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What to do when emigrating from South Africa: tips for moving overseas

By October 26, 2022October 5th, 2023FinGlobal

What to do when emigrating from South Africa: tips for moving overseas

October 26, 2022


So you’ve decided to emigrate – what are your next steps when moving abroad from South Africa? We put together this brief but helpful guide of things to consider when moving to another country to get you headed in the right direction.

Moving abroad from South Africa: international moving checklist

Step 1: Doing your research

Packing a backpack and seeing where the wind takes you is for students and people without responsibilities. As exciting as it sounds, it’s not very practical. That’s why it’s advisable to do as much research as you can, to ensure that you’re making an informed decision about emigrating. Don’t make the decision to leave South Africa because you’re tired of load shedding, or because you’re fed up with crime. Make the decision to leave South Africa because you’ve weighed up all the available options and there are better opportunities for you and your family abroad.

As such in researching your emigration options, you’ll want to consider questions like

  • Where is your ideal destination/location?
  • What is the cost of living there?
  • Is healthcare affordable and accessible?
  • What are your qualifications?
  • Are your skills in demand where you want to go?
  • What visa opportunities are there for you?

Step 2: Researching and apply for visas

The Green Mamba South African passport doesn’t give us the same freedom of movement as US and EU citizens. We’re barely acknowledged by most countries, so planning to move to a new country from South Africa can be challenging.

Generally speaking, your options for moving abroad will be by means of:

  • Digital Nomad Visa (work remotely for a foreign company)
  • Company transfer (relocating to an international company branch)
  • Study abroad (undergraduate or postgraduate)
  • Local employment (if your skills are sought after)
  • Marriage (as a last resort)

There is no such thing as an easy route to a visa in another country. Even if you decide to get a visa by marriage, there’s generally a requirement to learn a foreign language, which requires passing a language exam. To be a digital nomad, you need a visa to live and work abroad legally. If you fail to meet the different visa requirements per country, you can get fined, deported, or arrested. It’s no joke. Make sure you do your visa research thoroughly and you comply with the necessary requirements.

Step 3: Finding a job

Finding a job overseas is difficult, but not impossible.  A good place to start is LinkedIn. Beef up your profile, contact recruiters, and set up alerts for jobs in your fields. Change your location to your intended destination and turn on the “let recruiters know that you’re looking for work” notification.

Step 4: Preparing to move

There are a number of things to think about here when planning your move from South Africa.

Your home in South Africa: if you own a property, you’ll need to decide whether to sell or rent it out. Selling can take months, and you’ll need to factor this into your planning. If you decide to rent, you’ll need someone to manage the property for you, which means agent fees and dealing with tenant issues from overseas.

Healthcare: Visit your doctor for a check-up before you move, get your prescriptions, and all the necessary pre-travel vaccinations.  Stock up on any medication you might need for the first few weeks after moving abroad.

Finances: Notify your bank that you’re relocating, and switch your OTP from SMS to emails if you choose to keep your account open so that it’s easier to transact on your South African account from outside the country. Review your tax requirements and re-assess your retirement plans: Are you emigrating with no intention to return? Will you cash out your retirement savings? What are the tax implications for you as a South African living and earning abroad? What are the implications of becoming a South African tax non-resident?

Your possessions and utilities: downsize on furniture, clothes, electronics and such. Handle moving costs – research moving companies and how much it costs to ship your items and how long it will take to arrive. Donate or sell what you don’t need. Deal with all your utilities – cancel your internet, gym membership, satellite subscriptions, phones, and other contracts.

Step 5: Arrive and settle in

You made it! You’ve successfully moved from South Africa to your chosen destination. Now all that’s left to do is start building your new life. Enjoy every new experience, embrace the change and give yourself time to settle in, with these top tips to help South Africans settle into a new country.

FinGlobal: cross-border financial services for South Africans

Managing your finances in two different countries across two tax jurisdictions can be tricky. There are a lot of things to consider, from a financial perspective, when moving to a new country.  Get help from the experts and minimise your stress and worry from the outset. FinGlobal is ready to help you with a cost-effective step-by-step plan for migrating your finances abroad with you. Contact us to get the process started today!

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