Afghanistan Compliance Advisory
10 March 2015
Introduction. In continuation of our series, this issue discusses licensing, visas, weapons permits and taxation for contractors and subcontractors operating under the U.S.-Afghanistan Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) or NATO Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), including a transition period announced in Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIROA) Presidential Decree 38. Relevant documents are available here: https://ahg.af/aca/.
Business licensing. All firms providing goods or services in Afghanistan, including on military bases, are required to have an active business license issued by the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency (AISA) before 1 Jun 2015. BSA/SOFA contractors registering for the first time will be eligible to receive a 3 year business license, and those with existing 1 year business licenses will eligible to convert to a 3 year license. Although the procedures for this process have been developed, they have not been implemented as of the date of this advisory and AISA is still issuing 1 year business licenses. The following documents are required for branch office registrations:
Fully authenticated legal Power of Attorney (POA)
Fully authenticated Board Resolution Letter
Copy of the original business license in home country or similar
Copy of the contractor’s Articles of Incorporation in home country or similar
Copy of the contractor’s Taxpayer Identification Number Letter in home country or similar
Copy of rental agreement for office in Afghanistan
Color copy of the passport for selected Branch Office President and VP (if a VP requested)
5 passport size photos each of President and VP (if a VP requested)
Brief description of past and future activities on company letterhead
Experience letter for both President and Vice President (only if in consultancy sector)
For assistance with obtaining, renewing or converting your business license please email us at email@example.com.
Visas requirements. All military airport terminals are expected to have Afghan immigration officials checking visas on passports as of 1 Jun 2015, as is the practice currently at commercial airport terminals. As per the recently agreed MOI Visa Procedures, obtaining a visa for BSA/NATO contractor employees requires the following 7 items:
One visa application form
One passport size photo (attached to application form)
Original passport, valid for at least 6 months
Official letter from any senior representative of the contractor which provides a list of the contractor’s employees who are applying for visas and the name of the representative who will drop off and pick up the passports
Visa payment receipt ($360 visa processing fee for a one-year, multiple entry visa and $200 fee for first-time in country applicants, total $560)
Valid AISA business license of the contractor
One of the following four documents that serve as verification of a contractor employee eligibility:
U.S. Contractors may submit a DOD issued Letter of Authorization (LOA) for each employee; or
NATO Contractors under the NATO Support Procurement Agency (NSPA) may submit a letter on NSPA letterhead containing a list of their employees applying for a visa; or
NATO Contractors under the NATO Communications and Information Agency (NCIA) may submit a letter of Affiliation for each of their employees applying for a visa; or
All other U.S./NATO Contractors may submit a contractor certificate for each employee applying for a visa, issued by the Resolute Support Legal Advisor’s Office.
A group of visa applicants can be submitted together, on one company letter; but the U.S. and NCIA LOAs are of course individual. There are now four entry/exit document options for Afghanistan:
1. Exemption. If in country without a visa, contractors may obtain a NATO visa exemption certificate with an original raised gold seal from the Resolute Support Legal Advisor’s Office. This will work in lieu of a visa only until 1 Jun 2015. However, the best option is to obtain a visa immediately.
2. Outside Afghanistan. The Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, DC is currently providing 1 year multiple entry visas to U.S. contractors without items 6 and 7 above, under the MFA New Visa Policy. It is expected that MFA procedures will eventually also require these 2 items for BSA/SOFA contractors.
3. At the airport. The MFA Consular Office has opened at the Kabul International Airport (renamed now to Hamid Karzai International Airport), located past immigration and baggage collection, on the right after leaving x-ray. As described in Issue 8 under the MFA New Visa Policy, UN passport holders, Afghan refugees, citizens of USA, Canada, Australia, Europe, Japan and Russia, and Service/Diplomatic passports, will be eligible for entry visas on arrival. BSA/SOFA contractors will require the 7 items above.
4. Inside Afghanistan. For non-BSA/SOFA contractors, the visa process currently remains the same as before, requiring a MFA tax number/invitation and pickup a one month entry visa. Once in country, MOLSA is to issue 1 year work permits for which they currently require educational documents, CV, employment contract, passport with latest entry stamp, and tax records (if applicable). The MOI then issues 6 month work visas, renewable for another 6 months. For BSA/SOFA contractors, no work permit is required and the above 7 documents can be submitted to the MOI directly in country.
Weapons permits. See the Contractor Arming FAQs. Contractor Arming authorizations are considered an exception to policy (ETP). Two narrow ETP categories exist:
Armed Security: (5030 MOU) DOD contractors and contractor employees providing armed security services inside NATO/U.S. Agreed Facilities and Areas; and
Self-Defense / Personal Protection Arming: (BSA/PD) DOD contractors and contractor employees who regularly (i.e., at least weekly) perform their contractual duties outside of Agreed Facilities in support of NATO/U.S. missions, including the provision of training, advice, and assistance to Afghan National Security Defense Forces.
Contractors cannot obtain a GIROA weapons permit until they complete the U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A) ACOD Arming Process and obtain a Arming Authorization Letter (AAL). GIROA Weapons Permit is only required for Arming under Self-Defense / Personal Protection. The GIROA Weapons Permit process is not yet complete, but very close and we recommend contractors begin putting their arming documentation together:
USFOR-A Letter of Introduction (LOI)
USFOR-A Arming Authorization Letter (AAL)
DOD issued Letter of Authorization (LOA)
Valid AISA business license of the contractor
Weapons permit payment receipt (5,000 AFN, about $90)
Two passport size photos
Type, serial number and other weapons specifications
The above 7 documents will be submitted to MOI Counter Terrorism Department and a payment slip for depositing fees directly to the bank is issued. The receipt is returned to pickup the hardcopy permit.
Taxation. There continue to be issues around international subcontractor tax exemptions and historical withholding requirements. For a tax compliance overview, see Issue 10. For new tax exemption application procedures, see Issue 9. For a listing of tax liabilities in Afghanistan, see Issue 8. For access to all tax laws, guides, instructions and forms, please see here. For assistance with taxation in Afghanistan, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.