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Emigrating from South Africa

Where, what and how

By Zeenat Moosa

, |

Emigrating from South Africa

Where, what and how

By Zeenat Moosa

, |

3 min read

Over the last 20 years, more than one million South Africans have emigrated abroad, usually to greener pastures outside of the continent. But what doors can a South African passport open for you and your family?

Moving to the UK

The United Kingdom, with its strong historical associations, and an even stronger Pound Sterling, remains an obvious choice for South African families, especially if you can get there via the spousal or ancestral route.

If you can’t, then be aware of the raft of new immigration changes that the UK has created, just in time for their official departure from the EU at the end of December 2020. Business owners can still apply for the UK Sole Representative Visa programme, which requires no capital investment, and allows spouses and dependent children to live, work and study in the UK.

You can go down this route if you are the sole representative of a business that is based outside of the European Economic Area. This visa is valid for three years, and renewable for two years, after which you and your family can apply for indefinite leave to remain.

Moving to the USA

Things are little less straightforward for South Africans drawn to the illusory appeal of the American Dream. The threshold for those wanting to move to the USA via the investment route has been raised from $500,000 to $900,000. The alternative is to apply for a general immigrant visa, but you must be sponsored by a US citizen, lawful permanent resident, or prospective US employer, and have an approved petition that has been filed with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The process can be costly and time-consuming but, once finalised, the green card enables you to live and work in the USA, and bring over your family too.

Moving to Mauritius

If a relaxed island life appeals to you, then Mauritius, with its strong, diversified economy, exceptional quality of life and a high degree of personal safety, will be a welcome breath of fresh air. It’s also close to home, which is great for people with family back in South Africa. The Mauritian government welcomes foreign investment, and has introduced a range of changes to the Mauritius Residency Programme, making it even easier for South African business professionals, investors, and retirees to settle in Mauritius.

Moving to Ireland

Ireland’s Residency by Investment programme has a high investment threshold – €1 million into a business-based Irish Diaspora Loan Fund (IDLF), or €2 million into an Irish Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT).

Ireland has become increasingly popular among qualified and experienced professionals, especially in the information and technology sectors. If you can get a job offer in this field, then you can use the Irish Critical Skills Work Permit to get into the country, and the Dependent Work Permit to apply for family to join you.

Moving to Portugal

Great tax incentives have made Portugal increasingly popular among South Africans in the last few decades. While rent and property prices can be very steep in the Alfama and Graça areas of Lisbon, and premier suburbs in Porto, both rental and purchase prices drop dramatically as you venture into coastal towns like Aveiro, Lagos, Faro, and the farther flung reaches of the Algarve region.

If you’re not keen to invest €350,000 or more into an overheated property market to obtain a Portuguese Golden Visa, you can also look at the country’s Non-Habitual Residency (NHR) permit, aimed specifically at attracting well-heeled foreigners as tax residents.

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