For South Africans, the road to the UK can be a challenging one, but once you get there it’s worth it. To help you navigate through all the requirements and to ensure that your move goes off as smoothly as possible, we’ve compiled some essential advice and information based on what other Saffas have learned while making the big move.
Transfer your money the easy way
When transferring your money out of South Africa, you want to get as many Pounds for your Rands as you can. Banks are notorious for giving shoddy exchange rates and it’s far better to use a specialist forex agency.
Forex agents build key relationships with banks from all around the world and they process all their transfers in bulk. That’s how they’re able to give you the best rates at lower fees. So forget about using your bank, shop around online and find a broker with local expertise that can help you get the most out of your money transfers.
To financially emigrate, or not to financially emigrate?
Financial emigration is the process of changing your status with the South African Reserve Bank from a permanent resident, or resident living temporarily abroad, to a non-resident of South Africa for tax purposes. While the process may not be an easy one, it does offer several benefits. The biggest one being that you’ll be able to cash out your retirement savings and annuities abroad. You won’t, nor do you need to, give up your South African citizenship when you financially emigrate.
Because legislation may change at any point, if you have decided that you will not be returning to South Africa, you should begin the process of financially emigrating as soon as possible.
Get your tax affairs in order
Last year, the National Treasury put forward a plan to change the law that exempts South Africans earning a foreign income from paying tax in South Africa. The new law will take effect in March 2020 and will mostly affect high-earning expats. At the moment, South African expats who spend more than 183 days working outside of South Africa in a 12-month period, of which 60 are consecutive, are exempted from paying tax.
It’s become more important now than ever for South Africans working overseas to get their tax affairs in order. A South African working abroad is still classified as a South Africa tax resident living temporarily abroad, and you will be subjected to South African tax laws. And while the new law may only affect high-earning South Africans, there may be amendments in future. The safest way to protect your earnings is to formally emigrate your finances and declare yourself a non-South African resident to the Reserve bank and SARS.
Get a TB test certificate
If you’re a South African staying in the UK for longer than six months you’ll need to go for a TB test before you apply for your visa. Your test must be done at a Home Office approved clinic. If your test comes up negative for TB, you’ll be issued with a certificate which you will need to include in your UK visa application.
TB test results are only valid for one year, so if your plans change and you’re only able to travel more than a year later, you will need to go for another test. You may also need to present your certificate at immigration control.
Visit the dentist
The UK grants foreigners access to the National Health Service (NHS) once they’ve paid the immigration healthcare surcharge. However, you’ll still be required to pay for certain types of services like dental care, which can be costly. What’s more, getting an appointment with a dentist on the NHS depends on the urgency of your condition and you may be placed on a waiting list before you receive treatment.
Spare yourself some of the cost and hassle. Get your South African dentist to give you a thorough check-up and treat any dental issues you may have before you leave.
Maximise your medication
If you regularly take prescription medicines, it’s a good idea to stock up on at least three months’ supply to ensure that you’ll still have access to your meds while you settle in your new home. The UK does not accept South African medical scripts and depending on your location, you could end up struggling to find the medication you need.
Make sure to get a letter from your doctor stating that the medication has been prescribed to you because you may be asked to present such a letter at border control. You will also need to apply for a licence which allows you to travel with three months’ supply or more of meds.
Find a place to stay
Finding a place to stay in a foreign country can be tough, especially if you are unfamiliar with the city you’ll be staying in. Before deciding, you’ll want to think about whether you like the idea of staying near fellow Saffas or if you’d prefer to venture out and create a life of your own.
Areas such as South West London, Wimbledon and Wandsworth are quite popular with South Africans. You’ll even find a few stores in those areas that sell all your favourite treats from back home. For those of you looking for something a little less like home, you could consider heading a further north to the now-booming Manchester.