Working and Living in Sri Lanka

Labor market

Finding permanent paid employment is quite difficult. According to countryvv, there are many volunteering and aid projects in Sri Lanka. However, you don’t get any payment for it. Below you will find an overview of the visa requirements for volunteering, as an employee with special knowledge and for students. The applications must be submitted to the Department of Immigration & Emigration in Colombo.

Volunteer Visa

The period of validity is 1 year or according to the length of the project. An extension is possible if necessary. You will need the following documents:

  • Request from the organization you want to work for
  • Recommendation from the relevant ministry
  • If there is an aid agreement between Sri Lanka and the respective country providing the aid work

Student visa

A student visa is valid for 1 year, but can be renewed annually. Enclose the visa application with the recommendation of the Ministry of Higher Education and the invitation letter from the university.

Visa for expatriate personnel

If you have knowledge necessary for specific state-approved projects under the Board of Investment (BOI), you can apply for a residence visa specifically for this purpose. The following documents are required for this:

  • BOI certificate
  • Proof from the company (in the form of a letter or similar) that your knowledge is required
  • Proof that the company is involved in a BOI project
  • Extract from the commercial register of the company
  • Recommendation of the respective ministry
  • A copy of your passport

How long the visa is valid depends on the length of the project. It is possible to renew it every year.

A foreigner who wants to enter Sri Lanka to take up work should ask his future employer in Sri Lanka to obtain approval of the visa from the Controller of Immigration & Emigration. Visas in this category are only issued after approval by the Controller of Immigration & Emigration.

Cost of living

The cost of living is well below European standards. Comfortable houses or apartments can be rented for less than 300 euros.

You would need around € 1,698.70 in Colombo to maintain the same standard of living that you could have in Berlin with € 3,700.00 (assuming you rent in the cities).

  • Consumer prices in Colombo are 52.21% lower than in Berlin (excluding rent)
  • Consumer prices in Colombo are 54.09% lower than in Berlin (including rent)
  • Rental prices in Colombo are 58.27% lower than in Berlin
  • Restaurant prices in Colombo are 66.25% lower than in Berlin
  • Food prices in Colombo are 34.32% lower than in Berlin
  • The local purchasing power in Colombo is 78.07% lower than in Berlin

Average cost of living in Colombo (from 09/2019 – 08/2020)

Restaurant Ø € Price € Price from / to
Food, price w. restaurant 1.36 0.91-2.73
Middle class, 3 courses for 2 people. 13.64 9.10-31.83
Local beer, 0.5 l 1.36 0.82-2.27
Imported beer, 0.33 l 2.27 1.59-4.09
cappuccino 2.01 1.14-3.41
Coca / Pepsi (0.33 l) 0.51 0.27-1.29
Water (0.33 l) 0.21 0.16-0.36
Food Ø € Price € Price from / to
Milk (1 L) 1.05 0.77-1.18
White bread (500g) 0.39 0.27-0.91
Rice (white), (1kg) 0.50 0.36-0.73
Eggs (12) 1.11 0.82-1.36
Local cheese (1kg) 10.09 6.82-18.19
Chicken breast fillet (1kg) 3.07 2.05-4.32
Beef (1kg) 4.85 3.64 – 6.37
Apples (1kg) 2.29 1.36-4.09
Bananas (1kg) 0.81 0.36-1.36
Oranges (1kg) 2.17 0.91-3.64
Tomatoes (1kg) 0.70 0.45-1.36
Potatoes (1kg) 0.78 0.45-1.14
Onions (1kg) 0.68 0.45-0.96
Lettuce (1 head) 0.75 0.45-1.82
Water (1.5 l) 0.36 0.32-0.45
Bottle of wine (middle class) 8.64 5.46-18.19
Local beer (0.5 l) 1.40 0.50 – 2.05
Imported beer (0.33 l) 2.03 1.59-2.96

Average costs for local transport, utilities, clothing, leisure, education of Colombo (from 09/2019 – 08/2020)

Mode of Transport Ø € Price € Price from / to
One-time ticket 0.11 0.07-0.23
Monthly pass 4.55 3.00 – 9.10
Taxi base amount 0.27 0.23-0.45
Taxi 1 km 0.23 0.18-0.32
Ancillary housing costs Ø € Price € Price from / to
for 85 sqm apartment (electricity, water, garbage, etc. 49.40 22.74-90.96
1 minute prepaid mobile tariff 0.01 0.01-0.02
Internet (60 Mbps or more, unlimited data, cable / ADSL) 16.27 11.37-27.29
Clothes, shoes Ø € Price € Price from / to
Jeans (Levis 501 or similar) 24.04 11.37-43.20
Summer dress (Zara, H&M,… 17.62 9.10-31.83
Nike sports shoes, middle class 51.20 22.74-68.22
Leather business shoes 27.16 15.92-54.57
leisure time Ø € Price € Price from / to
Fitness center, month / adult 15.53 9.10-27.29
Tennis, 1 hour on weekends 4.86 2.27-6.82
a movie ticket 3.64 2.73-5.46
training Ø € Price € Price from / to
Preschool / Kindergarten, private, whole day, monthly per child 47.68 22.74-90.96
International primary school per year and child 818.44 454.78-2046.50

Real estate acquisition and rent or lease

In Sri Lanka, the acquisition of real estate by foreigners is only possible through a Sri Lankan corporate structure. Exceptions exist for apartments on or above the fourth floor of a property that falls under the “Apartment Ownership Law”. To do this, the entire purchase price must be paid by international bank transfer prior to the transfer of ownership.

Otherwise, foreigners have to set up two companies to buy real estate and involve a Sri Lankan trustee. However, the buyer retains full control over the property and can also rent it out and sell it again at any time. In this regard, the help of an experienced real estate agency, which already has all the contacts and can process such a purchase quickly and easily, is an advantage.

Foreigners can rent or lease real estate for up to 99 years using an official title. At a later date, the remaining years of a lease can be sold to a third party at any price at any time.

Average rental prices / purchase and salaries of Colombo (from 09/2019 – 08/2020)

Monthly rental price Ø € Price € Price from / to
Apartment (1 bedroom) in the city center 354.73 204.65-846.34
Apartment (1 bedroom) outside the center 155.53 68.22-318.34
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in the city center 930.32 454.78-1,591.72
Apartment (3 bedrooms) outside the center 329.71 159.17-636.69
Purchase price of apartments Ø € Price € Price from / to
Price per square meter for an apartment in the city – purchase 2,183.87 1,364.33-4,547.77
Price per square meter – apartment outside the center – purchase 934.12 587.42 – 1,819.11
wages Ø € Price € Price from / to
Average monthly salary (after taxes) 251.76

Emigration and life in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a very interesting country for vacation purposes. Long-term residence can mainly only be achieved through the “My Dream Home” program (applicant must be at least 55 years old) or as an investor. You should at least master the colloquial English language. Some advantages of the country: tropical climate, no nuclear power, low cost of living (LHK-I 49).

Working and Living in Sri Lanka