erbil: the city

Established during the early Mesopotamian civilizations 10,000 years ago, Erbil is the world's oldest continuously inhabited city. But in the past few decades, the city expanded and developed beyond anyone's expectation. From a small agricultural settlement less than a century ago - where much of the life was centered in the ancient citadel, the city's heart, and the direct vicinity of it - to a well-established Middle Eastern tourism and business destination of 2 million people now.

Its populace is overwhelmingly Kurdish, but there are also significant communities of Assyrian and Chaldean Christians, Turkmen, and increasingly also, a large Arab community hailing from central and southern Iraq. Furthermore, Erbil also has a vibrant, and fast-growing, expat community from more than 100 different nationalities - including Americans, Turks, European Union nationals, Lebanese, Iranians, Asians, Africans and Latin American citizens.

Erbil - since 2003 - is Iraq's fastest growing city. As the capital of the autonomous Kurdistan Region, it's also Iraq's main gate for tourism, business, banking, investments and other sectors. In a few years only, Kurdistan Region has attracted $20 billion in direct investments through the Kurdistan Investment Board, and most of the money has been spent in Erbil.

At the moment, hundreds of large-scale projects are being built in the metropolitan area of Erbil. They include highways, urban rail networks, international and local universities and schools, luxurious five-star hotels managed by global hoteliers, Dubai-styled shopping malls, sports complexes, hospitals and dozens of large-scale residential projects.

The future prospects of the local industry - especially its vital Oil & Gas sector - and its economic situation as a whole may be increasingly governed by developments in the rest of the Middle East, but for now Erbil is a city on the rise and rise.

Kurdistan, the region

The Region of Kurdistan is an autonomous region spanning the northern parts of the Federal Republic of Iraq. It borders Syria to the west, Iran to the east, and Turkey to the north, where fertile plains meet the Zagros mountains, and is traversed by the Tigris, Big Zab, and Little Zab rivers.


The three governorates of Duhok, Erbil and Sulaimaniyah cover slightly more than 40,000 square kilometres - four times the area of Lebanon and larger than that of the Netherlands and Belgium combined, with a population of approximately 6 million and rapidly increasing. ,

The Region is geographically diverse, from hot plains to cooler mountainous areas blessed with natural springs where snow falls in the winter.

Since March 2003 not a single coalition soldier has died nor a single foreigner been kidnapped in the areas administered by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

The capital and seat of the Kurdistan Regional Government is Erbil, a city known locally as Hawler.

The Citadel in Erbil is said to be the longest continually inhabited place in the world.

The Kurdistan Regional Government exercises executive power according to the Kurdistan Region laws as enacted by the democratically elected Kurdistan National Assembly. The current government, led by Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, assumed office on 7 May 2006.

Iraq's Constitution recognises the Kurdistan Regional Government, the Kurdistan National Assembly and the Peshmerga guard as the legitimate regional forces.

The current coalition government consists of several political parties that reflect the diversity of the Region's people, who are Chaldeans, Assyrians, Armenians,Turkmen, Yazidis and Kurds living together in harmony and tolerance.

Since the Anfal genocide campaign by Saddam Hussein's Regime in the 1980s, more than 70% of the razed villages have been rebuilt by the Regional Administration.

The Kurdish language is distinct and is in the family of Iranian languages, such as Persian. There are two main dialects, Sorani and Kurmanji.

The Kurdistan Region has around 20 well-established universities, including the English language University of Kurdistan-Hawler (UK-H) in Erbil which opened in September 2006, the American University of Iraq in Sulaimani (AUI-S) & the Lebanese French University (LFU) that both started their first programmes in 2007 and the American University of Kurdistan – Dohuk (AUK-D) that was established in 2014.

laws for investments in kurdistan

The laws for investment are the friendliest to foreign investors in the entire Middle East.

The Kurdistan Region investment law was passed in July 2006 and an Investment Board was created to manage and promote investment. For more details, please see the full text of the investment law on the official Kurdistan Regional Government website.

The Kurdistan Region investment law was passed in July 2006 and an Investment Board was created to manage and promote investment in Kurdistan. Some highlights of the law are:

Foreign and local investors and capital are treated equally under the law (Article 3).

Foreign and local investors are entitled to own all the capital of any project (Article 3).

The government allocates free or reduced-price land to investment projects that fulfill the criteria (Article 4).

Foreign and local investors are equally entitled to buy and own land for investment purposes (Article 4).

Investors get a 10-year non-custom tax break once they start production or service provision. Raw materials and equipment used in production also get customs relief (Article 5).

kurdistan investment board

The Kurdistan Region's Investment Board , established in summer 2006, oversees and promotes foreign and local investment and is already issuing licenses to suitable investors. KIB was established by the investment law to help carry out the law’s provisions and to facilitate strategically important investment projects.

how to start a business

Starting a new business or expanding into a new area, success depends on good preparation and choosing the right tax structure. This is also the case when you are starting a business in Erbil.

In contrast to other countries within the middle-east zone, there are no special conditions or restrictions for non-Iraqi businesses and individuals when it comes to setting up a new enterprise. The entrepreneur can decide whether to make the enterprise a separate legal tax entity or not.

As in most other countries, setting up a new company in Iraqi Kurdistan requires a series of permits. These vary according to the type of initiative. But in any case you should plan for the following: The law requires that an employer who hires a non-Iraqi employee must apply for a permit. If, as a non-Iraqi company with a new business or subsidiary in Erbil you will bring expat employees here to work, you must first submit applications for them (and their family members). With any production site, under Iraq law you must first conduct a study into any possible environmental impact. When a neutral impact is predicted, an environmental exemption permit is issued. For all new buildings, a building permit is required. Here too there’s a mandatory environmental test.

In principle, an entrepreneur in Kurdistan needs no permit to do business. But for more complex business activities and activities where there is a chance of environmental or social damage, a permit to do business is required.

Under Iraq law, the founder of a start-up company must check whether the company name (or similar) already exists in Iraq. In practice, this audit is done by the notary who sets up the company or by the local chamber of commerce where the company is registered.

new company requirements

Minutes must be taken of an inaugural Board meeting held at the companies registered office in Kurdistan. A Managing Director and all members of the board must be appointed and minutes are signed by all shareholders (or their nominee).

Each shareholder needs to provide two passport photographs and a copy of his/her passport.

A Foundation Contract to be prepared by a lawyer registered in Kurdistan. This is compulsory. A local lawyer must subsequently be retained by the company.

Accounts have to be prepared and signed off by a local accountant who must be a member of the local Syndicate of Accountants.

Company name has to be registered at the relevant Chamber of Commerce in either Erbil, Dohuk or Suleimaniah.

for appointing a local lawyer please contact the kurdistan Lawyers Syndicate:

Mr.Sirwan Allaf

Mr.Kaka Rash Nakshbandi

Estableshment costs

aproximate costs for establishing an office in erbil (As of january 2007 )

Company registration fee: $370

Legal/Solicitor fees: $2,000 - 5,000 depending on size of company

Monthly legal retainer: $ 500

Accountants fees (set-up): $1,000

Monthly accounts thereafter: $200

Office* $2,500 to $3,500 per month

Car & Driver $1,000 per month

Guards** $400 per guard per month

Generator purchase cost $7,000

Diesel and maintenance $300 per month

Office space and housing are the same. There is still a great shortage in designated office space so it is normal to rent a house and turn it into an office with accommodation.

Depending on the size of the company and the number of staff, it is advisable to employ four Guards to work in shifts (two on and two off).

An Office manager would expect a wage in the region of $1,000 - $1.500 per month. If required a secretary/translator would earn approx $700 - 1.000 per month according to age and experience. It is expected to provide lunch and other meals if necessary for staff, a food bill for two people would come to approximately $150 - $200 per month.

developing the business

Erbil city is one of the most growing knowledge-intensive economic regions in the Middle-East. It is an established fact that foreign companies with an office in Erbil grow faster than anywhere else. Measured by the number of active businesses, it has more knowledge institutions, business services and creative companies than anywhere else.

The gap, however, between knowledge acquisition and creation, and its application in products, services and processes, stills leaves something to be desired. And that certainly applies to companies with non-Kurdish owners.

The labor market in Erbil city has been stretched in recent years. To succeed as a relative newcomer in this competitive environment, you need an awareness of the current working conditions, and how to make the most of them.

branch registration

The procedures outlined below can be undertaken by a local lawyer and accountant. The following documents and forms can be provided in English, Kurdish or Arabic:

Certified copy of company's registered name.

Company registration certificate, authorized by the company's country of origin, and certified by the nearest Iraqi embassy or official KRG representation abroad.

Letter from the main company, on company letterhead, authorizing the opening of a branch office in Kurdistan. This letter should identify the branch office's lawyer and accountant (both must be Iraqi), and the authorized branch manager (can be any nationality). At least three residents of the Kurdistan Region as company employees and their positions stated. This letter should also be certified by the nearest Iraqi embassy or an official KRG representation abroad.

Deposit of funds (exact amount depends on the type of company) to be held in escrow by the Kurdistan Regional Government during the period the company operates in the Kurdistan Region. The funds will be returned when the company leaves the Region.

A copy of the main company's financial statements covering the previous year.

A branch registration fee of 200,000 Iraqi Dinars (approximately 175 US Dollar).

Certified rental contract for the branch premises in the Kurdistan Region.

Certified copies of work contracts (if any) that the company has signed in the Kurdistan Region.

The completion of the Foreign Branch or Trade Office Registration Form at http://www.briraq. com/English/formsandinstructs.htm (please note the website is currently unavailable), to reserve and register the branch office.

Certified copies of the passports of foreign partners/employees, and ID cards of Iraqi employees.

Letter from an Iraqi lawyer affirming the validity and legality of all the above documents.

The KRG Ministry of Trade General (Company Registration Directorate) is responsible for company and branch registration.

links and resources

KIB: Kurdistan Board of Investment. Us Consulate-Business in Erbil. Erbil Information Portal. Kurdistan Regional Government.