South Africa

Expats move to South Africa for its outdoor lifestyle, high standard of living and a business environment with plenty of opportunity.

South Africa has a well-developed infrastructure and has all the modern amenities and technologies. The government is stable, although corruption is common.

Eastern Cape
King Williamstown
Free State
Pretoria (Tshwane)
Kwazulu Natal
Northern Cape
Northern Province
North Western Province
Western Cape
Cape Town

South Africa is approximately 1.25 million square kilometers (472.7 sq. miles) and it is larger than Germany, France, Belgium and Holland combined. There are 3 major regions-plateau, mountains and the coastal belt. The coastal belts are lush with sandy beaches and major ports.


The climate is moderate. The summers (October to March) are generally warm to hot, and the winters are mild.

Tropical, hot, hot, and hot! Humidity is intense, especially along the coastal regions. During the month of October the sand from the dessert storms in Northern Africa create a white powdery dust that settles on everything like snow (it is called Hammatan); there are two season: the wet and dry season (as opposed to winter, summer, etc). During the wet season, more rain falls in the space of 2 months than what falls in England in 1 year!


By UN classification, South Africa is a middle-income country with an abundant supply of resources, well developed financial, legal, communication, energy and transport sectors. Advanced development is significantly localized around 4 areas: Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban and Johannesburg/Pretoria. Beyond these 4 economic centres, development is marginal and poverty is still prevalent. South Africa suffers from large income gaps and a dual economy marking it as a developing country.


By UN classification, South Africa is a middle-income country with an abundant supply of resources, well developed financial, legal, communication, energy and transport sectors. 
Advanced development is significantly localized around 4 areas: Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban and Johannesburg/Pretoria. Beyond these 4 economic centres, development is marginal and poverty is still prevalent. South Africa suffers from large income gaps and a dual economy marking it as a developing country.


South Africa offers a large variety of leisure activities for expatriates, tourists and local residents. Weekends are spent around the pool and barbeque, watching or participating in sports, cycling, golfing, etc. Movie theaters are modern and all the latest international and local movies are available. Dining out is extremely popular and affordable.


South Africans are passionate about their sports. Among the popular sports are soccer (“football”), rugby, golf, cricket, cycling, and surfing, to name a few. We have world champions amongst our swimmers, athletes, boxers, tennis players, golf players and more.


South Africa has a very well developed economy and all major industries are represented. An aspect that expats will need to learn to negotiate is the government policy of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE).


You are taxed differently depending on your status and how long you’ve lived in the country. 
The South African Revenue Service (SARS) is the body in charge of administering the income tax system in South Africa. Income tax is levied in terms of the Income Tax Act, 1962. 
South Africa has income tax treaties that exempt you from statutory tax rates for certain types of income.
An expat living in South Africa for more than 549 days over the preceding three tax years will be taxed on their worldwide income.


The South African banking system is well developed and regulated. The banking sector comprises a central bank (South African Reserve Bank), a few large, financially strong banks and investment institutions including FNB, Standard Bank, ABSA, Nedbank and a number of smaller banks.


South Africa has currency control restrictions which your bank of choice should explain. All money transferred into South Africa can be repatriated under certain conditions, so it is important to keep a record of transactions.


Non-residents are allowed to purchase properties in South Africa. Properties prices are considered affordable in comparison to international standards.


South Africa has a dynamic rental property market where properties are advertised today and are possibly gone tomorrow! Properties are often advertised on the internet to encourage contact with the agents, and are not always as stunning as they look on the web page or as well priced. 

Deposits: it is customary to pay a deposit when leasing a property. It is crucial that the lease agreement includes good clauses to protect the tenant, please ask your relocation consultant for assistance. 

Additional costs to consider when renting:

  • Appliances are typically not included in unfurnished properties other than stove (oven and hob)
  • Water and electricity
  • Telephone/Internet, DSTV, installation and usage
  • Domestic cleaning, Garden and Swimming pool maintenance
  • Home Owners Association Levy
  • Insurance

Lease Terms:

  • Typically leases are signed for 12 months
  • Short term lease is also possible but the landlord is less negotiable
  • Monthly rentals escalate annually. Current asking escalation rate is between 5% – 10%
  • An early termination / diplomatic break clause is acceptable to most landlords

Deciding where to live

  • Traffic, can be very congested
  • Location – prices can vary drastically depending on location
  • Security, need good secure home and ideally armed response subscription
  • Lifestyle – many gated communities offer fantastic lifestyle for the family
  • Garages
  • Domestic room – should you wish to employ a live in domestic worker

There are many people who are available to work for fair wages as nannies, domestics and gardeners. South African legislation requires that employers provide domestic help with a written contract and registers for unemployment benefits (UIF) with the Department of Labor, ask your relocation agent for more details.


A pet import permit and all prescribed vaccinations are needed. Depending on the country of origin, quarantine may be necessary, please check in advance


Telkom is currently South Africa’s only fixed line telecommunications operator and therefore a monopoly with slow and often unsatisfying service delivery.


South Africa has advanced technology and reasonable internet connectivity however it is still more expensive then in many other parts of the world and much slower due to the limitations in infrastructure. 

Internet connection options include LTE, 3G, ADSL, Fibre optic and WiFi


There are five cellular service providers in South Africa. The standard of service is good, although reception in certain (especially remote locations) can be patchy and data usage can be very expensive, ensure you cap it and not run out of bundle.


South African Postal Service is not reliable. Ideally use international courier and mail to ensure the post is received.


South African schools are either public or independent.


are state controlled and prepare students for the National Senior Certificate (commonly called the Matric Certificate), awarded in Grade 12.


are often distinguished further as either private schools or international schools. Usually, private schools are independent schools run by religious organisations or education companies, which write either the South African state examinations or those of the Independent Examinations Board (IEB).


such as the German, French, Chinese, American and British international schools are independent schools which follow the curriculum and educational ethos of another country or of the International Baccalaureate organisation.

There are several alternative learning options which are becoming increasingly popular with expat parents , especially those with younger children. These include Montessori and home schooling.


Admission to private & international schools is dependent on availability with many top schools being fully booked for years in advance. School choice is usually the first step an expatriate family should take before deciding on where to live.

Students who are moving to South Africa will need to apply for a Student’s visa.


There is a wide range of tertiary education institutions in South Africa.

There are also a number of private design, film, theology and business colleges in the cities including branches of institutions overseas.

All legitimate universities, technikons and colleges are accredited by the Department of Higher Education in South Africa.


Crime is a fact of life in South Africa and you are advised to take all necessary precautions and discuss tips for safety and security with your relocation consultant. 

Emergency services, including ambulance services, are run by provincial health departments. The South African Health Services of the South African National Defense Force also plays a key role in emergencies and disasters.


Police/Flying Squad Call 10111, the Nationwide Emergency Response number from anywhere in South Africa 

Ambulance and Fire Brigade 10177 

Medical Call 082-911 for emergency medical assistance. 

Vehicle For car breakdowns, call the Automobile Association at 0800/01-0101 toll free. 

Transport and driving South Africa has poor public transport infrastructure. It’s absolutely necessary to have a car in the country.

  • Drive on the left hand side of the road in South Africa and overtake on the right only however expect other drivers to overtake you from the left as well.
  • South Africa travel distances and speed limits are displayed in kilometers on road signs.
  • Don’t Drink and Drive. The maximum alcohol blood content level that is allowed is 0.05%.
  • A common feature at intersections are Four Way Stops. Here, the very first vehicle to arrive has priority.
  • Give way to traffic on the right at roundabouts.
  • All of the passengers in the vehicle are required by law to wear seatbelts.
  • The use of cell phones without a hands free kit whilst you are driving is not permitted on South African roads.
  • You are required by law to carry your Driver’s License when driving, and it is also advised to acquire an International Driver Permit.

Meter Taxis
Metered taxis, recognizable by the taxi lights on the car roofs, are available. They are not allowed to drive around to solicit business so you have to call to book their services. They are very expensive. 

Uber is available in all major South African centres and is considerably cheaper then metered taxis. Check your Uber app to ensure the service is available at your location. 

The Gautrain
The latest and most modern form of public transport in Johannesburg and Pretoria, 

Airports and Airlines
All international airlines as well as low cost airlines are available in South Africa. You can book online or via a reputable portal.


Cars are more expensive in South Africa than either USA or Europe. 

There is some extra paperwork required of foreigners. Once you have purchased a vehicle you will be required to apply for a Traffic Register Number which is used in lieu of a South African ID. 

An alternative to buying is renting or leasing a car in South Africa and all major international companies are well represented in the country.

  • Valid International Driver’s License: International Driver’s License advisable, only mandatory if your national driver’s license is not in English.
  • Passport or Picture ID Card

Shopping Malls offer international brands and you can find everything you need including.


There are many private hospitals and most of them offer 24-hour emergency services. Private medical services in Gauteng match those of any major international city. 

Natural medicine is a common practice in South Africa-homeopaths, naturopaths, reflexologists, etc are all available.


Hepatitis B inoculations are recommended for children up to the age of 12 who have not completed the series of injections as infants. Booster doses for tetanus and measles can also be administered. 

Visitors entering South Africa from countries where yellow fever is widespread will need to present a yellow World Health Organization (WHO) vaccination record or other proof of inoculation when entering the country. Alternatively, visitors may be inoculated on arrival at Johannesburg International Airport.


South Africa has one of the highest rates of HIV in the world.


Malaria is prevalent only in the north-eastern parts of South Africa, but there are certain popular tourist areas such as game parks where it is advisable to take preventative measures during the summer season.


Sunglasses are recommended wear in Gauteng, where the glare of the African sun can be strong. Visitors should apply sunblock regardless of whether the sun is shining, and particularly when lounging around the pool as instances of skin cancer are very high in South Africa.

  • Arrange for Pre-Move Survey if you are moving your household goods
  • Double check with your movers that all dates are confirmed.
  • Ensure that your move is adequately insured
  • Arrange storage if necessary
  • Arrange transport services for pets
  • Renew Passports
  • Renew Driver’s License. Apply for International Driver’s Permit.
  • Pick up extra forms for renewing the driving permit annually by mail.
  • Begin non-resident visa or permit applications
  • Notify your banks that the account holder will be overseas.
  • Notify the postal service and request to redirect your mail to your new address.
  • Contact schools and arrange for transfer of student records.
  • Notify any child care services with a proper notice of withdrawal.
  • Contact your doctors for medical records
  • Modify your insurance policies on property, vehicles and medical services where required.
  • Arrange for hotels, rental cars or temporary housing required during the move process.
  • Conduct Home Search and School Search in host country
  • Ensure lease documentation has been finalized and all rental deposits have been paid
  • Confirm temporary accommodation bookings
  • Arrange for disconnection of utilities such as electricity, gas, cables, mobile phone, telephone and broadband services.
  • Prepare a survival kit with items you may need at short notice.
  • Convert your local currency to ensure you can pay for incidentals on arrival in the country
  • South Africa is a nation of diversity, with 51.77-million people and a variety of cultures, languages and religious beliefs.
  • Black Africans are in the majority at 41 000 938, making up 79.2% of the total population.
  • The coloured population is estimated at 4 615 401 (8.9%), the white population at 4 586 838 (8.9%), and the Indian/Asian population at 1 286 930 (2.5%). In the census carried out in 2011, 280 454 (0.5%) South Africans classified themselves as “other”.

Key facts:

  1. Capital: South Africa has 3 capitals, Pretoria is the executive, Bloemfontein the judicial and Cape Town the legislative capital.
  2. Johannesburg is the largest city of South Africa and other major cities include Durban, Port Elizabeth and East London


There are eleven official languages of South Africa: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu.


The currency in South Africa is the rand, which is divided into 100 cents. The currency code for the rand is ZAR, but you will also often see it abbreviated as “R”.

Time Zone:

South Africa has one time zone, GMT+2

Dialing code is +27

Important Documents
  1. It could take several weeks to get official copies of vital records and other documents. Start the process early. Consider taking:
    • Birth and Marriage Certificates
    • Vaccination, Medical and Dental Records
    • Academic Records and Diplomas
    • Employment Records
    • Proof of Residency (utility bill, statement, etc.)
    • Living Will and Testament
    • Bank statements and letter from your bank affirming your good standing
Immigration in SA

Main work visas to consider when on expatriate assignment to South Africa:

  • Intra-company transfer, up to 4 years, not extendable;
  • General work visa, up to 5 years, extendable, (additional steps required include advert, department of Labour certificate, SAQA certificate);
  • Critical skills visa, up to 5 years, extendable (additional steps required include, professional body registration certificate, SAQA certificate);
  • Own Business Visa up to 3 years, extendable (additional steps required include, Departments of Trade and Industry and Labour approval among others)
  • Relevant visas are available for retirees, frequent business travellers and investors as well

Additional important information on SA immigration

  1. Work permits are now called work visas in South Africa
  2. There is no separate requirement for residence card, the work visa is all that is needed to allow an individual to live and work in SA
  3. If the holder of work visa resides in SA for more than 182 days in a calendar year they automatically become tax liable in SA
  4. You need a work visa before you can clear a consignment of furniture into South Africa
  5. You need a work visa before you can open a SA bank account
  6. Children need study visas to study at a school in SA.
  7. Volunteer work also requires a specific volunteer work visa
  8. Children and non working spouses are considered dependents of the main applicant and apply for the relevant dependent visas, however the duration of their visas does not always match the duration of the main applicant visa. Always check visa expiry dates to avoid a family member overstaying past their visa expiry date
Note: the above is not an exhaustive list and additional visas, documentation and important information is applicable under the Immigration Act of South Africa
Permanent Residence

There are seven different categories that are applicable for permanent residence in South Africa:


if you’re a biological relative of a South African citizen or a foreigner with a South African permanent residence permit, then you qualify to apply for this type of permit.

Five Years Continuous Work in South Africa:

if you can prove that you’ve worked continuously in South Africa for five years under a specific type of work visa and have permanent employment, then you should qualify to apply for this type of permanent residence permit.

Critical Skills:

if you already hold a critical skills work visa and you have five years of experience in your field with a permanent job offer in South Africa then you qualify to apply for a permanent residence permit.

Spousal/Life Partner:

if you’re married to or in a permanent relationship with a South African citizen or a foreigner with a South African permanent residence permit, then you qualify to apply for this permit. This category applies to both same-sex couples and those in heterosexual relationships. If applying for a permit in this category, it’s necessary to prove that you’ve been married or cohabitating for a minimum of five years.

Business investor:

if you already have a business visa and can prove that 60% of your workforce is made up of South Africans or permanent residents then you qualify to apply for this permit. Your business will need to be in the national interest of the country and an investment of a minimum of R5 million is required to be invested.

Retirement in South Africa:

if you are planning to retire in South Africa and you can prove that you earn the equivalent of R37,000 per month from pensions, retirement annuities or property rentals, then you qualify to apply for this permit.

Financially Independent:

if your net worth is R12 million, then you qualify to apply for this permit. The fee payable to the Immigration Authorities is R120,000 before this permit will be issued.

Country code:

+243 +area code+ contact number

Popular sport:

Football/soccer is by far the most popular sport in the DRC


The country has a variety of mineral resources and nearly all foreign currency reserves and investment are derived from this sector.

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