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Emigrate to South Africa from the UK

The first step to immigrating to South Africa from the UK is learning what visa or permit you need. The most common options are work visas and permanent residence permits. Consider your reason for moving to South Africa and what you hope to be doing in the country before deciding which is best for you.

For assistance with emigrating to South Africa, contact our immigration lawyers today on 0333 305 9375, they are happy to help.

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Moving to South Africa

There are currently over 200,000 British expats living in South Africa. Known as the Rainbow Nation, the diversity of South African culture, stunning landscapes, amazing wildlife, warm climate and low cost of living make South Africa a popular destination for those looking to emigrate from the UK.

There are also many other reasons that British citizens choose to make the move to South Africa. With English being one of South Africa’s official languages expats don’t need to worry about language barriers, which can help considerably when getting settled into a new country.

South Africa’s economy is also growing and the South African rand is strengthening, but there is still a relatively low cost of living compared to many other countries and there are plenty of career opportunities available to British citizens.

Whilst South Africa is known for it’s own cultures and traditions, the diversity of the Rainbow Nation means that the country is also home to dynamic cities like Cape Town. So whether you are after beautiful beaches and outdoor adventures, or are interested in the bustling life in urban areas, there will be something for you.

South Africa Visa Requirements

If you are a British citizen planning to visit South Africa then you will not need a visa providing that do not stay in the country for more than 90 days. For anything longer, travelers will need either a temporary residence permit or a permanent residence permit.

A permanent residency permit can take a long time to obtain so most British citizens emigrating to South Africa do so by initially acquiring a Temporary Residence Permit. This allows you to live and work in South Africa for up to three years, during which you can apply for permanent residence.

There are several different types of Temporary Residence Permits, they include the:

Relative’s visa: This is available if you have a blood relative living in South Africa who is a citizen or permanent resident and willing to sponsor you. The relative must prove that they can afford to support you financially while in South Africa. You must also prove that you will support yourself once the permit expires.

General work visa: This is available if you’re able to prove that your skills are needed in South Africa and that no other citizens or permanent residents can fill the position for which you’re applying. You’ll need a clean criminal record and proof of financial independence when applying for this type of visa.

If you want more permanent status, apply for a residence permit instead. These are valid for five years and allow people who meet certain criteria to live in South Africa permanently.

Financial requirements

Before applying for any immigration visa, you must prove that you are financially independent, this means that you are able to support yourself and your family financially.

To prove this you will need to demonstrate that you have enough money (known as “maintenance”) set aside when you arrive in South Africa. The exact amount will depend on your visa type and the size of your family, but expect it to be at least £2,000 per applicant.

Medical exams and background checks

A medical exam is required for applicants to ensure they are not suffering from any health problems that could burden the country. You will need:

  • A medical report from your doctor
  • A blood test

It is highly recommended that you get private health insurance for your time in South Africa, this is because there is a significant gap between the public and private healthcare facilities.

Get Ready to Leave the UK

Before you can move to South Africa, you’ll need to start making preparations. Some of these steps must be done before you go, and others you can take care of once you arrive.

Get your finances in order before you go. This is important for many reasons. You’ll need a bank account in South Africa, so set one up before leaving the UK. That way, you’ll be able to transfer money into it when you arrive. Talk with your bank about how much it will cost to transfer money from your UK account into a South African account.

You should also get your credit score and history sorted out before leaving. Contact all of your creditors to see if they can close your accounts or put them on hold until you’re back in the UK. Make sure they know what they need to do – some may just close them automatically after a period of non-payment, and that could affect your credit history if you ever decide to move back to the UK.

Start Early to Make Sure You Have Everything in Place Before You Go

Check if you’ll need a visa or permit to move to South Africa. The Embassy of South Africa has more information on the visa process. Book your flights and accommodation for when you first arrive in South Africa. Check with your airline if they allow pets.

If you need any vaccinations, book an appointment at least eight weeks before you leave, as some may require multiple doses over several weeks. The NHS website has details of recommended vaccinations and can direct you to your nearest travel clinic.

Please make sure any pets are microchipped and are up-to-date with their vaccinations. Some countries will require them to be quarantined for six months, so research the requirements for entry into South Africa before travelling.

Get in touch with our expert immigration lawyers to receive assistance with your case.

Becoming a South African Citizen

Once you have lived in South Africa for at least 5 years on a Permanent Residence Permit then you could be eligible to apply for South African citizenship by naturalization.

As well as meeting the 5 years of permanent residence requirement, there are also other requirements that you must meet to be eligible for South African citizenship, you must:

  • Have police clearance
  • Obtain a letter of acceptance of dual citizenship from your country of origin
  • Submit proof of language proficiency
  • Attend an induction to become a citizen of the Republic of South Africa
  • Attend a naturalization ceremony

If you citizenship application is successful, you will have the same rights as other South Africans, including the right to a South African passport.

Retiring in South Africa

If you plan to retire in South Africa, you will be required to apply for a Retired Persons Visa. However, there are limits on what you can and cannot do with this type of visa. The retired persons’ visa does not allow you to work in any form or capacity.

Your application for a retired person’s visa will be assessed on a case-by-case basis by the Department of Home Affairs. They consider how much money you have available to sustain yourself during your retirement without working in South Africa.

The most important thing to ensure is that your income is sufficient to support yourself and your dependents in South Africa. You need also prove that you have the funds for permanent residence in South Africa, either by cash or an irrevocable letter of undertaking from a registered South African financial institution.

The financial requirements are as follows:

  • If you are aged over the age of 50, you must have a minimum annual income of at least R37 000.00 (approximately £2,150).
  • If you are aged under the age of 50, you must have a minimum annual income of at least R66 000.00 (approximately £3,840).
  • If you have your spouse accompanying you, you will need to add an additional R6 600.00 (approximately £390) per dependent child and R37 000 (approximately £2,150) per dependent parent or child over 18 years old to these amounts.
  • You may also need to prove that you have sufficient medical insurance coverage for your time spent in South Africa.

South African Study Permits

The study visa allows you to study at any registered institution in South Africa for up to three years. Like all visas, apply for the visa at your closest South African embassy or consulate. In addition to the standard documentation, you will need to provide proof of acceptance from the school you wish to attend and proof of financial support for yourself and accompanying dependents.

You will also need an official letter from your institution confirming that you have been accepted. The South African Department of Home Affairs has a list of all the documents you will need to submit with your visa application here.

South Africa work permit

If you are a skilled worker looking for a job in South Africa, you can apply for a critical skills visa.

The Critical Skills Visa is designed for foreign nationals who have skills that are considered critical in the country. These skills are in such high demand that they cannot be filled by locals at this time, so the government has decided to open this visa up so that these professionals can immigrate to South Africa to fill these roles.

If you hold a qualification that is on the Critical Skills List you may qualify for this visa, which comes with several benefits over other types of visas (e.g., you will not be required to have a job offer before applying).

The Critical Skills Visa is valid for five years and allows you to live and work anywhere within the country. You can also bring dependents into the country with this visa if they share your surname (and can prove it). If they don’t share your surname, they may still be able to get temporary residency (for up to two years) under certain circumstances related to their employment status and qualifications.

Joining relatives in South Africa

You can apply for a relative visa if you’re related to a South African citizen or permanent resident and you’re planning to move to South Africa.

You’ll need to prove that:

  • You’re related to the South African citizen or permanent resident through your birth certificate or marriage certificate
  • Your relative can support and accommodate you in South Africa
  • You can support yourself financially in South Africa
  • You have a medical certificate showing that you’re free from infectious disease

You have a police clearance certificate from each country you’ve lived in for more than 12 months during the last ten years.

Move to South Africa with your family

The general Family visa is the most common visa for people moving to South Africa with their families.

This visa is for spouses and children of South African permanent residents or citizens and extended family members such as parents or siblings of SA residents and citizens.

If you have any questions about emigrating, our team is happy to assist.

We offer immigration advice sessions as face to face appointments at all of our UK offices, or via the phone.

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