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Your guide to living and working in Erbil, Kurdistan

Posted by: Christopher Cunnane

Erbil, also known by its Kurdish name, Hawler, is the capital of Kurdistan and has a population of 1.5 million. Erbil is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, with life in the city dating as far back as 6000 B.C.
Erbil is far from what you’d expect from an Iraqi city, with shopping centres, high rise building, and fancy hotels everywhere. Old and new coexist side-by-side in a city where a few minutes’ walk can take you from your five-star hotel to a bustling street bazaar.
Erbil’s spectacular ancient citadel is a highlight for everyone visiting the city. A UNESCO World Heritage site offers a wealth of sightseeing opportunities. The citadel towers above Erbil and invites exploration of its wonderful castle, the Mulla Afandi mosque and its 18th century hamman, or bath house. 
If you love a spot of retail therapy, then there’s tons of opportunities in Erbil. One of the most modern and biggest shopping centres in the whole of Iraq is based there; the Majidi Mall has all the shops you’d expect to find back home, with familiar high street fashion brands and fast food chains. Another must visit is the Qaysari bazaar; based in the city’s biggest square, this lively market is a great spot to find some hidden treasures and to test your bargaining skills!

Healthcare in Erbil

Health services are readily available in Erbil. There are both privately run, and government funded hospitals in Erbil that cover a wide range of specialties. 
The number for the ambulance service is in Kurdistan is 122

Safety and Security

Foreigners should try to avoid travelling outside of Kurdistan, as other regions of Iraq and borders with neighbouring countries can be very dangerous. It’s advisable for all visitors to carry ID with them everywhere you go, to avoid being detained by the local authorities. Taking photos of checkpoints and military personnel is strictly forbidden and could lead to confiscation of your camera and potential detention.
The emergency number for the police is 144-124-104.
Many overseas businesses are using Erbil as their Iraqi base due to it having a strong presence of government security. Erbil has several booming industries with a youthful population, it’s a place filled with opportunities and ambition. 

Local Economy

Erbil is the hub of Kurdistan’s oil and gas industries and is the nation’s most profitable export. In addition to this, tourism is currently booming and FDI in the trade has increase significantly in the last few years which has seen tons of luxury hotels popping up all over the city. Investors have also taken a key interest in the lucrative agriculture, education and communications sectors.  
The Kurdistan Regional Government actively promotes speculation and enterprise; through incentive schemes, customs related tax exemptions, and investment protection guarantees, Kurdistan, and Erbil in particular, is the most facilitating and free place to do business in the entire country. 
All these factors have led to Kurdistan having one of the fastest growing economies in the world, with the past ten years witnessing a steady GDP growth of between six and ten per cent. 
Taxation in Erbil
A flat rate of 5% is applied to all personal income in Kurdistan. All employers must register all employees with the Labour and Social Security Department for a compulsory 5% social security tax to be deducted. Contributions for employers are 12%.
Expats are required to pay taxes on their income if they reside and produce income in the country for 4 consecutive months or for a total of 6 months during the tax year.
The corporate income tax is 15% of the taxable income.

WRS capabilities

Oil and gas projects in Kurdistan require very specific expertise. WRS can supply experienced expatriate and Kurdish national personnel with the local knowledge required to complete your projects.
Worldwide Recruitment Solutions are actively seeking both local and expatriate talent within the Kurdistan region, and are also building our network of Kurdish professionals in other areas of the world who may be looking to return to the region.
WRS offer our clients a fully bespoke, unique and tailored managed services option, which means that, all your recruitment needs for a specific project or location can be outsourced to us. This can include outsourcing of your contracted workforce, your permanent recruitment process or a combination of both along with several bespoke services that are coordinated by your dedicated account manager.
The WRS Energy Division has been placing contract and permanent candidates in the oil and gas industry since 2010. Our consultants have access to a huge network of potential candidates and the means to draw upon a further pool of active and passive candidates through candidate attraction. We are focused on the recruitment support of upstream and exploration companies from people to work in your busy head office to the harshest of offshore environments.
WRS work in partnership with your business to find the talent you need, providing recruitment services within the sector for the last 10 years. At WRS we pride ourselves on our ability to source, select and shortlist candidates that not only fulfil the role on a professional level but also have the correct cultural fit for your organisation.
WRS can save you time and money by supporting internal resources by providing you with the best pre-qualified candidates when you need them. We are a globally-focused recruitment business with offices in Europe, the Middle East, APAC and the Americas, supporting the needs of energy companies around the world. We employ specialist sector consultants, who can help you to identify the expatriate and local personnel you need to keep your business moving.


Added-value services ensure that your project goes ahead as smoothly as possible. WRS can assist with local accommodation, security, travel arrangements (including visas and transportation), medical and travel insurance and repatriation concerns.


WRS work on a global scale from our offices in Kurdistan, the UK, Singapore and North America, and supply personnel across the whole spectrum of disciplines, including (but not limited to):

  • Geoscience
  • Reservoir and Petroleum Engineering
  • Subsea Engineering, Design, Installation and Maintenance
  • Upstream Drilling, Wells and Completions
  • Pipeline Engineering
  • Project Engineering and Management
  • Process, Mechanical, Structural, Electrical and Instrumentation Engineering
  • Maintenance and Integrity
  • HSE
  • Country Management
  • Operations
  • Divisional Heads
  • Finance

Interested in working in Iraqi, Kurdistan?

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