Maldives Expat Guide – that will be the topic of today’s article.
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Table of Contents
If you haven’t heard about the country, Maldives is a group of more than 1,000 islands in the Indian Ocean.
It is renowned for crystal clear emerald waters, exotic beaches that stretch to great lengths, and exquisite overwater bungalows.
Because of the waters and overwater villas, it has become one of the famous destinations for honeymoons.
Let us take a look at a few fun facts about the island country before we get to our actual topic.
— It happens to be the world’s flattest country. The highest point in this island country is just 2.3 metres above sea level.
— It has been proven that Maldives is gradually sinking into the ocean. This is because of the increased factors that damage the environment. The government, now, has strict rules regarding the environmental laws in Maldives.
— As the country lies on the equator, the sunlight hits the Maldives at a 90-degree angle.
— Maldives is known to have authentic white sand beaches unlike other countries’ white beaches with yellow sand.
— Even though there are 1,200 islands in the country, only 200 are inhabited. Of these 200, 110 islands are being used for tourism-related purposes.
— The majority of the world’s marine turtles and whale sharks are located here.
— Like some other Islamic countries, Maldives has its weekend on Friday and Saturday.
— On October 17, 2009, then-president Mohammed Nasheed conducted a cabinet meeting underwater.
You might never have heard that you can actually move to the Maldives and stay there as an expat.
Now, let us have some in-depth information that is beneficial for expats in the Maldives.
In this article, we will discuss the topics such as currency, banking, taxes, and insurance.
The currency of Maldives is called “Maldivian Rufiyaa” and is often represented as “MVR” or “Rf”.
The supervision of currency in the Maldives is taken care of by Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA).
The Maldivian Rufiyaa is further divided into 100 sub-units, which are called “Laari”.
The banknote denominations available in the Maldivian currency are as follows.
• Rf. 5/-
• Rf. 10/-
• Rf. 20/-
• Rf. 50/-
• Rf. 100/-
• Rf. 500/-
• Rf. 1,000/-
• Rf. 5,000/-
Among these banknotes, the Rf. 1,000/- and Rf. 5,000/- are rarely used in the country. The remaining banknotes are more prevalent and you can make use of them at various places.
The coins available for usage in the Maldives are given below.
• 1 Laari
• 2 Laari
• 5 Laari
• 10 Laari
• 25 Laari
• 50 Laari
• Rf. 1/-
• Rf. 2/-
The 50 laari, Rf. 1/- and Rf. 2/- are seen to be used more frequently. Even though the other coins are in existence, people rarely use them.
By the time of writing this article, i.e., on 2nd November, Rf. 1/- is equivalent to USD 0.065.
Now, let us have a look at the banking system in Maldives.
The banking system in the Maldives does not need a lot of explaining to do.
To be specific, there are eight banks in the Maldives, which are as follows.
— Bank of Maldives
— Maldives Islamic Bank
— Commercial Bank of Maldives
— Mauritius Commercial Bank Maldives Pvt. Ltd.
— Bank of Ceylon
— State Bank of India
— Habib Bank Limited
— The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC)
Of these banks, three banks are local while four of them are branches of foreign banks.
Mauritius Commercial Bank was launched as a foreign bank branch, but it was converted.
The regulation and supervision of the banks are handled by the Maldives Monetary Authority.
Residents in the Maldives are taxed on their worldwide income. Temporary residents and non-residents are only taxed on the income obtained from the Maldives.
Tax residency in the Maldives is determined based on the following factors.
• If an individual’s permanent place of living is located in the Maldives.
• Individuals who are staying or intend to stay in Maldives for 183 days or more. This shall be calculated during the beginning or end of a tax year in Maldives.
Employees and government officials who have been sent abroad are also considered residents.
People who are issued a permit from the Maldives Immigration Authority are temporary residents.
However, if you marry a resident in the Maldives, you will not become a temporary resident.
Those who aren’t either residents or temporary residents are non-residents.
The tax rates on personal income range from 5.5% to 15% in the Maldives. However, the actual tax rate depends on the income bracket.
There is no tax for an amount up to Rf. 720,000/- and the tax is capped at 15% on the amount exceeding Rf.2,400,000/-.
Everyone must take part in the Retirement Pension Scheme of Maldives. It is obligatory for them to do so until they reach retirement age.
It is required for both the employer and the employee to contribute 7% (each) of the pensionable wage.
Capital gains in the Maldives are concluded under the total income of a person. Therefore, unlike most countries, capital gains aren’t taxed separately in Maldives.
The normal GST (Goods and Services Tax) is taxed at a rate of 6% in the Maldives. On the supply of tourism goods and services, a GST rate of 12% is applicable.
People who are subject to GST can opt for a tax credit for that paid on the purchase of goods and services.
The following taxes are not imposed on the tax residents or foreigners in Maldives.
— Net wealth/worth tax
— Inheritance tax
— Estate tax
— Gift tax
— Property tax
— Excise tax
— Luxury tax
To know details regarding the taxation on personal income, click on the links given below.
Foreign Tax Relief and Tax Treaties
Tax Administration and WHT (Withholding Tax)
Corporate Income Tax (CIT)
Tax residents in the Maldives are taxed on their worldwide income. Non-residents are only taxed on the income obtained from Maldivian sources.
The corporate income for an amount up to Rf. 500,000/- is free from taxes. The amount exceeding Rf. 500,000/- is liable for taxes at a CIT rate of 15%.
Banks, on the other hand, are taxed at a rate of 25%, which is irrespective of income bracket.
The tax rate for non-resident international transport operators is 2%. This includes the non-resident operators for transportation of the following.
This tax applies for all the above categories transported through a ship or an aircraft.
An entity would be considered a tax resident in the Maldives under the following circumstances.
Companies which are:
• Incorporated in Maldives
• Having headquarters in Maldives
• Being controlled or managed from Maldives
Partnerships that are:
• Formed in Maldives
• Being controlled or managed from Maldives
Trusts, which are:
• Formed or settled in the Maldives
• Heritage Trust of a late person who was a Maldivian resident
• Operated in the Maldives at any point of time in a tax year
Any entity that doesn’t come under the above-mentioned classes will fall under the non-resident category.
Healthcare and Insurance
Over the past few years, Maldives has experienced a lot of changes in its healthcare system.
Advanced medical care is available to all the citizens in the Maldives. However, only three major hospitals in Male have exceptional medical facilities.
If an individual is having a severe illness or chronic medical conditions, they are to be treated abroad.
The options are India, Singapore, and Sri Lanka for those who wish to acquire necessary medical care.
Citizens get the privilege of annual medical coverage, which is funded by the Maldivian government.
Employers who have foreign staff must pay an upfront fee for complete healthcare coverage.
The following aspects are covered in the Maldives’ healthcare coverage.
— Emergency evacuation
— Prescribed medication
— In-patient services
— Out-patient services
— Treatment overseas, under special circumstances
Even though the employees have free healthcare, it is wise for expats to get private health insurance.
The private health insurance will cover emergency evacuation and hospital transfers. This will be beneficial for expats, especially during severe health issues.
The public healthcare sector operated in a 5-tier hierarchical system, yet nobody follows this system. Patients usually avail of healthcare services regardless of the hierarchical system.
Most public hospitals in the Maldives lack efficient doctors as well as advanced medical equipment.
Nonetheless, the Maldivian government is making some serious efforts to overcome this issue.
The private healthcare sector is much more efficient compared to the public healthcare sector in the Maldives.
Around 50 clinics along with a couple of tertiary hospitals come under the private healthcare sector.
Private clinics in the Maldives have well-organized doctors and effective medical services.
Besides all these aspects, Maldives still experiences a lack of proper medical services. In most cases, patients need to be evacuated to the neared country such as Singapore, India, or Sri Lanka.
Pharmacies in Maldives have good quality medicines available at all times. Some of the best pharmacies are in the major islands such as Male.
Certain specific medications may not be available at all times in the Maldives.
Expats in the Maldives are required to have effective international health insurance.
This policy would cover certain aspects such as medical evacuation and airlifting during emergencies.
Many international insurance plans are accepted by public and private healthcare facilities.
The literacy rate in the Maldives in 2022 is provided below.
• 99.78% (for the male population)
• 99.84% (for the female population)
There are two different education systems concerning primary education in Maldives.
First, the old schools, which are traditional Islamic schools with the language as Dhivehi.
Anyhow, the Maldivian government is focusing on modern English schools, which enhance literacy levels.
It is expected to start primary school at an age of five years in the Maldives. It takes around five years to completion of primary education in Maldives.
Middle education is mandatory and the standards differ between major islands and smaller islands. It takes another five years to complete middle-level education in the Maldives.
Secondary education in the Maldives comprises high schools with grades 11 and 12.
Upon completing secondary education, students become eligible for tertiary education.
In general, highly skilled students travel abroad to get better sorts of education.
Vocational education is for young people who were unsuccessful in completing their formal education.
Maldives College of Higher Education became Maldives National University, which was the first of its kind.
It was established along with the National University Act, which came into effect in 2011.
Located in Male, the Maldives National University has the following departments.
— Engineering Technology
— Health Sciences
— Hospitality & Tourism
— Islamic Studies
— Management & Computing
— Shari’ah & law
— Center for Maritime Studies
— Open Learning
Some other institutions offering higher education in the Maldives are as follows.
— Cyryx College
— Mandhu College
— Villa College
— MAPS College
— Ixcel Centre for Professional Studies
— Avid College
— Maldives Business School
— Maldives Polytechnic
As said earlier, It is wise for expats to send their children abroad for higher education.
According to the World Population Review website, Maldives has a crime rate of 55.34%.
Most tourists stay at resorts, where crime levels are comparably low in the Maldives.
However, petty crimes such as theft of goods might occur at beaches and hotels.
It is advised to take care of valuable possessions and not to leave them unattended anywhere.
The average salaries in the Maldives range from 11,000 MVR to 40,000 MVR. However, the maximum for average salaries can be up to 80,000 MVR depending on some factors.
People from the technology and management sectors are known to get the highest salaries.
Nonetheless, the average salary does come short of the average cost of living in the Maldives.
Therefore, instead of searching for employment in the Maldives, it is better to have income sources from abroad.
Cost of Living
The cost of living for a single person in the Maldives can be around 19,000 Rufiyaa to 33,000 Rufiyaa.
Whereas a family of four people require something around 46,000 Rufiyaa to 66,000 Rufiyaa.
The actual cost of living of an individual or a family will depend on certain factors. Such contributing factors include lifestyle, location, etc.
However, the costs represented in this article can be used for reference purposes rather than actual costs.
That being said, given below are some of the costs in the Maldives.
Milk (1 litre): 30 to 35 Rufiyaa
White bread (500g): 19 to 22.50 Rufiyaa
Rice (5kg): 170 Rufiyaa
Eggs (1): 2 to 31 Rufiyaa
Local cheese (1kg): 140 to 260 Rufiyaa
Potatoes (1kg): 14 to 17 Rufiyaa
Tomatoes (1kg): 35 to 46 Rufiyaa
Onions (1kg): 17 to 60 Rufiyaa
Apples (1kg): 46 to 70 Rufiyaa
Chicken (1kg): 45 to 85 Rufiyaa
Beef (1kg): 120 Rufiyaa
Water bottle (1.5 litres): 8 Rufiyaa
Wine (mid-range): 65 to 150 Rufiyaa
Domestic beer (0.5 litres): 30 to 60 Rufiyaa
Imported beer (0.33 litre): 190 Rufiyaa
Marlboro (20s pack): 90 to 100 Rufiyaa
Monthly public transport costs around 300 to 340 MVR, and a one-way ticket will cost 12.50 MVR.
A new car such as a Volkswagen golf 1.4 tsi would cost around 375,753 to 700,000 MVR.
Rent and Utilities
The prices related to renting in the Maldives are as follows.
A single-bedroom apartment in a city locality would cost around 13,400 MVR to 16,300 MVR.
A single-bedroom apartment outside a city locality would cost around 9,200 MVR to 12,200 MVR.
A three-bedroom apartment in a city locality would cost around 25,500 MVR to 27,000 MVR.
A three-bedroom apartment outside a city locality would cost around 20,300 MVR to 21,500 MVR.
For utilities, an individual is expected to pay up to 1,050 MVR to 2,320 MVR. This includes basic utilities such as heating, cooling, electricity, water, etc.
The costs to be paid for utilities depend on the number of people, location, size of the apartment, etc.
Internet in the Maldives would cost around 640 MVR to 1,400 MVR depending on the internet speed.
Buying a property
You can buy a single-bedroom villa in the Maldives for an amount of USD 1.5 million (approx.). However, luxury properties in the Maldives start from USD 4 million and vary depending on the location.
If you are ready to put in a considerable amount, you can even buy a villa on water or beachfront property.
As an expat, you may not be allowed to buy a property in the Maldives. Anyhow, you either invest in an existing property or you can lease a property.
Leases are allowed for a period of up to 50 years in the Maldives. Upon the expiry of a lease, leaseholders or successors can renew the lease at market rates.
Disclaimer: All the statistics in this article have been gathered from the following websites.
These values should be taken for general reference purposes rather than being treated as actual values. Even if they are accurate, they might change by the time you read this.
According to the information obtained from the Maldives Immigration website, there are five visas.
You can click on these links to get access to the info on the necessary documentation and other information.
Now, let us briefly discuss each type of visa in the Maldives.
A tourist visa is provided for all foreign nationals and is valid for 30 days. You can apply for this visa upon arrival in the Maldives, yet you must qualify for entry requirements.
This visa is not for you if you want to get involved with business, profession, or employment.
This is provided to individuals who want to live and work in the Maldives. To apply for this, you will have 15 days from the date of your arrival in Maldives.
A work permit is to be issued by the Ministry of Economic Development. This should not exceed 90 days from the date of issuance of the visa.
Re-entry is possible even without a visa if you have a valid work permit. Those who fail to get this visa during their employment in Maldives will be deported back.
The employer or a representative of the employer is responsible for applying for this visa.
This is a temporary visa for business people, who intend to access multiple entries to the Maldives. The specific business purposes for this visa can include meetings, seminars, etc.
While applying for this visa, you must submit proof of business. A letter from the individual or entity hosting the business event should also suffice.
This visa is for individuals who are married to a Maldivian citizen. This applies to those who already married a Maldivian or travelling to marry a Maldivian.
Upon arrival, you must register your marriage, and then enter a sponsorship applied through IMUGA. IMUGA is a digital platform for immigration services in the Maldives.
Following your arrival, you have to complete the legal marriage procedure and apply for this visa. Note that you have to apply for this marriage visa within 30 days after this process.
Those who are already on a visa in Maldives can transfer their visa to a marriage visa.
This visa allows the entry of the dependent family of a citizen. The person who is bringing their dependents into the country should have a work permit and residence permit.
Dependents are only allowed to stay for a short time unless they too apply for a residence permit.
Permanent Residence and Citizenship
People who intend to become permanent residents in the Maldives should get a resident visa/permit.
A residence permit is only offered to an individual who is legally married to a Maldivian (Muslim).
Another way of obtaining a residence permit is by investing in a local business. This type of visa is known as a Corporate Resident Visa in the Maldives.
There are three methods to obtain a Corporate Resident Visa in Maldives.
Investment amount ranges from USD 250,000 to USD 1,000,000 depending on the method chosen.
To access more information regarding the Corporate Resident Visa in the Maldives, click here.
There are three ways to acquire Maldivian citizenship, which are as follows.
— Citizenship by birth
— Having at least one parent as a Maldivian citizen
— Permanent residency
For those who do not meet these criteria and still want to be a citizen, there is only one option.
You can apply to the ministry of foreign affairs and wait for the president to approve your application.
To be a citizen in the Maldives, one must satisfy the following requirements.
— Be a Muslim
— At least 21 years old
— Be mentally fit
— Must have been in the Maldives for at least 12 years
— Have enough knowledge of the constitution and culture
— Good communication skills in Dhivehi
— No criminal record
There is availability for dual citizenship in Maldives.
There is no specific retirement visa in the Maldives and you should get a residence permit to retire there.
The average salaries may or may not be enough for leading a comfortable life in the Maldives.
Maldives can be an advantageous place to settle down if you are a digital nomad or a retiree. I wouldn’t suggest it if you are seeking employment in Maldives while intending to settle there.
Moreover, consider the cost of living as the Maldives is certainly the cheapest of the places to live.
If you are looking for someone who can take care of your expat financial needs or manage your wealth, then you are in the right place.
I offer best-in-class services to my clients, which are concentrated towards investment advice, financial planning, and wealth management.
Don’t hesitate to contact me if you are dealing with financial difficulties and want to achieve financial freedom.
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