You only have to look back to Gibraltar 30 years to see the change. Gibraltar in the past has been somewhat unfairly depicted as a colonial backwater for the United Kingdom’s Armed Services and where tourists flock to see the imposing Rock with its resident Barbary Apes who, it is understood, Sir Winston Churchill was particularly fond of. Gibraltar is also internationally well known for its important strategic geographical position coupled with its historical and often turbulent relationship with its neighbour Spain.

From a small territory surviving off maritime trade, tourism and the employment of the local population in the Civil Service/Ministry of Defence, Gibraltar has re-directed its economic reliance on financial services and encouraging new enterprise. Gibraltar has had particular success with the online gaming industry, with the majority of the main players operating here. Online gaming certainly has put Gibraltar on the world stage as leading the globe in this area.

Moreover, Gibraltar has attracted a string of specialist business executives who relocate to Gibraltar because of the favourable tax regime and a better quality of life that they may be able to take advantage of.

Relocating anywhere in the world can be fraught with difficulties not least the personal upheaval of moving you and your family abroad for the purposes of work or seeking work. This article will give an insight into some areas you should consider before choosing to immigrate and move you and your family to Gibraltar.

Firstly …Where is Gibraltar?

The common response from people is “I’ve heard of it but I don’t know exactly where it is”. Gibraltar is a small 300 year old former colony now described as a British Oversees Territory positioned at the bottom of the Iberian Peninsula and separated from mainland Spain by a short isthmus which serves a dual role as a land frontier to Spain and as the home of Gibraltar Airport which conveniently caters for daily 2 ½ hour flights to and from London.

The Rock is at the part of the gateway to the Mediterranean and is known as one of the mighty Pillars of Hercules. Gibraltar is 10 miles from Morocco, North Africa.


Gibraltar has a population of approximately 28,000 people. Historically the principal employer in Gibraltar has been the Ministry of Defence and Gibraltar Government. However there have been major shifts towards financial services. The Employment Survey Report, published by the Gibraltar Government in October 2005, showed that out of a workforce of approximately 17,000 20% were employed in financial services. Gibraltar also has a growing number of frontier workers which account for approximately 4,000 who cross to and from the international border each day.

When considering employment opportunities in Gibraltar you will be faced with a number of questions:

Do I require a work permit?

Under the Immigration Control Ordinance (amended in 2004), if you are a citizen of a member state of the European Union you can work in Gibraltar without obtaining a work permit from the Ministry of Employment (Employment Services). However, under an amendment to the present immigration laws (S.46) there is a transitional period (1st May 2004-30th April 2009) for those countries which are in the EEA and have recently entered the European Union, i.e. Czech Republic, Estonia, Poland, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovak Republic and Slovenia. Citizens from these countries will be, until 30th April 2009, required to obtain work permits in order to work in Gibraltar.

All other non-European Nationals are required by law to obtain work permits to be work in Gibraltar. The success of the application depends on the employer and the job you will be performing. If you are coming over to Gibraltar for a shorter period in order to provide services to a Gibraltar business you may be able to apply to Employment Services for the issue of a detached worker permit. The status of this certificate is unique. It has invariably been provided to those individuals performing a specific task, for example, IT an Consultant coming over from another country to work for a Gibraltar employer for a specific project. The duration of the detached worker status can be from 3 months to a maximum of 12 months; however, you may be able to extend for a further period depending on the particular circumstances of the case.

What about residency requirements?

If you are working in Gibraltar and you intend to reside in Gibraltar you must apply for a permit of residence. A permit of residence is issued by the Civil Status and Immigration Department of the Gibraltar Government and is accompanied by an ID card which, for example, is required when registering either you and/or your family with the Health Authorities. The ID card also assists in a whole ambit of other administrative applications and it is advisable that you obtain one. If you are a non-EU national with a work permit you must apply for a permit of residence, given the fact that you will be unable to remain in Gibraltar on a tourist or business visa for to long. With regards to the application of the permit of residency there is a requirement to show proof of your intention to remain in Gibraltar i.e. the purchase of property or a rental agreement with 12 months remaining on the same for the applicant non-EU national who intends to reside in Gibraltar. For non-EU nationals permits and ID cards can be issued for a period of 3 months up to 5 years before renewal.

If you are re-locating to Gibraltar for employment and you have specialist skills or experience you may be eligible to apply for special tax category status which limits the amount of income tax payable. These applications are not common and the application is to the Financial and Development Secretary at the Finance Centre. These applications are called Category 3 and 4 and they are unique, for example, a Cat 3 applicant must be employed in a tax exempt company, earn a minimum of £50,000 per annum, own or rent an property approved by the Financial and Development Secretary and possess skills and experience not available in Gibraltar local market. Moreover, the employment of the applicant must be essential to the operation of the tax exempt company. There is also a £1000 filing fee per application. Applicants for ‘Cat status’ are few and far between and there are strict rules governing approval and retention of that status.

“A place in the sun…….”

Property prices in Gibraltar have boomed and despite the fears of crash and negative equity as in other western countries there are no signs that the trend will let up. The increase in property price reflects a number of factors including limited space and most importantly the exponential growth of financial services and the influx of business executives to Gibraltar. Some of the newer developments include Europlaza, The Anchorage, Ocean Village and Kings Wharf (Quay 27, Quay 29) were originally designed with the external market in mind. However to the surprise of developers a large number of these properties have been sold to the local market. Apartments in these developments range from a 2 bedroom apartment at approximately £250,000 to a luxury penthouse at £2,000,000. You should note that property sales are not subject to capital gains or inheritance tax. Stamp duty is however payable on property purchased in Gibraltar over £200,000 with a higher threshold of £260,000 for the benefit of first and second time buyers in Gibraltar. Read more about buying a property in Gibraltar

Education for your children

The Gibraltar education system is based on the UK National Curriculum as amended from time to time and takes its lead on many educational issues from the UK. If you are resident and paying tax in Gibraltar your children are entitled to receive a free education. There is a compulsory tertiary structure in place in Gibraltar, namely: infant school (4-7), middle school (8-11) and comprehensive school (12-15), all schools except the comprehensive school are mixed sex schools. Schools in Gibraltar perform very well indeed and ‘A’, ‘AS’ level exams results for 2006 showed that the pass rate was 97% some 2% better than schools in UK. Gibraltar does not have higher education institutions and with the exception of the College of Further Education (equivalent to a Technical College), the vast majority of school leavers, intending on entering higher education to pursue undergraduate studies go to the UK. The Government provides all students with a means tested maintenance grant and furthermore underwrites to pay all university tuition fees, irrespective of parental means, through an arrangement with the Student Loan Company in the UK. Gibraltar students are therefore better off than their UK counterparts.

Frontier Working

There are approximately 4,000 cross border workers who prefer living across the frontier given the relatively lower property prices and better cost of living. Some, however, reside out of economic necessity in Spain. Living in Spain and working in Gibraltar has its advantages and disadvantages, for example, workers with families may find the crossing of the international frontier with young children strenuous especially when having to travel home during the rush hour. However, many frontier workers have lived in other countries before relocating to Gibraltar where travelling to and from work every day requires significant travel, therefore a 20 minute border queue in the morning and a 20 minute queue in the evening is tolerated in exchange for lower cost of living. Other workers simply prefer to live in Spain because of Gibraltar’s small size and given the availability of larger and relatively less expensive property. The vast majority of property in Gibraltar comprises apartments and if you’re looking for a three bedroom semi-detached with a garden you may struggle to find it and even if you do it will undoubtedly be expensive. Again the choice is ultimately one of life style.

Gibraltar is unique and whatever your reasons for considering Gibraltar as a country to relocate to, should you take the plunge you will be pleasantly surprised by what you find!

01-03-2015 | by Elliot Phillips, Elaine Bingham | Published: