How to Relocate to South Africa

Former Archbishop Desmond Tutu dubbed South Africa “the rainbow nation,” due to its rich and varied cultural heritage. That same diversity warmly welcomes expats today. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering relocating to South Africa.

  • South Africa offers a cosmopolitan lifestyle balanced with a temperate climate and a wealth of natural beauty.
  • UK citizens can visit South Africa for 90 days without a visa. You just need to be able to prove that you can support yourself during that time. Bank statements or pay stubs are usually all the proof you need.
  • If you plan to stay for longer than 90 days, you’ll need to apply for a residency permit, either temporary or permanent.
  • If you want to work, you’ll need a work permit. There are several different kinds, ranging from general work permits to those targeted to workers with special skills.
  • If you’re living and working in South Africa, but are paid by a foreign company, you’ll need a business visitor’s visa rather than a work permit.
  • If your intention is to retire to South Africa, you’ll need a retired person’s permit.
  • If you’re a retired UK citizen, you can claim your UK pension, but it will be constant rather than being adjusted for inflation each year.
  • Depending on what you intend to do while in South Africa, you may need one or more vaccinations.
  • While in South Africa, you’ll need to pay for medical care out of pocket. It will be based on your ability to pay.
  • English is the language of business, but there are 11 official languages and many more unofficial ones.
  • Expats are advised to hire a real estate agent to arrange housing, whether it’s a house or an apartment. Their familiarity with neighborhoods and local customs is invaluable, and many also help with things like arranging for utilities and services.
  • Many expats live in gated communities with other expats. These communities provide both refuge from the high crime rate and a variety of amenities. Even within gated communities, you’ll want to hire a reputable security company and make sure your home is equipped with the latest in security equipment.
  • Expats typically enjoy a high standard of living due to the low cost of labour. It’s common for ordinary workers to have domestic help, and many expats make a habit of regularly dining out.
  • Employment laws in South Africa give preference to women, people of colour, and people with disabilities. Those considerations combined with a high rate of employment can make it tough for foreigners to find jobs, although there are always openings in certain highly-skilled areas.
  • You may hear about the presence of “robots” at intersections. “Robot” is the South African term for “traffic light.”
  • You’ll need sunscreen during the day regardless of the season. UV rays in South Africa are very strong.
  • If you want to go exploring, hire a local to guide you.

Whether you’re relocating to South Africa for work or because you want to retire in a country that’s overflowing with natural beauty and cultural history, following these tips will make your move go more smoothly.



image: flickr via slack12, 2006