Working in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan has a small, struggling economy, stunted by political strife since its independence from Russia in 1991. As a whole, the country is a predominantly agricultural society. A large percentage of Kyrgyzstan’s GDP comes from mining, foreign remittances, and by re-exporting Chinese goods to other parts of Central Asia (made possible by Kyrgyzstan’s membership in the World Trade Organisation).

Finding a job in Kyrgyzstan

Expats working in Kyrgyzstan are mainly employed by the development sector, either for large, international organisations like the United Nations, European Commission and GTZ, or for smaller non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

working in KyrgyzstanMost expatriates will earn salaries far lower than what is possible in Western countries, or even other expat destinations. That said, most expats don’t move to Kyrgyzstan to become rich.
Working in Kyrgyzstan provides expats with the opportunity to live cheaply and experience a new culture and working environment. Kyrgyzstan has received relatively less developmental aid and attention than other developing countries, and does not suffer from “aid fatigue”; a circumstance that presents plenty of chances for expat workers to take part in and accomplish fulfilling and meaningful development projects.

In addition to development opportunities, there are several foreign-owned mining companies operating in Kyrgyzstan, the largest of which is Canada’s Kumtor, which exports gold. The American Transit Centre Manas (formerly known as Manas Air Base) also employs several hundred American contractors. Native speakers of English, and European languages to a lesser extent, are always in high demand as teachers across all education levels.

As most international organisations and NGOs are required to post job openings online, interested expatriates should research the websites of organisations and companies operating in Kyrgyzstan. It is not impossible to find such a position once in Kyrgyzstan, but most employers advertise and hire for positions based on online correspondence instead of looking for potential candidates who are already located in-country.

Getting a work permit in Kyrgyzstan

getting a work permit for KyrgyzstanEvery foreigner planning to work in Kyrgyzstan must have a work permit. Most employers will organise the visa and work permit, and expats should be wary of language schools and smaller organisations that do not assume this burden. It can be a difficult process to get all the necessary documentation, and it almost always takes longer than the unsponsored 30-day visa will allow.

Business etiquette in Kyrgyzstan

The Kyrgyz work week is Monday through Friday, and the typical work day is eight to nine hours. Teachers could have an altered schedule depending on their class load.
Punctuality is not an obvious aspect of business in Kyrgyzstan and expatriates should be prepared to plan meetings around the participants arriving at least 15 minutes late.
Men must always shake every man’s hand, whether meeting him for the first time or not. Some Kyrgyz men are not comfortable shaking a woman’s hand, although this attitude is changing. When preparing business cards to distribute Kyrgyzstan, it is useful to have your information printed in both English and Russian. Expatriates should dress nicely for business purposes and always remember to keep their shoes clean.

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Our Kyrgyzstan Expert

KirstinStyers's picture
Washington DC, USA. Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
I'm a 23-year old media analyst starting a research organization in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. I previously lived in Jordan and... more

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