Thinking of Emigrating? Start Here

Jacques du Rand 2021-09-21

If emigration has crossed your mind of late we've gathered a couple of tips to help you get started with your investigation.

The World Is Your Oyster - Choosing Where to Emigrate To

If there is no driving force such as a job offer, or family in another country behind your choice to emigrate, the world truly is your oyster. How do you choose where to go?

According to StatsSA the top two countries of choice for South Africans to emigrate to by a longshot of nearly 49% are the United Kingdom and Australia. The United States of America, New Zealand and Canada are the next in line as favourite destinations for emigration.

Many people take the following into consideration when choosing destinations for emigration:

  1. Language
  2. Safety
  3. Healthcare
  4. Weather
  5. School system
  6. And possibly most notably, Money.

Buying Your Visa Or Going On Merit, What Are The Options

The Golden Visa

Many people have heard of the Golden Visa programme previously. It is the option to buy your residency for a particular country outright and the easiest and fastest way to get residency in another country.

The qualifying criteria differs from country to country. Typically the candidate will need to purchase an investment property or invest in a local business to qualify. Sadly very few countries allow you to reside in the investment property, however many do offer some kind of monetary reimbursement after a five year period.

Unfortunately this programme is usually unaffordable for the average South African family.

The Golden Visa for the USA starts at 500k USD (ZAR 7.25m) ; Australia starts at 1m USD (ZAR 14.5m).

Newcomers to the programme include countries in Europe looking to attract new talent and investors to invigorate their GDP. In Portugal , for example, a Golden Visa will cost you only from 300k USD (ZAR 4.3m) .

Europe is definitely starting to attract more South Africans since they introduced their Golden Visa as it is currently the cheapest way to buy your residency.

Should you not wish to buy your residency there are a number of other ways to obtain a residency visa. They just take more work.

Options to obtain residency via a different route from the Golden Visa differ from country to country, but include:

  • Entrepreneurial Visa - bringing a business over, or investing in a business.
  • Work Visa - being invited by a company to work in the country.
  • Reunification - reuniting with family already living in the country.
  • Retirement - using own funds from retirement investments or other investment vehicles to live on, and not needing to work in the country.
  • Special Skills - if you possess special skills or extraordinary ability, such as being a Dr, engineer, scientist, renowned film-maker, etc

Things To Keep In Mind

Moving abroad is a difficult decision no matter how fed-up you might be with the way things are going in South Africa. Aside from leaving friends and possibly family behind, everything will be different to the way you've known things to be your entire life. Cultures, the language, the weather and even the food might be different.

Everyone has a different reason for wanting to emigrate and needs weigh up their own pros and cons in this situation. For the most part the underlying desire to move seems to stem from hope for a better future and more options, whether financially or peace of mind in terms of safety.

Other things to bare in mind when deciding to move might also include thinking about the following:

  • Finances - How will you earn an income? Will you be working or are you retired?
  • Family - Are you married, and/or have children? For children you will also need to consider schooling options.
  • Dogs - If you have dogs and are bringing them with you, there is a list of preparations that need to happen from the very least 90 days prior to travel.
  • Language - If you are moving to a non-English country you might need to take language lessons prior to your departure.
  • Healthcare - Investigating what healthcare options the country offers. Many offer government healthcare programmes, but in the case of emigration you may need private cover for a certain amount of time - pending your visa option.

Before You Go

There is a bunch of admin waiting for you once you've decided to go for it.

The Visa process itself will require a mountain of information. Don't be fooled into thinking that you will require a Visa agent. Sometimes you will feel like you do, but save yourself the cost involved and just work through the list methodically.

Most Visa offices and consulates will provide you a list of requirements based on the Visa you're applying for. Just follow that.

Outside of the Visa process you will need to think about whether you will keep any existing assets in South Africa (such as property) or whether you will sell prior to emigrating.

  • Property - This is the big one as if you decide to sell, it might take the most time of all the other assets. Selling has its advantages as it gives you money in your pocket which you can use to invest in property where you're moving to. However the process is slow. It might take 3 months just to secure a buyer and then a further 3 months for the transfer to take place. At best this is a 6 month process. Renting your property might hold other issues. Sure you have an asset in South Africa should you come visit, or that you can sell later if you're waiting on a better market. However finding good tenants might take some time. Not being in the country might mean that you might wish to find a managing agent to manage the process on your behalf. Then there is the risk that things break, or need replacing, so it might still cost you money to keep this asset.
  • Vehicle - Some people opt to take their vehicle with them. Shipping can be quite costly and quotes for shipping vary as the colours of the rainbow. We've seen quotes for shipping a vehicle to Australia from as little as R20,000 - R100,000 - but don't be fooled. There might be import costs involved and of course registration costs, road worthies, etc. Plus depending on where you ship your vehicle to, you might have your driver's seat on the wrong side (eg America, Europe) and so it might be best to buy a vehicle if you get to the other side - assuming you need one at all. Most public transport systems work incredibly well in other countries and you might not even need a car when you arrive.
  • Furniture - Many people opt to ship their existing furniture to their new destination. As with cars this can be quite a costly exercise. In most instances you will need to buy a full container which can start from around R85,000 - R100,000. If you don't want to take too many things with you there are companies that sell space by the cubic meter. This starts from around R15,000. However in both instances there are still import duties and more paperwork due which may add on further costs. In most countries it is quite common to find fully furnished and equipped homes and apartments to rent. You might not need any furniture for a good few months. Keep in mind that your shipment may also take up to 3 months to arrive at your destination and you might end up having to buy furniture while you wait for it to arrive anyway!
    If you opt to sell everything before you go there are a number of options you can follow to sell your household contents easily . It might feel awful to sell that family heirloom ball-and-claw table, but it will come down to whether you want to pay that container cost.
  • Service Cancellations - Most services have a defined cancellation notification period. In cases of fibre, phone (mobile) and other service accounts (retail, recycling, gardening, etc) it is mostly 30 days or a calendar month. In the case of Telkom, and if you still have a landline we recommend you cancel your Telkom line the moment you put your house on the market. It will take about the same amount of time.
  • Annuities & Investments - Best to speak to your financial advisor in this regard. If you plan to financially emigrate at some point, you may need to cancel some or all.
  • Drivers License - Some countries allow you to convert your existing drivers license into theirs. For this you will require your license to be authenticated by DIRCO. This may require additional verification documents as well as time. So it might be easier to get this done while you are still in the country as opposed to having to ship documents internationally.
  • Marriage & Birth Certificates - These are usually required as part of your Visa application process, but can take a long time to acquire as you need to work with Home Affairs, as well as get the documents apostilled at DIRCO. This might also take about 6 months. Best to find out from your particular consulate what your Visa requirements are the moment you decide to embark on this process.

Timing - No Guts, No Glory

Getting your timing right is the most critical part of this entire process. One set-back can delay everything else. Make a list of your requirements and how long every step takes and just work your plan.

The other stressful thing is that the process is backwards. Many consulates also require that you only apply for your Visa within 60 days of planning to leave South Africa. This means that you would have needed to do much of the work, like selling your property and getting your dogs ready for travel, before you even apply for your Visa!

From start to finish the timing is different for everyone. If you are a single person emigrating you will need fewer documents than a married couple or family (no marriage, birth etc required) and the process might take a little quicker.

Assuming all your ducks are in a row, from start to Visa you're looking at a minimum period of 6 months. This does require that steps be taken in conjunction. For example a Police Clearance takes about 8 weeks. During that period you can also apply for your bank account, your flight ticket and get your accommodation sorted etc.

Being well organised is critical to a smooth process. There are a lot of wheels turning at the same time. This is also why many people feel overwhelmed and opt to use an immigration agent.

Where To Find Information

A search on Google for " country immigration options" will get you quite a bit of information. Mostly you'll also find many immigration firms posting their options.

You can gather quite a bit of information especially around the various Visa options on their sites without having to use their services.

Once you've narrowed down the Visa options searching on that particular option on Google will give you further information.

Another great option is to search for the country's consulate website and read through their visa requirements. This is the de facto list of requirements regardless of what you read anywhere else.

Once you've decided on the country, you'll probably find a great Facebook group made by other South Africans who have done the journey. Those groups are immensely helpful in your own journey as you are able to ask questions and get advice from others who have gone through the process too.

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* Visa Costs accurate at time of posting. Visa requirements change all the time. Please refer to the relevant consulate for up to date information.