contributed to this client alert.