Relocating to South Africa – Immigration Information

Whilst many foreigners dream of relocating or moving to South Africa, many foreigners are actually taking a chance and moving their families and lives to our beautiful country. As this process can often be difficult and tedious, more so if you are not correctly informed prior to your immigration process, there are many aspects of relocating to South Africa that is required to be thought through before the new adventure can begin.

Many foreigners only realize the amount of matters that have to be sorted through and arranged once they arrived in our stunning country. There is no need to stress, if all information is at least known before arriving, this will save you many nights of worry and many more days to enjoy our sunshine, beaches, mountains and beautiful flora and fauna with yourself or your family.

Transferring money, bank accounts, exchange control, taxation and investments information

– Transferring Money into South Africa For a foreigner wanting to reside in South Africa, or even if a foreigner wants to invest in the country in one way or another, an agent or consultancy is always the best to approach for the finer details regarding best exchange rates when transferring money, investments, transferring of money and tax implications.

– Bank Accounts in South Africa Opening up of bank accounts is a simple process, provided the correct documentation is supplied to the relevant consultant. If a foreigner wants to obtain a personal/individual bank account (while on a visitors visa), a “non-resident” account can be opened for that person. Whilst these accounts can have all the features of normal banking account, the “non-resident” accounts are restrictive in as much as they cannot generally receive deposits in Rands. Once on a temporary residence permits, these accounts are changed to “resident” accounts. It is best to speak to a Bank consultant to get the best possible service and views.

The foreigner’s closed corporation can obtain a business account, there would be no currency restrictions in terms of Rand deposits, as the closed corporation is viewed as a legal identity in its own right and in the foreigner’s case, is incorporated in South Africa. To receive the best service and required documentation, speak to a banking consultant or an agency that can assist with this nature of services.

– Exchange Control Upon transferring money to South a foreigner will be confronted with the exchange control regulations in South Africa.

South African Exchange Control Regulations are a set of laws controlling the in and outflow of money in South Africa. An authorised dealer in every major South African bank are required to make sure on behalf of the Reserve Bank that incoming and outgoing money complies with the regulations.

A foreigner can transfer an unlimited amount of money into South Africa. As long as the foreigner transfers the capital via a bank within South Africa, it will get registered with the Reserve Bank.

There are limitations in place when it comes to transferring capital out of South Africa. The rules and limitations for a foreigner depend on the status for exchange control purposes when the person arrives in South Africa. The Reserve Bank distinguishes between foreign nationals, temporary residents, immigrants and South African citizens.

Since the status of people relocating to South Africa varies according to the kind of permit they receive, individual advice is necessary.

It should be noted that it is not correct that foreigners relocating to South Africa cannot take any of the money they brought into the country out again. There are rules and regulations, but they do not permit the retransfer of capital introduced into South Africa.

– Taxation South Africa has a residence based tax system, which means that all tax residents are taxed on their worldwide income, irrespective of where it was earned.

Even in case that a foreigner is not classified as a tax resident in South Africa from the start, the foreigner will have to pay tax on income generated from a source within South Africa.

It is important that a person takes care to that he or she is compliant with both Revenue Services, the one in South Africa and the one in his/her home country. South Africa has signed double tax agreement with many countries to avoid that a person pays tax for the same income in two countries at the same time.

A foreigner should seek expert advice to determine from when they will be classified as a tax resident in South Africa and what consequences this status will have on your tax situation.

– Investments South Africa has always welcomed foreigners who invest in our country. For those foreigners who know only limited information on investment options, this matter should be dealt with by an expert financial controller or agency that can assist with this service. Investment in this country is on a large scale and many foreigners, who immigrate to South Africa, do not receive the best service, exchange rates, etc – therefore, causing losses, instead of financial gain. With a mixture of different opportunities and jurisdictions, it can prove to be a multitude of choices and decision to make.

Buying Property in South Africa

There are many opportunities to buy a property in South Africa, for a holiday home or for indefinite periods – there is an extensive market for those on the look out for the best possible properties that South Africa has to offer. Although the market is aimed at the “Seller” and the ‘Seller’s” needs, there are those agents who are on the side of the buyer (foreigner). These agents are the best to speak with concerning purchasing a property in South Africa, as they will always ask the right questions, find the best possible prices, areas, etc for the foreigner and family.

Prospective foreign buyers face a number of matters that are unique to those purchasing property abroad, some matters are: correct financing, exchange control matters, decreased knowledge of geographical areas, difference in buying method from abroad. It is best for the foreigner to find an agent or South African company who can assist with these matters and others, through the entire process, as to not leave the foreigner with questions unanswered but, to enable the foreigner to enjoy their time in South Africa and see their path leading to their new beginning growing.

School and Employment in South Africa

With all families, foreign or South African, finding the right school and employment in the country, if needed, is two of the most important aspects of relocating to another country.

In South Africa, there are many educational institutions, whereby children of foreigners (after obtaining a study permit for that school) spend most of the days. It is always important to find a school that has many of the activities that the child enjoys, some schools focus on sports activities and some schools focus on recreational activities, there are many schools which have a medium with both kinds of activities offered to their students.

South Africa offers many wonderful benefits to reside in, with its increasingly first-world infrastructure and its growing influence in the international market, career aspirations can constantly be fulfilled. If a foreigner would like to work in South Africa, the necessary work permit would need to be obtained in order for the foreigner to work legally in the country. It is best to speak with an immigration agency in order to find out what work permit would be best suited to the foreigner in question.

Permits for residence in South Africa

In order for a foreigner to reside legally in the country, irrespective of the visitor’s visa obtained either at the border when entering the country, or before arrival from the relevant Embassy, the foreigner would need to reside in South Africa on a valid permit constantly in order to prevent fines incurring, deportation back to the country of origin or imprisonment.

There are many different permits and these are issued at the discretion of the Department of Home Affairs to the foreigners who qualify for these appropriate permits.

– Visitor’s Extension Permit (holiday/visit) A visitors extension permit is issued to a foreigner only once in succession (after initial issuance of visitors visa when arriving in South Africa), therefore, the maximum stay that a foreigner can reside in South Africa on a visitors permit/visa is 6 months (160 days), this is dependent on the country of origin’s initial visitors permit, as many countries issue the visitors visa under 90 days, etc. Once the 6 months has come to an end, the foreigner would need to leave the country, or apply for a temporary residence permit (if the foreigner qualifies for a specific permit).

In order to receive a visitors visa at the border (i.e. airport), the foreigner who is entering South Africa is required to show a return ticket to the country of origin within 3 months (90 days) after arrival, if not, the officials at the borders are able to deny entry into South Africa.

– Study permit In South Africa, a foreigner who would like to study in an educational institution would require a South African study permit (temporary residency). There are 2 options for a study permit for the respective foreigner(s):

The first option would be for foreign families immigrating to South African with children from the age 6 to 16 (as all children from the age of 6 to 16 are required by law to attend schooling, therefore, requiring a South African study permit). If a child is young enough to attend crèche, pre-school, etc, provision may be made by the Department to issue a study permit to the child(ren), this is done with their own discretion. These permits are issued to the length of the schooling period, the maximum period length of a study permit is 3 years and these permits can be extended a number of times.

The second option would be for individual (stand alone) foreigners wishing to continue their studies in South Africa (e.g. university, college, etc). These study permits are issued by the Department of Home Affairs to the applicant who has been “provisionally accepted” to a South African Registered Educational Institution. These study permits are issued to the length of the course; this is done with the Department’s discretion and can be extended is necessary.

A person (foreign student), over the age of 16 years is able to conduct work for 20 hours per week during their term (semester) or when the workplace is a learning institution on a South African study permit.

– Business Permits Business permits are issued to foreigners who wish to operate a business in South Africa, whether it be closed corporations, sole proprietors, etc. These permits are issued to those foreigners who wish to invest in an already established business or establishing a new business.

In order to qualify for a business permit, the foreigner must submit proof stating that they wish to invest or have already invested an amount of (a) ZAR 2.5 million in cash in foreign currency, (b), a capital contribution of at least ZAR 2.5 million or (c) at least ZAR 2.5 million in cash in foreign currency and a capital contribution of ZAR 500,000 into the book value of the business in question, along with other substantial documentation proof (i.e. business plan).

If a foreigner wishes to invest less than ZAR 2.5 million into the book value of the business, a recommendation letter (waiver) is required by the Department of Home Affairs, these recommendation letters are issued by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to waiver the capitalized requirement. These letters are also issued for specific industries, e.g. Tourism industry (guest houses), information and communications technologies and others.

Business permits are issued usually for 24 months, but can be issued for up to 5 years, this is at the Department’s discretion. Before the expiry of this permit, the same can be extended.

Permanent Residency can be applied for based on the Business permit category, based on self-employed applicants who invest more than ZAR 2.5 million into the book value of the business. If a foreigner’s investment is less than the prescribed amount, waiting on the outcome of the waiver application is required to be done before permanent residence can be applied for.

For foreigners wishing to operate a business in South Africa, the best option would be to seek advice from an established Immigration company to receive the correct advice and protocol to be established to avoid future problems if done personally.

– Retired Permits A South African retired permit is issued to a foreigner who wishes to reside in South Africa for 6 months or longer, there are no age minimum or maximum requirements for this permit category.

A foreigner wishing to retire in South Africa and obtain a retired permit must be able to prove the following financials (a) ZAR 20,000 per person, per month for a maximum period of 48 months (four years) through cash assets, capital (bank statements), pensions, actual rental income or investment interest income for a temporary residency application or (b) ZAR 20,000 per month – life-long guaranteed income through pensions, actual rental income or investment interest income for a permanent residence application.

If a foreigner who would like to apply for permanent residence based on retired category and has not been married/in a permanent relationship for 5 years or longer, the above ZAR 20,000 per month, would be per person, resulting in the foreigners submitting proof of ZAR 20,000 per month, per person, each.

The retired person’s temporary residence permit is issued for a period of 6 months to 48 months (maximum period); the period on the retired permit is dependent on the financial income provided.

If a person would like to obtain a retired temporary residence permit, this retired permit only does not permit the holder to work in South Africa. A work endorsement would be required in order for the foreigner to conduct work. If a work endorsement is endorsed with the retired permit, this endorsement is specific, therefore, not allowing the holder to work at any establishment, but for the company employing the foreigner at that time.

No holder of a temporary residence retired permit is able to operate a business or study in South Africa.

– Life-Partner / Spousal permits All foreigners require a permit to reside legally in South Africa, whereby a spouse (husband or wife) or a life-partner (permanent relationship) of a South African citizen/permanent resident holder would need to apply for a spousal or a life-partner permit. A temporary residence permit can be issued to a foreign spouse/life-partner who has been married/permanent relationship to a South African for less than 5 years, but in turn, permanent residence can only be applied for once the couple have been married/permanent relationship for 5 years or more and can prove this time together.

It would be the more valuable option to apply for temporary residence first (whether married/permanent relationship for more or less than 5 years), as permanent residence takes approximately 18 months (these timescales are not guaranteed), therefore the foreign spouse/life-partner would be legal to reside in South Africa, whether applying for permanent residence or not.

It is very beneficial to obtain a South African spousal or life-partner temporary residence permit, as foreigners who are holders of these permits are able to work, operate a business or study in South Africa with the correct endorsement. This permit negates the need for work permits and business permits to be applied for and all the vast number of documentation that is required. While these spousal or life-partner permit endorsements require only a few additional documents to enable the foreigner to work/operate a business or study in South Africa.

If a foreigner will be conducting work, operating a business or studying in South Africa, it is best to know exactly what endorsement or company to work for, business plans or educational institution, as these endorsements are specific. Therefore, the name of employer/business or educational institution will be mentioned on the permit, not allowing the foreigner work for another company, operating a different business or studying with a different institution, without re-applying (with a new application) for a new specific endorsement on the spousal or life-partner permit.

The length of the temporary residence permit is issued by the Department of Home Affairs at their discretion and is issued for a period between 1 – 3 years. The South African spousal or life-partner permits can be extended at the end of their validity, provided that the marriage certificate or proof of relationship is submitted with the extension application.

– Relatives Permit While many foreigners who reside in South Africa do not have direct family in the country, there are foreigners who do have family (direct – 1st and 2nd kinship) residing permanently (obtained permanent residence) or are South African citizens in the country, these foreigners may apply for a relatives permit.

For temporary residency, the following lines of kinship may apply for temporary residency, parents, children, siblings. In order to apply for permanent residence, only parents and children are permitted to apply under this category.

The temporary residence permits are usually issued for a period of 1 – 3 years, these permits can be extended if necessary provided the documentation is supplied. Conducting work, operating a business or studying in South Africa is not permitted for the holders of this permit.

– Work permit In order for a foreigner to work in South Africa, a work permit is required to be obtained from the Department of Home Affairs. Obtaining a work permit can seem daunting and a complex process as foreigners often are informed by potential employers that they cannot employ them until a work permit is in place, this is not necessarily correct, as many immigration companies may contact the prospective employer and communicate the realities regarding work permit matters.

There are four types of work permit categories for foreigners wishing to conduct work in South Africa:

1. General Work permit – a foreigner wishing to apply for a General Work permit is required to provide a conditional offer of employment from a South African based employer amongst other documentation (i.e. advertisement, etc). This work permit is also required to include confirmation that the foreigner who is applying for this permit possesses the necessary qualifications, certified and approved by the South Africa Qualifications Authority (SAQA) and confirmation of the relevant work experience.

These permits are issued by the Department for a period of 1 – 5 years. A person, who has been residing in South Africa on a General Work permit for 5 years or longer, may apply for permanent residency thereafter.

2. Quota Work permit – a foreigner who falls within a certain professional criteria in which skills are considered scarce within South Africa are able to apply for a Quota Work permit. No employer is required for this permit to be applied for. This work permit is also required to include confirmation that the foreigner who is applying for this permit possesses the necessary qualifications, certified and approved by the South Africa Qualifications Authority (SAQA) and confirmation that the applicant has at least 5 years of relevant working experience in the appropriate field.

These permits are also issued by the Department for a period of 3 – 5 years. If a foreigner enters the country on a Quota work permit, the holder must submit confirmation of having secured employment within a specific category within 90 days of arrival (i.e. the Quota Work List issued by the Department of Home Affairs). After a foreigner receives a Quota Work Permit, while in South Africa, this foreigner is required to confirm employment in the specific category within 90 days of receiving the permit; thereafter a General Work permit is applied for to the Department of Home Affairs.

3. Exceptional/Extraordinary Skills permit – a foreigner who possesses exceptional skills may obtain this temporary residence permit. In order for a foreigner to qualify for this permit, the application for an Exceptional Skills permit must be accompanied by letters from foreign or South African organs of state or from an established South African academic, cultural, business body confirming the exceptional skills of the applicant. With these letters, any proof which substantiates the claim to exceptional skills/qualifications must be submitted, such as testimonials from former employers, publications or dissertations are required.

This exceptional skills permit is issued for a period of 1 – 5 years, at the Department’s discretion concerning the exceptional skills. Permanent Residency is permitted to be applied for under this category.

4. Intra-Company Transfer permits – a foreigner who is being relocated from a branch in the country of origin to a sister branch, subsidiary or affiliate in South Africa. The holders of these permits are seen as a temporary recruitment options for the employer by the Department of Home Affairs; therefore, these permits will only be issued for a maximum period of 2 years.

– Corporate Permit A Corporate permit is seen as a thread of a work permit, but is issued by the Department of Home Affairs to South African based companies (corporates) who wish to employ foreigners who may take up employment for the applicant for a limited time. These permits also offer these companies the possibility to employ great numbers of employees abroad.

Due to South Africa’s ever growing market, the corporate permit enables the companies, an excellent way to manage their human resources, as each application is aimed at an individual work permit for a predetermined number of required foreign employees, with this application, having to submit detailed job descriptions, specific requirements and the proposed remuneration in respect of each employee.

These are detailed and lengthy applications that require vast amounts of attention to detail. The Department issues corporate permits for a maximum period of 5 years. In order for an extension to be considered, the corporate companies have to appeal to the Department of Labour and Department of Trade and Industry that the positions they require are still in shortage in South Africa.

There are a number of other permits that can be applied for, if the foreigner qualifies, but the most common South African permit options would be the above.

With South Africa’s ever growing economy and population, it comes as no surprise that the matters, such as money matters, taxation, schooling, properties and permits, etc are required to be looked over, dealt with and knowledge increased prior to arrival in order for the foreigner to make the best possible decisions to make their new lives easier and run efficiently for themselves and their families.

Claire Roodman

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