Expatriates, Immigrants and the Egyptian Diaspora

Emigrants and the Egyptian diaspora

The size of the Egyptian diaspora is considerable, with major Egyptian communities living in other parts of the Middle East and in North America. There was a total of 3.3 million Egyptians living abroad in 2015, compared to 2.6 million in 2010, indicating that around 661,055 Egyptians emigrated in those five years. Kuwait experienced the highest increase (130.6%) in the number of Egyptian immigrants between 2010 and 2015, while the other top four countries increased by more than 20%.[43]

In 2010, there were 2.6 million Egyptian emigrants around the world, which increased by 25.3% to reach 3.3 million in 2015. The top five destinations of Egyptians living abroad were the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United States of America.[44] More than two-thirds (73%) of Egyptians living abroad in 2015 were resident in these five countries.

Table 5.21: Top five countries of destination (2010 and 2015)

Country Number of Egyptians % Change 2010–2015
2010 2015
United Arab Emirates 755,158 935,308 23.9%
Saudi Arabia 603,000 728,608 20.8%
Kuwait 168,272 387,993 130.6%
Qatar 136,060 163,569 20.2%
United States of America 130,140 159,562 22.6%
Other countries 815,285 893,930 9.6%
Total (World) 2,607,915 3,268,970 25.3%

Source: United Nations, 2015[45]

Tertiary emigration and international student mobility

According to the World Bank, the emigration rate of tertiary educated Egyptians over the age of 24 years to countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) decreased from 6.1% in 1990 to 4.7% in 2000.[46] The OECD figures suggest that the emigration rate of tertiary educated Egyptians over the age of 14 years decreased to 3.6% in 2010/11.[47]

Table 5.22: Emigration rate of tertiary educated Egyptians to OECD countries (1990–2010/11)

Indicator 25 years and older* 15 years and older
1990 2000 2010/11^
Emigration rate of tertiary educated 6.1 4.7 3.6

Sources: *World Bank, 2016[48]; ^OECD, 2015[49]

Egypt’s tertiary emigration rate of 3.6% in 2010/2011 was slightly worse than Libya’s rate (3.1%), but much better than Algeria’s (9.6%), Morocco’s (15.6%), and South Africa’s (12.2%). In Egypt, Algeria and South Africa, a higher share of males with tertiary education are emigrating, whereas a higher share of females with tertiary education are emigrating from Morocco and Libya.[50]

Table 5.23: Regional comparison: Emigration rates of tertiary educated populations (%), 15 years and older, to OECD destinations (2010/11)

  Egypt Algeria Morocco Libya South Africa
Total 3.6 9.6 15.6 3.1 12.2
Males 3.9 10.8 14.4 2.3 13.2
Females 3.2 8.5 17.5 4.0 11.3

Source: OECD, 2015[51]

Table 5.24 below shows that the majority of tertiary educated Egyptians emigrate to the United States (85,800), followed by Canada (35,400) and the United Kingdom (17,100), with only a small number of Egyptians emigrating to Australia and Italy, although these countries are among the top five OECD destinations for highly educated Egyptians.[52]

Table 5.24: The top five OECD destinations for emigration of tertiary educated Egyptians, 15 years and older (2010/11)

Country Number (thousands) Change since 2000/01 (%)
United States 85.8 +27.3
Canada 35.4 +58.2
United Kingdom 17.1 +70.0
Australia 14.9 +48.1
Italy 14.2 +102.3
Total (OECD) 214.9 +42.5

Source: OECD, 2015[53]

Egyptians with a tertiary education are emigrating at a much higher rate than the rest of the population. At 3.6% in 2010/11, the emigration rate of tertiary educated Egyptians was over four times the total emigration rate of 0.8%.[54] In 2014, one in five tertiary educated Egyptians was unemployed (20%). The country is thus losing many of its skilled professionals who seek greener pastures elsewhere. To combat this brain-drain, both the government and private sector should initiate measures to attract and retain Egyptian talent at home.

A number of Egyptians are also studying abroad; in 2012 8,375 of them studied in OECD countries. In 2012, the majority of Egyptian students abroad were in the United States (2,132), followed by France (1,177). However, these two countries witnessed an increase in the number of Egyptian students of 20.6% and 14.1% respectively, between 2008 and 2012. Furthermore, over the same period, the number of Egyptian students studying abroad in the United Kingdom and Germany decreased by 17.1% and 13.6% respectively.[55]

Table 5.25: International students from Egypt in the top five OECD destinations (2008–2012)

Country Number
2008 2010 2012
United States 1,768 2,251 2,132
France 1,032 1,256 1,177
United Kingdom 1,395 1,396 1,156
Germany 1,017 1,275 879
Canada 711 846 831
Total (OECD) 7,397 8,873 8,375

Source: OECD, 2015[56]

The majority of foreign students studying in Egypt (10,273) originate from the East Asia and Pacific region, whereas the majority of Egyptian students studying abroad (11,649) do so in the Arab states, followed by the next highest number that study North America and Western Europe (10,057).[57]

Table 5.26: International student mobility in tertiary education by region (2014)

Region Inbound (by region of origin) Outbound (by host region)
Arab States 5,796 ^11,649
Central and Eastern Europe 831 656
Central Asia 510 13
East Asia and Pacific 10,273 **753
Latin America and the Caribbean *6 ^21
North America and Western Europe 191 10,057
South and West Asia 482 53
Sub-Saharan Africa 3,604 ^37
Total (all countries) 47,815 ^23,475

Source: UNESCO, 2016[58]

In 2014, this net inflow of internationally mobile students amounted to an estimated 24,340. In the same year, foreign students in Egypt accounted for 1.9% of the country’s total tertiary enrolments. By contrast, the number of Egyptian students studying abroad equalled just 0.9% of the total number of tertiary enrolments in Egypt.[59]

Immigrants and visa procedures


The number of immigrants in Egypt increased by a substantial 183% between 1990 and 2015, increasing from 173,708 to 491,643. In table 5.27 below, it can be seen that there are more male than female immigrants in the country.[60]

Table 5.27: Foreigners residing in Egypt estimates at mid-year by sex (1990–2015)

  1990 2000 2010 2015
Male 91,928 92,205 166,071 265,054
Female 81,780 81,247 129,643 226,589
Total 173,708 173,452 295,714 491,643

Source: United Nations, 2015[61]

The top five countries of origin for immigrants in Egypt in 2015 were Palestine, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, and Iraq.[62] (See table 5.28 below.) Immigrants from these countries accounted for more than two-thirds (73.9%) of all immigrants in Egypt in 2015.

Table 5.28: Top five countries of origin (2015)

Country Number
State of Palestine 150,486
Syria 146,837
Sudan 31,589
Somalia 22,709
Iraq 11,877
Other countries 128,145
Total 491,643

Source: United Nations, 2015[63]

In 2016, Egypt’s net migration rate, the difference between the number of people entering and the number leaving the country per 1,000, was -0.5 migrants/1,000 population.[64] This indicates that a higher number of people left Egypt than entered that year.

Expatriates seeking to work in Egypt

Tourist visa

Visitors to Egypt need to apply for a single- or multiple entry tourist visa. The application process to obtain this visa depends on one’s nationality. The best approach is to contact the Egyptian consulate in one’s home country for the most up-to-date information regarding the application process of a tourist visa. This visa is valid for no longer than three months.[65]

Residence visas and work permits

An individual that wishes to study or apply for work in Egypt needs to obtain a residence visa. This visa can last for one, three or five years.[66] Those wishing to work in Egypt must also apply for a work permit. The applicant must provide confirmation of employment with the application for the permit. Furthermore, the employer must provide proof that no Egyptian national can fill the position in order for the application to be considered.[67] The process of obtaining a work permit is complicated, and requires the submission of a significant amount of documentation and can take several months.[68]


In 2015, Egyptians abroad sent home USD 18.3 billion in remittances, which the World Bank estimated would be virtually the same in 2016. The value of the remittances sent to Egypt from abroad more than quadrupled between 1990 and 2015. In 2015, inflows of remittances accounted for 5.5% of the country’s GDP.[69] On the other hand, foreigners living in Egypt sent less than USD 400 million out of the country in 2014, despite this figure being substantially higher (13 times) than in 1990.

Table 5.29: Remittances (USD 000s)

  1990 2000 2010 2015 2016
Inflows 4,280,000 2,850,000 12,453,100 18,325,401 *18,400,000
Outflows 26,500 32,000 304,800 ... ^351,400 

Source: World Bank, 2016[70]
Note: *2016 projection; ^2014 figure

Talent Competitiveness

Egypt ranks in the bottom third (88 out of 118 countries) on The Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2017. The index measures a country’s ability to attract, develop and retain talent. The report scores a country on six indicators: enable (how the environment either facilitates or hinders talent); attract (how attractive the country is to business and talent); grow (opportunities for growth available to talent); retain (quality of life for talent retention); and the quality of available vocation and technical skills and global knowledge skills.

Egypt performs best on ‘global knowledge skills’ (58th), but ranks third-worst in the world for its ‘ability to attract talent’ (116th). The country also scores poorly on its ‘ability to enable talent’ (104th) and its ‘ability to grow talent’ (102nd), possibly due to the mismatch between education available and skills required in the labour market.

Table 5.30: Talent competitiveness (2017)

Indicator Score Rank /118
Overall score 37.33 88
Enable talent 40.18 104
Attract talent 31.42 116
Grow talent 31.16 102
Retain talent 49.57 65
Vocational and technical skills 42.84 69
Global knowledge skills 28.78 58

Source: The Global Talent Competitiveness Index, 2017[71]

  • Country Profile
  • Introduction
  • Broad Economic Indicators
  • Currency and Exchange Rate
  • Competitiveness and Ease of Doing Business
  • Foreign Investment and Largest Companies
  • Foreign Aid
  • Country Strategic Framework
  • Summary of Economic Conditions
  • Implications, Challenges and Recommendations
  • Population
  • Living Standards and Poverty Levels
  • Healthcare
  • Implications, Challenges and Recommendations
  • Qualifications Profile of the Population and Workforce
  • Levels of Schooling and Basic Education
  • Technical and Vocational Education and Training
  • Tertiary Education
  • Innovation in Egypt
  • Implications, Challenges and Recommendations
  • Labour Force
  • Employment by Sector
  • Employment by Skill Level
  • Employment by Occupation
  • Labour Productivity
  • Unemployment and Job Creation
  • Expatriates, Immigrants and the Egyptian Diaspora
  • Wage and Salary Trends and Social Insurance
  • Industrial Relations Framework
  • Labour Market Efficiency
  • The Fourth Industrial Revolution
  • Implications, Challenges and Recommendations

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