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Financial affairs you should tend to if you’re emigrating

By December 8, 2016July 25th, 2020Financial emigration

Financial affairs you should tend to if you’re emigrating

December 8, 2016

The process of emigration is financially cumbersome for various reasons. There are several things you need to consider before you embark on your journey and once you arrive. We take a look at the top financial affairs you should tend to if you’re planning on emigrating, or have already immigrated abroad.

Emigration finance 101: probable expenses and possible income

Here are the top things you should consider from a financial perspective if you’re on your way out of the country indefinitely.

1. Visa, application and other administration fees

The first thing you’ll feel on your pocket is the fees related to visas, passports and other emigration, immigration and residency administration. These fees aren’t set and will depend on the region you’re relocating to as well as the particulars of your respective application. The best advice is to seek an immigration agent for the region you are moving to who will assist with visa requirements and an overview of documentation and applications necessary for you and/or your family. The most popular immigration destinations for South Africans are Australia, New Zealand, Canada, UK, USA and UAE.

Some helpful links for those who need assistance from visa agents include:

2. Travel expenses

Your travel expenses both to your destination and while you are there require careful planning. Firstly, for booking your one-way tickets abroad – see if you can’t use a travel agent to book your flights in advance. Contact more than one agent to get comprehensive quotes. If you plan on booking your flights yourself, make sure to clear your cache and cookies as travel websites may be tracking you and increasing their rates based on your online activity. Although it may be exhausting, stopovers may also save you a buck or two.

With regards to your travel once you are in your new home – do thorough research before you arrive to calculate the cost of public transport. Most people don’t ship their cars over when they move or don’t buy new transport during the first months, but if you have an idea what your train, taxi or carpooling service will cost you, you can budget for this.

For easier travel, you may want to look at’s tips and tools for making travel easier as well as our Travel Hacks you need to know.

3. Shipping, moving and transportation costs

The biggest question South Africans ask themselves is whether to sell all their possessions and buy new or to ship everything abroad. Shipping in addition to insurance costs can cost a lot, but on the other hand, certain items can cost you an arm and a leg once you are abroad.

The best advice is to get rid of all the items you don’t need and bargain on a container or two for your remaining goods. Depending on the shipping provider you use, a container could cost between R30 000 and R60 000 for a 20-foot container. The most common dimensions for these containers are are 6.1 m (l) x 2.44 m (w) x 2.59 m (h).

Note that you won’t be able to ship organic or animal materials unless these materials have been cleared by local and foreign authorities and subject to necessary treatment procedures. You also won’t be able to ship living material in your containers such as plants. If you plan on shipping your car, make sure to get roadworthy verification and be aware that your vehicle will be subject to local testing once it arrives on foreign shores. If you suspect your vehicle will not pass roadworthy inspection in the new country it may be best to sell it an use other modes of transport abroad.

Some well-known shipping providers include:

Before choosing a shipper, read reviews about their services and compare quotes to establish whether you’re getting what you pay for.

4. Accommodation fees

South Africans are quite spoilt for choice when it comes to property. Although we don’t like to admit it, property in South Africa is readily available and much more affordable than other places in the world. If affordable accommodation is important for you, then you can take a look at Telegraph’s 2016 Countries Where Property is Cheapest list.

These include:

    1. Spain
    2. Greece
    3. Finland
    4. Portugal
    5. Switzerland
    6. Ireland
    7. USA
    8. Germany
    9. Japan
    10. South Korea

If you plan on buying abroad – make sure to consult local property and investment brokers for advice on rates, requirements and eligibility for home loans. There’s a chance that you may not be fit for credit during the first few years of your stay there. In this case, you will need to rent a property.

5. Healthcare

According to the Willis Towers Watson 2016 Global Medical Trends Survey Report, healthcare is expected to increase steeply across the globe.

Countries with the best healthcare include:

  1. France
  2. Italy
  3. Malta
  4. Andorra
  5. Singapore

Countries with the most expensive healthcare include:

  1. USA
  2. Norway
  3. Netherlands
  4. Sweden
  5. Germany

Countries with the most affordable healthcare include:

  1. Thailand
  2. India
  3. Singapore
  4. China
  5. Poland

If you have any special medical conditions or chronic diseases, it’s advisable that you speak to your travel doctor as well as a doctor in your new country to determine whether you’ll be able to continue your treatment and can find equivalent medication abroad. Some countries may not cover your medical expenses or your medication may be prohibited.

5. Taxes

One of the big mistakes South Africans make when moving abroad is neglecting their tax affairs back home. For many people it seems to be a matter of “out of sight, out of mind”. But just because you’re ignoring the tax man doesn’t mean he won’t come calling.

Under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), the Common Reporting Standard and Automatic Exchange of Financial Information (AEoI), international migrants will find it increasingly difficult to evade their tax duties. SARS is among regulators worldwide who will be clamping down on transgressors.

The reality, however, is that South African expats actually stand to gain financial income through following the legal route. Under Double Taxation Agreements with certain countries, South Africans stand to earn tax rebates and relief. A Double Taxation Agreement is an agreement between two countries to give expats operating between country borders relief from double taxation. This means that you will be able to claim tax refunds for periods where you were taxed in both countries and apply for exemption for future tax levied.

Of course, if you haven’t immigrated yet, you may consider one of these 10 countries where you can live tax-free!

Should you finalise your financial affairs in South Africa and emigrate financially you will also no longer be liable for tax as a South African resident. Feel free to talk to us about your tax needs.

7. Education, accreditation and training

Education and training is top of mind for emigrant families with children of school-going-age. Of course, beggars can’t always be choosers, but do your research properly before you move abroad.

Some countries are not keen on parents sending their children to daycare at a young age, and the cost of such care before primary school age is often exorbitant (such as Australia). Other regions, like the UK, encourage children to attend school far younger than the normal school-going age in South Africa (such as the UK) and incentivise schooling from a young age.

We recently listed the countries with free or the most affordable education, but remember to consider what you are paying for. You should look at the overall quality versus cost.

According to the US News, BAV and Wharton Best Countries report 2016, the countries that rank tops for education are:

  1. UK
  2. Canada
  3. USA
  4. Germany
  5. France

The same report showed, however, that the countries which spend most on education per capita are Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden. The report also highlights the importance of being aware of systems where children are pressured to perform (such as Asia, and South Korea where children attend school every day of the week), and systems where there are marked differences in gender biases in education (such as Pakistan).

8. Cost of living

Cost of living is incredibly important when considering a new home. You may have rosy dreams about your new country, but these may not be feasible dreams.

Some of the things you will need to consider are the costs of daily living, transactions, utilities, local transport and necessities like food and toiletries. Many South Africans move abroad and find that they can’t maintain the lifestyles they were used to back home. It’s an unfortunate reality, but if you walk into your life with your eyes open wide it shouldn’t hit you that hard.

Some things you can do:

  • Research your favourite grocery and food items and see what the local alternatives are where you’re moving
  • Find out if the new country has coupon or discount schemes and what you should do to qualify
  • Research stores or suppliers where you may be able to buy in bulk
  • Join local community groups on social media before you arrive to see how locals save money
  • If you haven’t emigrated yet, try to work out a budget equivalent for your expenditure and the cost of items in your new home and slowly scale down your expenses so it isn’t such a big shock when you arrive
  • Remember that money isn’t everything – a better life isn’t about material possessions, but the quality of experiences you share with your family in your new home

9. Pensions, policies and annuities

Most of us are taught from a young age to leave our retirement savings alone. Of course, this is sound advice if we’re to stay put in one country as encashment of policies usually carry penalty fees and early withdrawal penalties.

As an expat you will find that the rules change, however. Not only can you capitalise on stronger currencies by reinvesting your retirement funds abroad, but you also stand to benefit from pension incentive programmes and should you return to South Africa one day, you will receive this retirement money tax-free. If you don’t wish to reinvest your retirement savings, you are legally permitted to use the money for whichever use you desire.

There are several options available to you, although the route you will need to take, requirements for encashment and the time it will take to administer will depend on the type of funds you hold, the gross value of your total and individual financial assets, the liquidity of your financial assets and the particular fund rules. can assist with any and all aspects of your financial migration, from policy searches to amendments, encashments and transfers. Talk to us about your policy needs.

10. Insurance and assurance

If you’re relocating abroad it’s important you be aware of the type of insurance, the costs and requirements for getting such insurance. Whether you’re seeking life, property or car insurance – you should be aware that things aren’t the same in other countries.

Not only do the financial services and credit laws differ across jurisdictions, but you may find that insurance is not optional. Case in point – if you plan on driving in certain countries (like the UK), you will not be permitted to do so unless you have the minimum third-party insurance. Certain sectors or industries may also require life or disability insurance which may not be included under your employment perks. Places like Cuba, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Turkey and France may require proof of health insurance before you’re allowed entry, and there are several other insurance requirements for different regions.

In line with our international financial planning services, can refer you to service providers in your region who can assist with insurance cover and advice for your particular needs.

If you need assistance with any part of your financial migration, simply leave your details and we’ll contact you for a no-obligation consultation.
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