Facts about Albania
Albania is Europe’s western entrance gate into the Balkan region. It connects the Western and Eastern Balkans through water, air and land. Albania is mainly characterized by a young, multilingual population, primarily focused in technology fields. Its geographical position, history, and low cost of living make Albania an ideal place to live and work.
Albania occupies a strategic geographical location in South-Eastern Europe along the Strait of Otranto which links the Adriatic Sea with the Ionian Sea, separating Albania from Italy.
The country is rich in water resources with the main rivers being extensively managed to generate hydroelectricity.
It has nearly 450 km (280 miles) of seacoast along the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. Over a third of Albania's territory is forested and the country is very rich in flora. Other natural resources include petroleum, natural gas, coal, bauxite, chromites, copper, iron ore, nickel, salt, timber, and hydropower.
Albania shares a border with Greece to the south/southeast, North Macedonia to the east, Kosovo to the northeast, and Montenegro to the northwest.
The capital city of Albania is Tirana. Other major cities include Durrës, Vlorë, Fier, and Shkodër. The country is in the Central European time zone, one hour ahead of the Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Much of Albania’s landscape is mountainous – the average height above sea level is 708 m, (2,336 feet) and its highest peak, Mount of Korabi, is 2,753 m (9,085 feet).
Albania has a young population with 1.6 million residents between the ages of 20 and 60. There is a total population of more than 2.8 million people, with an additional 2.5 million Albanian speakers found in the bordering countries of Kosovo, Montenegro, and North Macedonia.
Education is of high priority among the youth, with more than 20k students graduating from university every year and 40% of people between ages 25-64 speaking at least one foreign language, predominantly English.
Albania is currently waiting for the opening of negotiations for the European Union accession. There has been noticeable progress in key sectors such as the rule of law and reform in justice. Even though there is room for improvement, Albania is paying particular attention to potential investors. The most successful managers and entrepreneurs believe that if individuals understand the key sectors, that is the appropriate place to invest. If they study the country's market conditions carefully, they will succeed in every country they will support.
Tech/Startup in Albania
Even though it is in the early stages, the ecosystem of startups in Albania is developing rapidly and the Albanian young entrepreneurs are launching innovative startups and business ideas continually. Albania is home to Aladini, Publer, Baboon, EasyPay, GreenLeaf, Division5, Kreatx etc. Many youth organizations such as EU for Innovation, EBRD, Code for Albania and the government are also running startup programs and competitions to raise awareness about the importance of entrepreneurship, to boost and encourage the creation of new startups and innovative ideas in Albania. Their goal is to learn and grow following the footsteps of Europe and the world, to strengthen the vital collaboration among the community members and early-stage investors. There’s great potential, and in collaboration with all the stakeholders we are on the way to make it happen.
You can find more about the challenges of the Albanian start-up ecosystem here.
Albania is also one of the best places for digital nomads, here is the story of Anita Hendrieka who has been living as a digital nomad in Albania for about 2 years. Some of the reasons why you should choose Albania as a digital nomad include:
- High-speed internet
- Countless coffee shops
- Co-working spaces
- Affordable cost of living
- Delicious food
- Gorgeous coastal cities
- The rich history and traditions of various destinations
- Friendly locals who speak foreign languages
Law on Foreigners
There is a lot of potential for Albania (especially for regional cities) to establish self-employment and low capital requirements to set up ICT businesses. With a young, multilingual population looking for self-employment and low capital requirements, Albania has quickly become an ICT start-up hub.
Entrepreneurship promotion is gaining significance in universities across the country, making good use of the funds and knowledge they pursue as part of European-funded projects.
The Albanian government prioritizes the development of technology in the country. As a result, taxation in the field of information technology has decreased in recent years from 15% to 5%. In addition, legal policies on startups are currently being approved, aiming to create special institutions for support during the incubation phase.
Read more on Doing Business in Albania here.
To coordinate donor organizations and the government in the area of entrepreneurship promotion, recent efforts by the government are directed towards developing a “Start-up Law” in a joint collaborative approach.
Albanian legislation not only permits but encourages foreign investment in many sectors of the economy. Foreign investors are allowed to participate in the economic activity, being treated equally with Albanian residents, and also have the opportunity to take disputes to court. Provisions regarding domestic and international commercial arbitration are incorporated into the Albanian Code of Civil Procedure.
The regulatory measures taken by the Bank of Albania, led to the stabilization and improvement of capitalization, liquidity, and profitability indicators of the banking system. This resulted in an upward trend in the credit support of the economy during 2010-19. The easing of lending terms and the upward interest of the banks in financing domestic consumption and investments, decreased uncertainty and risk premiums, as well as the overall sound balance sheets of businesses and consumers, are expected to continue to stimulate the domestic demand.
Albania, a beautiful country tucked away in Southeastern Europe is full of investment opportunities available to everyone. From regular individuals to venture capitalists, business investment opportunities are endless. According to Business Insider, foreign investors do not face any challenges with direct investing. Moreover, the country has overall high scores in the environmental performance index, the standard of living, and the happiness index according to Yale University and The Happy Planet Index. Foreigners can easily interact with friendly locals and feel at home while starting their business and working towards their goals.
In addition, the government of Albania has drafted provisions that are attractive to large businesses. This includes a young well-educated workforce, free trade zones, lower wages compared to other European countries, 100% foreign ownership of businesses, government protection for businesses, no cap on profit, and tax benefits. As a fast-developing nation that is welcoming foreign investments and companies, individuals will not encounter red tape and bureaucracy while conducting business activities.
The world bank has referenced notable success stories in Albania for startup ventures that have grown over the years. Larger businesses have been able to show substantial profits in varied sectors that include IT, fin-tech, banking, financial services, construction, and service industries.
Through the perspective of a unique lens, AIDA develops services to promote, encourage, and attract strategic investments. The agency undertakes all the necessary initiatives for the development of the private sector and the improvement of the business climate by following and assisting private commercial entities in all phases of their business activity.
AIDA has a proactive role in approaching foreign investors present in Albania through aftercare services and by creating an effective network of communication and close cooperation with important stakeholders at the local and central level. This in turn promotes reinvestment back into the country. Promotion efforts are also related to the ongoing engagement with investors who are already present in Albania. By providing effective services and keeping communication channels open, AIDA gains trust, visibility, and credibility for other potential investors who will engage with us for their plans to invest in Albania.
Creating a business in Albania has been made easier through the establishment of the National Business Center, as a single one-stop-shop for providing business registration and licensing services. These administrative services are done through simple electronic procedures, in a short time and with symbolic tariffs.
Albania offers very lenient legislation in regards to foreign investing. The Law “On Foreign Investments” is based on the principles of equal treatment, non-discrimination, and protection of foreign investments.
Law no. 55/2015 was passed on January 1, 2016 aiming to increase domestic and foreign strategic investments, through the establishment of special administrative procedures favoring, facilitating, or accelerating the support and services to investors.
SmartCapital breaks some of the traditional barriers SMEs face, by providing access to Capital and Smart Technologies directly to Entrepreneurs. Beginning in 2016, the objectives of the 5-year program are to facilitate $33 Million of Investments, $22 Million of Financing and create 1500 new jobs.
How to register your business online through e-Albania
Reasons to invest in Albania
Innovative Development for Entrepreneurs in Albania
An American perspective on Albanian economics
Connect Albania program: a new investment mechanism
Travel and work in Albania are relatively easy to access. Citizens of the EU, Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, Iceland, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland, USA and holders of a valid Schengen visa can enter into Albania without an entry visa document at the border. They are allowed to stay within the Albanian territory for up to 90 days within a 180 day period. Otherwise, they need to apply for a residence permit. The duration of a residence permit may be for several years or permanent. Foreigners who come to Albania for work purposes need to obtain a work permit with the Albanian Labor Inspectorate unless they come to the country on business trips, i.e. the duration of stay is less than 30 days in a six month period.
Road infrastructure in Albania has undergone major transformations within the last few decades and products can get anywhere in Europe within 3 days. Albania has several ports in the country, with the Port of Durres being the largest. The Mother Teresa International Airport in Tirana offers direct flights across Europe. Albania is a member of the Pan-European Corridor system. The Pan-European Corridor VIII passes through the country via the A3 Highway. The route starts in Durrës on the Adriatic Sea and continues east to North Macedonia and Bulgaria, ending at the Black Sea.
A striking but overlooked destination, Albania is the perfect blend of the Mediterranean natural beauty mixed with the authentic history of the Balkans. This region has the ability to change your perspective on life especially when contemplating your next vacation. Albania offers a great adventure packaged in one small country. Whether it's relaxing by the beach, outdoor adventures, cultural and historical tourism, visitors have many options to enjoy. There is a rich history of prehistoric inhabitants, ancient settlements, pirates, invaders, and recently tourists. Some of the striking geographic landscapes include: the long coastlines of the Adriatic and Ionian seas, lakes, rivers, lagoons, protected areas, natural reserves, World Heritage sites, remote villages, caves, curative waters, and hiking trails.
Massive tourism is still unknown appealing to adventurous travellers looking for an authentic experience and not overcrowded destinations. However, newspapers, magazines, and traveling blogs are writing extensively about Albania resulting in new popularity among tourists. Therefore, the sooner you visit the better!
Besides being blessed with natural beauty, Albania is very affordable and safe even for solo travellers. In a continuous fight against corruption, Albania has restored confidence in the European community. There are countless blogs and instagram images depicting travellers enjoying their time in different parts of the country. Visitors highlight all the affordable but amazing options ranging from accommodations to food. Did we mention all the different types of raki?
Albania competes with the other Balkan nations as an emerging tourist destination. The only difference is that Albanians are not concerned with your religious beliefs or ethnicity as those in other parts of the peninsula. Most of the time they are curious about your reason for visiting. Are you after some hidden treasure or what? There are many legends regarding hidden treasures and according to Albanian media, even the Armed Forces have been involved in the quest for one of these gems. Urban legends are common in the culture of the Balkans.
If you’re looking for a safe and affordable country or thinking about retirement, consider moving to Albania. With a sunny Mediterranean climate, friendly locals and a low cost of living, Albania is attracting many ex-pats from other parts of the world.
How much is needed to cover monthly expenses in Albania? In comparison to other European countries, living expenses are significantly lower. If you’re planning to move or spend some time in the country, it's important to note that it is an affordable place to live in Europe.
In the last few decades, the metropolitan capital of Albania has developed and modernized at lightning speed. However, the historical Ottoman, Italian, and Communist influences are evident throughout the city's architecture. Surrounded by churches, mosques, museums, galleries, and shopping malls, Tirana is the ideal balance of old meets new.
The best way to explore the city is to fully immerse yourself in the diverse neighbourhoods. Leisurely walks are a past time favourite for both locals and visitors. The lively, colourful streets are always buzzing with excitement and authenticity in every corner! Tirana is a dream for foodies with more beautiful cafes (some say they serve the best coffee) and delicious restaurants per square meter than most European cities. The vibrant nightlife is buzzing with excitement at any given time from local pubs to high end bars. If you need a break from the busy city life, head on over to the lake or Dajti Mountain for some R&R.
Located in the northwest of the country, Shkodra is an artistic hub that has greatly contributed to Albanian culture. This town is home to many prominent artists throughout history. Some notable names include poet Migjeni, painters Kol Idromeno and Edi Hila, and photographers, the Marubi Family. The Marubi National Photography Museum displays the first photo taken in Albania, and the Venice Art Mask Factory creates the same intricate masks used in the Venice carnivals and Las Vegas shows.
Legend has it that the foundations of the famous Castle of Shkodra are held by the body of Rozafa, the beautiful young mother who sacrificed herself. Aside from the arts and legends, Shkodra's landscapes are breathtaking. Otherwise called the “city of bicycles,” the city’s views are best admired while pedalling in the open air! There is an abundance of water all over the city from the Adriatic Sea, the Lake of Shkodra and the Buna River.
Heading on over to southern Albania is Gjirokastra, also known as the “city of stone." Built on steep slopes, the carefully preserved streets of this town are lined with stone roofed homes and part of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. The spirit of Gjirokastra has been captured in many novels written by the city’s most illustrious son, the renowned author Ismail Kadare. His home along with the childhood home of Enver Hoxha, Albania’s former communist leader, are only a few of the many attractions.
Alongside Albania’s most beautiful traditional houses and the city’s famous limestone and shale paved roads, the city houses the Castle of Gjirokastra, one of the oldest in the Balkans! After a full day of exploring, there are many unique culinary delights to taste.
The distinctive traditional architecture has placed Berat in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. Beautifully split by the Osum River into two historic neighbourhoods, the city is joined by the grandiose Gorica bridge. Also known as the “City of 1000 Windows," the traditional white homes are characterized by the rows of windows positioned one on top of the other mirroring majestically from across the river. Aside from the unique architecture, the two mythical mountains; Tomorr and Shpirag add to the natural landscape. There are endless activities for all nature lovers including mountain climbing, cycling, hiking, rafting, and kayaking. The medieval Castle of Berat houses old churches, museums, and iconography by the greatest Albanian artists. The local life has a vibrant atmosphere with old bazaars and cafes throughout the city.
Korça is Albania’s sweetheart! Often referred to as “little Paris,” everything about this town is charming and romantic. The cobble stone streets feature traditional villas with welcoming locals known for their hospitality. The sound of the classical serenades create an unparalleled warm and festive atmosphere all year round. In the winter you can enjoy the crisp mountain air and glistening snow sitting by a cozy fire.
Similar to Shkodra, Korça is at the center of the Albanian art scene full of fascinating museums. The recently renovated Old Bazaar features a spice and food market with famous culinary specialties. Hit the town in the evening to enjoy the local beer alongside specialty dishes such as lakror and kërnacka. If you want to explore further, the mountainous villages of Voskopoja and Boboshtica are located close by.
The journey into the famous Albanian Riviera begins in Vlora, the meeting point between the Adriatic and the Ionian Seas. In 1912, Albania's independence was declared here making the city a key player in the country's history. As one of the largest coastal cities, Vlora is the gateway to the south with some of the best beaches. Spend the day lounging by the popular Orikum beach, taking a stroll on the main promenade or enjoying the traditional polyphonic music.
Those seeking adventure can explore the biodiversity of Narta Lagoon's wetlands. The three nearby islands; Zvernec, Sazan and Karaburun are surrounded by blue waters, lush forests and historic monasteries. To breathe in fresh mountain air, take on the intimidating Llogara Pass for breathtaking views where the sea meets the sky. Don't forget to make a pit stop at the local restaurants known for their fresh meat, honey and yogourt.
The ancient city of Durrës is a relaxed beach town and a historical center, home to the largest amphitheater in the Balkan Peninsula! In addition, Durrës houses the country’s largest Archaeological Museum which shows traces of the ancient cultures that have passed through Albania, mainly Greek and Roman.
Alongside its history, Durrës is also the place for some lighthearted fun. Located on the Adriatic coast, the beach of Durrës is the longest and most populated one in Albania. Only a 30 minute drive from Tirana, Durrës is the ideal place for a quick weekend getaway from the city. The vibrant promenade is full of delicious seafood restaurants and modern architectural structures adding to the city's charm. The icing on the cake is the wild and untouched Cape of Rodon, a magnificent strip of land surrounded by the Adriatic Sea.
Rich in history and tradition, Kruja is home to the patriots and the epicenter of Albania’s independence from the Ottoman Empire. It was here that Gjergj Kastriot Skanderbeg, Albania’s greatest national hero, defended the country from the invasion of the Ottomans. The National Museum in the famous Kruja Castle is dedicated to the legendary hero and the city's traditions. The city’s famous bazaar serves as a bridge between this glorious past and the present, offering an array of traditional products made by local artisans. If you're feeling spiritual, explore the Sarisalltik temple and light a candle for good luck!
When traveling to Albania, your nationality and the types of activities you will conduct during your trip will determine whether you may travel lawfully as a business visitor or if you require work authorization. Please seek advice from your immigration counsel if you are uncertain about the specific types of activities that constitute business or work.
As a business visitor to Albania, you may engage in the following activities:
- Attend business meetings
- Buy goods for sale outside the country
- Tour a company facility
- Attend a conference, trade show, or seminar convention
This list is not exhaustive and other activities may qualify as a business.
Nationals of Canada, the European Union, the United States, and many other select countries are eligible for a visa waiver and are not required to obtain a visa to enter and conduct business activities in Albania.
Foreign nationals who have permanent residence in a country of the European Union, the European Economic Area, or in Switzerland, or who hold a valid multiple-entry Schengen C Visa, are also eligible to enter Albania under a visa waiver.
If your nationality is not eligible for a visa waiver, you will be required to obtain a Type C Visa from an Albanian Embassy or Consulate before travel. Please consult with your immigration counsel before traveling to determine your eligibility for a visa waiver or Type C Visa.
The following activities (paid or unpaid), generally constitute as work under Albanian law.
- Hands-on technical work
- Repairs and maintenance
This list is not exhaustive, and many other professional activities are considered work in Albania, even if conducted for a short duration.
In limited circumstances, foreign nationals may engage in certain professional activities on a short-term basis without obtaining work authorization, although strict preconditions must be met. An individual assessment is required before deciding whether an exemption is applicable.
The requirements for employment authorization depend on your qualifications, the nature and duration of your work, and whether your employer has an entity in Albania. The most common types of work authorization for Albania include:
- Work Registration Certificate (short-term work authorization for professional and technical activities)
- Work Permit Type A/P (work authorization for local hires)
- Work Permit Type A/TN (work authorization for intra-company transfers)
- Work Permit Type C (work authorization for the provision of specialized, contractual services)
There are no nationalities that are entirely exempt from work authorization requirements in Albania. However, nationals of the European Economic Area, the European Union, Switzerland, and the United States (and their family members) are eligible for an alternative work authorization process. Please contact your immigration counsel before traveling for additional information regarding eligibility and requirements.
Opening a Business
The procedures for starting a business in Albania are fairly simple with favourable conditions.
The registration of an entity/enterprise in the National Business Center (NBC) is finalized within 24 hours from the submission of the required documents and a payment of 100 ALL (approximately 0.8 euros). If the registration is done electronically through the portal e-Albania, it's completely free.
The administrative services of NBC are available online, have relatively short deadlines and low tariffs. An application can be made in any NBC service window, regardless of the applicant's location or location of the activity. Online business registration is allowed and the electronic application is made through the government portal e-albania. Upon successful completion of the business registration with the NBC, the applicant must visit the Local General Directorate of Taxes in the municipality/commune, to complete the fiscal registration.
To finalize the registration with the Municipality Bureau of Internal Revenue, it is advised that the following documents are submitted in person:
1) The Application form;
2) The Registration Certificate from the National Business Center;
3) the Statute and the By-Laws of the Company
4) Rent agreement or proprietorship certificate of the Headquarters of the Company.
Furthermore, the "silence is consent" principle applies. If the NBC, within the mandatory period of 1 day from the submission of the application for registration, does not complete the registration, notifies the suspension of the application, or does not notify the denial, the registration is considered accepted immediately.
Albania offers advantageous legislation to foreign investors. The policies on “Foreign Investments” are based on the principles of equal treatment, non-discrimination, and protection of assets.
According the law:
● There is no need for prior authorization from the government for the foreigners that want to establish a business in Albania
● There are no limitations in the share of foreign participation in Albanian companies and 100% foreign ownership is possible
● Foreign investors have the right to expatriate all funds and contributions of their investment, in-kind
● They are permitted and treated based on conditions not less favorable than those afforded to domestic investments in similar circumstances, except land ownership, which is regulated by special law
● In any case, foreign investments are not treated any less favorably than foreseen by generally accepted norms of international law
● A company with foreign investment participation has the right to employ foreign citizens as well
● Foreign investments are protected by law from direct and indirect expropriation or nationalization measures, except for special cases defined by law in the interest of public use
● In all cases and at any time, investments are treated equally and impartially having complete protection and security.
The Albanian national government has adopted several export oriented policies making it favourable for foreign manufacturers to get their products on the market.
Taxes in Albania are competitive with the region. Manufacturers and investors in the automotive sector are granted reduced income tax.
Albania is in the process of implementing several special economic zones throughout the country that grant additional benefits to exporters.
In comparison to other countries in the region, recruiting in Albania is favourable due to high youth unemployment (>20%). Also, Albania has a large agricultural workforce that views manufacturing positions positively, with 30% of the workforce currently employed in the sector (vs. 15% in North Macedonia and Serbia).
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