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The question of return: Can you move home to South Africa after emigrating?

The question of return: Can you move home to South Africa after emigrating?

February 21, 2024

returning-to-south africa-after-financial-emigration

While they likely left South Africa in the pursuit of better opportunities, many expats eventually discover that the grass on the other side isn’t as green as it is back home. Circumstances change, homesickness might become overwhelming and eventually expats find themselves asking: “Can I return to South Africa after I have emigrated?” The answer, of course, is a resounding “yes.” Once a South African, always a South African. If you want to return to the Republic, you’ll always receive the same welcome, only the degree of paperwork involved in making the move back might vary. So let’s take a look at what you need to know about returning to South Africa, the land of braais and sunny skies.

How many expats are returning to South Africa?

According to CNBC, more than 350,000 South African expats have returned home since 2008, driven by various factors such as career opportunities, family ties, and lifestyle preferences. This “reverse migration” trend highlights the complex considerations individuals face when deciding whether to live in South Africa or remain abroad. While some may romanticise overseas life, South Africa offers unique advantages: vibrant culture, strong family connections, stunning natural beauty, great weather and a quality of life that is hard to beat. Regardless, the decision to return hinges on individual priorities and circumstances.

If improved quality of life and happiness for you and your family are your top priorities, then returning home could be a smart move. However, you’ll want to carefully evaluate factors like your job prospects, social networks, and personal fulfillment before making the trek back home.

Read more: South African emigrants – the tough choice of returning or staying.

How to move back to South Africa?

It may be necessary for you to apply for the resumption of your South African Citizenship, if you are a former citizen by birth or descent and you have returned to South Africa permanently, particularly if you gained foreign citizenship elsewhere without officially applying to retain your South African citizenship. Individuals who became citizens through naturalisation must reapply for permanent residence or seek an exemption before becoming eligible for resumption.

Read more: Expat 101: Let’s talk about automatic loss of South African citizenship.

To apply for resumption of your South African citizenship, you need to:

  1. Complete Forms DHA-175and DHA-52 with the Department of Home Affairs.
  2. Complete your application for identity document Form DHA-9.
  3. Submit two ID photographs compliant with passport and ID photograph specifications.
  4. Submit proof that you now live in South Africa permanently (such as a municipal account) along with a copy.
  5. Submit your marriage certificate (if applicable) and a copy thereof.
  6. Pay the fee specified.

Get more information on South African citizenship on the Department of Home Affairs website.

How to reverse your financial emigration from South Africa:

If you formalised your emigration with the South African Reserve Bank before 1 March 2021, this will need to be undone.

You are advised to consult an immigration specialist who can assist you with:

  • Reviewing your historical, present and future circumstances to determine your eligibility to reverse your exchange control non-resident status.
  • Running a tax diagnostic to assess your tax compliance with SARS and identify what steps must be taken to rectify compliance, if any.
  • Completing the necessary SARS forms, which must be accompanied by:
  1. A certified copy of your identity or passport document.
  2. A copy of your proof of South African residence.

This application will need to be submitted to SARS, who has taken over from the South African Reserve Bank in dealing with financial migrations.

How to reverse your tax emigration from South Africa:

Reversing tax emigration from South Africa involves informing the South African Revenue Service (SARS) that you’ve returned with the intention of becoming a resident again. Here’s what you need to know:

Eligibility to reverse tax emigration:

  • You must have returned to South Africa and intend to stay permanently.
  • Your objective circumstances should support your intention to remain, like family ties, property ownership, or employment in South Africa.
  • Remember, you must now be able to prove that you meet the requirements for tax residency in South Africa again.

The process of reversing your tax emigration:

  1. Inform SARS: Submit the Registration, Amendments And Verification Form (RAV01) on eFiling, indicating the date you became a resident again.
  2. Make your declaration: Complete and submit a signed declaration with supporting documentation, including:
    a) Letter of motivation explaining your circumstances and intention to reside permanently.
    b) Copy of your passport/travel diary.
    c) Proof of your South African address.
    d) Any documents showing economic ties to South Africa (e.g., employment contract, property ownership).

Read more: Expats! Are you still a tax resident in South Africa? Here’s how to find out.

The tax implications of reversing your tax emigration:
You’ll be subject to South African tax on your global income from the date you re-establish residency.

FinGlobal: cross-border financial specialists for South African expats

If you’re ready to make your return to South Africa after a long absence abroad, we’re ready to help you make the transition as seamless as possible. We can assist you with tax clearance, tax refunds, international money transfers and setting up your local bank account back in South Africa.

To find out how we can simplify your return preparation, leave your contact details with us and we’ll be in touch to start your free, no-obligation consultation.

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