12 things you must know about employing expat workers in Papua New Guinea


More than 60,000 expat workers are employed in Papua New Guinea. As the economy has grown, the number of foreign workers has increased. Scott Roberts of recruitment consultants Cadden Crowe lists some dos and don’ts when bringing expats to PNG.

Cadden Crowe's Scott Roberts

Cadden Crowe’s Scott Roberts

Like any other independent nation, Papua New Guinea has its work permit and visa regulations for non-national, or expat, workers. If you do not abide by the rules then both the employer and the employee are legally liable.

It is important to know the requirements and your role as an employee and employer.

All expats looking to work in PNG, whether it be for the short term or the long term, require a visa. The options range from a business visa, which covers short trips for meetings, through to a three-year residential work permit.

Myths and traps

There is a myth that it is alright to come into PNG and work on a business visa until told otherwise, or until a regular visa is ‘worked out’. Do not fall into this trap.

If you are coming to work in PNG, or are employing expats, then they must have a valid work permit and visa aligned to a specific employer and specific job.

There are many stories, but the system is not complicated.

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The business visa only allows you to travel to the country to attend meetings, check on progress or carry out functions necessary to the operation of your business. It is for those people whose role is based outside PNG.

Applying for a visa

The system to obtain the relevant visa is straightforward but it requires you to understand the system and to co-operate with the Department of Labour and Industrial Relations and PNG’s Immigration and Citizenship Service.

Follow all instructions—doing so will save time in the long term

Using a registered employment agent in PNG can be a shrewd investment—they understand the system, know the departments, will check all the necessary paperwork before anything is lodged and will follow up until processing is complete.

There are many stories, but the system is not complicated. It runs relatively smoothly and many of the delays and ‘war stories’ often relate to poor planning, not allowing enough time or incomplete documentation.

Here are some simple dos and don’ts that are worth considering.


  1. Follow all instructions—doing so will save time in the long term.
  2. Ensure all documentation is completed correctly and supporting documents are authenticated.
  3. Allow enough time. Timeframes are given for each type of visa and these are adhered to by the departments. Plan your business around these timeframes and not vice verca.
  4. Cooperate with the Department of Labour and Industrial Relations, the PNG Immigration and Citizenship Service and the relevant consulate.
  5. Know the requirements of the home country from which you are employing because some, such as the Philippines, will require additional focus in PNG.
  6. Ensure that the role for which you wish to obtain a visa is on the list of roles for expats.


  1. Don’t take short cuts. The systems, timeframes and instructions are there for a reason. Taking short cuts will only delay the application.
  2. Do not assume they will let you in. PNG is an independent nation. Like Australia: no visa, no entry!
  3. Do not assume a business visa will be approved. If you are residing and working in PNG, it will not.
  4. Do not break the law—get the required work permit and visa. If your employer says it is OK, then request written confirmation from the Department of Immigration.
  5. Do not expect the departments to fit into your timetable. They are very open with the timeframes and they stick to them. They are not there to work around your company’s timetable. It is up to you to plan around these timetables. (At the same time, some industries or companies will get fast-tracked).
  6. Do not assume that because someone is employed by one company they will automatically qualify to work in another. All work permits and visas are fixed to a specific job and specific employer. If either your job title, or employer, changes then you will need a new work permit and visa to match.

Scott Roberts is Managing Principal of Cadden Crowe

Where expats come from

According to Carmen Voigt-Graf at the National Research Institute, there are currently 63,102 expat workers in PNG. The breakdown of nationalities is:

  • Australia: 36 per cent
  • Philippines: 24 per cent
  • Other developed nations: 13 per cent
  • Other developing nations: 11 per cent
  • Indian sub-continent: 6 per cent
  • China: 6 per cent
  • Malaysia: 4 per cent


  1. Cheryl Wramani Wramani says

    1)what happens to an expatriate if project is winding down but his visa and work permit is still valid would there be a breach in labour law of non citizen.
    2) is there a computation for cancellation and repatriation of work permit for Non citizen.
    Seeking guidelines for these questions.

  2. Gerard Ahuta says

    If an expat is employed by a firm under work permit. Is he allowed to operate under different companies? Or to start his own company?

  3. Rex Wafi Harrison says

    What is the appropriate penalty for expatriate who harass and intimidates national employee using their positions?

    A national employee has been swore by a Philippines Expatriate ?

    Can immigration do something about it?

    Thank you

  4. Arnolfo Domingo says

    do the employer in PNG gives Medical Card or Health card for expats worker?

  5. Wesley Sipo says

    What is the appropriate penalty for expatriates who harass and intimidate national employees using their positions? Someone need to clear this up.

    • Mostly in many organization,we have the code of conduct to follow and it only applies to the PNG citizens only and not the expatriates.
      So I see in many cases the matter is reported to the police and most of the expatriates are being terminated and departed.

  6. jeff moscoso says

    I was employed by a private firm at PNG and was wrongful termination from my employer. Do I have no grounds to be heard because my previous employer emphasized the master-servant law and the common law underlying that the employer may terminate it’s employee with/without grounds and not to be heard. How is my right be heard. It created a big impact to me and my family. I lost job without hearing my side. My son stopped for schooling because of financial problem of losing my job to support. A big damage in my part resulting of a hug effect of this incident. Please enlighten me for this.

  7. Norman Laka says

    What are some of the regulations that accredit expatriates to renew contract of employee? Please answer this from the PNG Nationalization Policy perspective

  8. If decease not complete his contract team and passes away, employer will still pay his full team contract?

  9. RENE KOLKMAN says

    Is there a limitation/restriction for any one beyond the age of 65 to obtain a PNG work permit..??

  10. RAMESH says

    Hi, Thank you for your insights. I would like to understand the social security and crime rate in general and towards expats. I have read few blogs there the city is not safe. Can you please share your views so that i can take wiser decision.

    • Mike Moore says

      Ramesh it is fine here as it was b4 2014 or 2015 South Pacific Games but thereafter all is good for now and will certainly be the greatest in tourism in the years to come because of what GOD our Creator has blessed this nation for. What you are reading are past and I am in the now – Dec 2020

  11. Hi, Thank you for your insights. I would like to understand the social security and crime rate in general and towards expats. I have read few blogs there the city is not safe. Can you please share your views so that i can take wiser decision.

  12. Could you please confirm me the age requirement of working in PNG ?

    • Mike Moore says

      Age is not a big deal for as long as you can walk and talk and see – it is our skill and area of expertise that will help PNG people.

  13. Rebecca Ware says

    I sent an inquiry via email to the visa office in PNG as listed on their website and received a response as undeliverable. Can you please post or email me the correct information.

    • George Tipping says

      Response to Rebecca Ware re PNG Embassy, Manila.
      email:kundumnl@immigration.gov.pg Phone: +63-2-8113465/6 Fax: +63-2-8113468
      Location: 3rd Floor, Corinthian Plaza, Paseo de Roxas, Legaspi Village, Makati City, Philippines

  14. Gideon Jack says

    thankyou, its helpful, i have never known the procedures.

  15. George Tipping says

    I would like Scott Roberts to clarify the situation of Expats holding “Working Resident – Resident Long Term” visas, popularly known as Permanent Residence. Do people holding this visa need a work permit ??

  16. John Barnabas Susuve says

    Thanks for the update Sir, a concern which I would like to raise here is that, some foreign owned companies are bringing in their own country men as sales people, project officers etc.. whilst we have qualified Papua New Guineans who can do the job. Later you find the status of their employment to managers and so forth. While the locals who are already employed in these companies are “pushed’ aside. This is employment discrimination. Can the authorities address these issues?

    John B Susuve

  17. Thank’s for this information Scott.

  18. Nathaniel Kupp says

    A general knowledge here for me nd it’s Very helpful.

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