Find A Job
South Africa is an appealing choice for many expats, with a pleasant climate and a potentially high standard of living. Its economy is stable, with several expanding sectors including manufacturing, but it has significant skills shortages which threaten the development of the economy. You will need a work permit in order to work legally in the country, but if you already work for a company that has a base in South Africa, then you can apply for an intra company transfer permit: a slightly simpler option than a full work visa.
You do not have to have your work permit tied into a particular job, but can apply for a general permit. Corporate work permits are also available, in which a company can apply for a permit which allows them to hire a certain number of overseas personnel. The South African government is attempting to prioritize local workers and has therefore been tightening its permit application process.
The Intra Company Transfer Permit mentioned above extends for up to 4 years but cannot be extended after that: you will need to apply for another type of employment visa after this.
The General Work Visa can be obtained if you already have an offer from a South African company, who must prove that there is no local worker suitable for doing the job. You will need to submit the following documentation to the Department of Home Affairs (DHA):
• proof of your employer’s attempts to recruit a South African worker
• proof of health and good standing
• SAQA (South African Qualifications Agency) confirming your qualifications
documents certifying job offer and acceptance
You can also apply for a Critical Skills Work Visa if you have a skill that the South African government has placed on the Critical Skills list. You do not need a job offer for this visa and you also have 12 months to find employment within the field of your expertise. However, you will need to have your qualifications in that particular skill certified by the relevant South African authority. This visa is issued for 5 years.
If you are intending to set up your own business, then you can apply for a special Business Visa. You will need to show that at least 60% of your work force will be South African and will need to submit a detailed business plan along with other documentation.
You can either apply at your local South African consulate for your visa or, if you are in South Africa itself, a Visa Facilitation Centre.
The government’s critical skills list currently encompasses 53 categories. The country’s main industries are mining and mineral processing, but agriculture and finance are also big sectors and make a major contribution to the nation’s GDP. Engineers are wanted, as are specialists in life and earth sciences, architecture, business, IT, agriculture, trades (such as mechanics and welders). If you have specialist skills, you may find yourself in demand in South Africa.
You may also find work in the tourism and hospitality industries. There is not a big demand for TEFL as English is South Africa’s official language, but if you are English-speaking and have teaching skills in other subjects, such as STEM, then finding work in schools should be possible.
Secondment is also an option, as is working for a multinational: there are a large numbers of international operators with a base in South Africa including Dell, Deloitte, McDonalds, Pepsi, Toyota and GlaxoSmithKline.
South African businesses work a 5 day week, Monday – Friday, from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. A typical working week consists of 40 hours although the maximum working week is set at 45 hours.
You will be entitled to 21 consecutive days of annual leave on full pay in every leave cycle: 15 working days per annum if you work a five-day week, and 18 working days per annum if you work a six-day week.
If you are pregnant, you will have a statutory entitlement to 4 consecutive months of unpaid maternity leave. This is compulsory and can only be reduced if a doctor certifies that you can return to work earlier.
The minimum age is set at R20 (US$1.38) per hour. Average salaries are not commensurate with Western countries but will depend on your skill level and your sector: as an employee of an international company you are likely to earn a significantly higher wage.
Your spouse will need a separate work permit and will not be able to work under your own visa: permits are job specific. The restrictions in the country are quite stringent and even spouses of South African citizens are not automatically granted the right to work if they are third party nationals. If you are issued with a Critical Skills Work Visa, your spouse will be issued with a residence visa commensurate with your length of contract.
Speculative applications to companies are considered routine. You may need to upload your CV/resume and copies of any qualifications.
There are a number of recruitment agencies covering South Africa.
Applying For A Job
A standard CV/resume format is acceptable and you will not need to have this translated.
South Africa has comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation, covering protection from discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, sex, pregnancy, family responsibility or status, marital status, ethnic or social origin, HIV/AIDS status, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.
Qualifications And Training
You will need to get any qualifications certified by the relevant authority, for instance SAQA (South African Qualifications Agency), especially if you are applying for a Skilled Workers Visa.
Apply For A Visa/Permit
Citizens of the USA, Canada, the UK, most EU and EEA countries, Australia, New Zealand and many countries in Africa can visit South Africa for up to 90 days, for tourist or business purposes, without a visa. If you wish to stay longer, or to work there, the regulations can be more complicated. Wherever possible, South African applicants are given first preference for employment, and work and business visas are subject to time limits and strict regulations. You may be expected to provide a considerable amount of detailed paperwork, and the same goes for any prospective employer. If you wish to retire to South Africa, you must meet a minimum guaranteed income requirement.
A variety of visas are available. A full list of these can be found on the South African Department of Home Affairs’ website.
There are different types of work visa, but in most cases, they are available only when no South African is available to fill the role. Critical skills visas are for people who possess skills and qualifications that are currently in high demand and where there is a scarcity of local workers. At the time of writing, the South African Department of Employment and Labour is revising the list of these skills, with the new one expected in April 2020. It will likely include IT and communication specialists and programmers, most engineering specialisms and materials scientists, some health professionals, architects, surveyors, and scientists of chemistry, physics and biology. However, since professions are sometimes added or removed, it is best to check when the list is published.
If you possess a critical skill, you may apply for a critical skills visa via the South African embassy or consulate in your home country (or country of legal residence) or at the nearest Visa Facilitation Service Centre within South Africa. Your application must be include:
• Your completed and signed application form
• A valid passport
• A vaccination certificate (if you have travelled through or come from a country where Yellow Fever is present)
• Proof of your ability to sustain yourself financially until you begin receiving a salary (in the form of bank statements, cash or travellers cheques)
• A recent medical report and a radiology report
• A certificate from the police attesting you have no criminal record – if you have lived for more than 12 months in more than one country since the age of 18, you must supply a certificate for each country of residence
• Proof that your relevant qualifications have been evaluated by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), translated into one of the official languages of South Africa
• Proof that you have applied for membership or registration by the appropriate council, board or professional body recognised by SAQA
• Proof, within 12 months of acquiring your critical skills visa, of an employment contract matching your skills and occupation, including descriptions
• Relevant documentation relating to your spouse and dependent children, if they are accompanying you
Critical skills visas are issued for a period of up to five years. If you have not received an employment contract at the time of application, they are valid for one year. Your spouse and any dependent children will be issued with visas for the same duration as yours.
If you do not possess skills on the current critical skills list, you must apply for a general work visa. You will need to have received an employment contract before you can apply. In addition to all the items listed above, when you apply for a general work visa, you must support your application with:
• A written undertaking from your employer to pay for any costs arising should you or your dependent family be deported
• A certificate from the South African Department of Labour
An employment contract signed by you and your employer
• Proof that your employer is registered with the Registrar of Companies
• An undertaking from your employer to inform the Ministry of Labour if your role changes within the company or you cease to work for them
• All relevant paperwork for dependant family members who will be accompanying you
General work visas are issued for the duration of your employment contract or for a maximum of five years. You are advised to allow at least four weeks’ processing time for work visas. At the time of writing, fees for both critical skills visas and general work visas are $127/£105.
If you wish to set up a business in South Africa, or to invest in an existing business, you will need a business visa. To apply, you must invest a prescribed minimum amount, and obtain a certificate from a chartered accountant, who is registered with the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants, to prove that you possess the necessary resources. You must guarantee to employ a minimum of 60% South African citizens or residents, and register with all the relevant authorities and professional bodies (for example, Revenue Service, Unemployment Insurance and Injuries’ Compensation Fund). You must also acquire a recommendation from the South African Department of Trade and Industry, demonstrating that your business is feasible and in the national interest. You must also supply all the usual official documents, including the relevant police and health certificates.
At the time of writing, the prescribed minimum investment is ZAR 5 million. This may be reduced for certain business types, such as, currently, metal and mineral refining, automotive manufacturing, textiles and IT. A business visa requires a fee of $127/£105.
South Africa is an attractive destination for retirees, and, if you meet certain minimum income requirements, you may apply for a retired person’s visa. At the time of writing, the income requirement stands at ZAR 37,000 per month ($2477/£1900) from a pension fund or annuity, or as a result of equivalent net assets. There is no minimum age requirement and you may apply for either a temporary or a permanent visa. You will be expected to supply all the usual official documents, together with proof of your retirement income, and all documents relating to your spouse, if relevant. At the time of writing, the fee for a temporary retirement visa stands at $36/£28.
Get Health Insurance
Many expats take out private medical insurance, even if this is not a requirement of residence, because healthcare is expensive in their destination country or because certain treatments and procedures are not available.
When taking out health insurance, be sure to check factors such as the annual and lifetime policy limits, whether there are any exclusions which are likely to affect you, whether you are limited to treatment from specific types of healthcare providers, and whether the policy covers emergency evacuation for medical treatment.
Too frequently, potential buyers of health insurance look only for the lowest cost of premiums before really considering the specific benefits and areas of cover they may actually need. Some plans are cheaper for a reason. Often they include large voluntary deductibles on any claim you might make in the future and may severely cap the benefits received under the plan. Clients should define their needs first, establish the particular area of cover they need, then determine their annual healthcare insurance budget. Only then should they look to premium comparisons, last of all.
Do not buy a plan without studying the policy wording carefully. If in doubt, ask, and only when completely satisfied complete all application forms fully, to the best of your ability.
Important questions to ask the insurance provider:
1. Does the plan allow for cooling off periods, cancellation and then repayment of premium in full?
2. Does the plan offer “Moratorium” or is it “Full underwriting” and do you need to have a medical examination before joining?
3. Does the insurer offer a 24 hour help line, 7 days a week, available from anywhere in the world (freephone)? Most insurers now offer this facility.
4. Are pre-existing conditions excluded when joining and if so, for how long are such conditions excluded?
5. Are all and any nationalities accepted or are there restrictions which apply to local nationals? Some insurers will only take expatriates abroad and not local nationals into an overseas plan.
6. Does the plan allow you to continue cover unbroken through your lifetime? In most cases insurers will continue to offer existing clients cover year on year, irrespective of age or claims history, although premium rates charged can increase dramatically with age.
7. Does the insurer allow for any doctor or consultant or hospital within the plan? Are there any restrictions in this respect? Most international plans do not place restrictions on either hospitals or doctors, but almost all demand that their help lines are called first, prior to approval of any inpatient care.
8. Does the insurer provide for the direct settlement of bills presented by hospitals worldwide, regardless of location (or do you have to pay first)?
9. What are the insurers procedures for outpatient claims? Do these require any pre-authorization or if stated in the plan can you just pay and claim? How long before you get money back from the insurer? 14 days? 28 days?.
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Rent Or Buy Property
While verbal agreements are technically legally binding, it’s always a good idea to obtain confirmation in writing (with the signatures of both parties). Ideally, you want a written tenancy agreement that details the terms and conditions of your rental agreement and clearly defines the responsibilities of the tenant and the landlord. It should also show the amount you have agreed to pay in rent, the payment method, payment dates, and any additional charges or payment increases. Legally, the landlord cannot deny you this if you request a written lease.
A security deposit of one to two months’ rent will be required, which may be in addition to a month’s rent in advance. If you find a property through an estate agent, you may have to pay their commission and a holding deposit. In some cases, you may also have to pay some additional fees, such as registration and reference fees. Both furnished and unfurnished rentals are commonly available on the market.
There are various different property types that you will come across in adverts, such as:
This is a small one-bedroom flat with a kitchen, a bathroom, and a lounge/living/dining area.
A standard flat is bigger than a bachelor flat and typically consists of one to three bedrooms, as well as a kitchen, bathroom and lounge/living/dining room.
A townhouse in South Africa may be different from a townhouse in your home country. Town houses are usually found in complexes of up to 30 homes. They can be a semi (one floor) or a duplex (two floor) property. Townhouses often come with additional costs, such as contributions to maintenance and upkeep of the complex itself.
Cluster houses are somewhat similar to townhouses, in the sense that they are also located in complexes, often with shared facilities (such as pools, club houses etc.). Each cluster also comes with a garden that will be your responsibility to maintain.
A cottage in South Africa may be very different from a cottage in your home country. In South Africa, a cottage is typically defined as a second, smaller property located on the grounds of a larger property.
A detached house is a standard, stand-alone family-sized property with a private garden. The majority of detached houses in South Africa are all on one level, with no additional floors.
It is perfectly possible to find private rentals in South Africa, and even to enter into purely verbal agreements with private landlords. However, the large majority of rentals, particularly for expatriates who are not familiar with the country, are dealt with through an estate agent or, in some cases, an expat’s employer.
Estate agents in South Africa need to be registered with the Estate Agency Affairs Board. Most reputable agents are also members of the Institute of Estate Agents of South Africa. There are plenty of large estate agencies, but you can also find smaller, locally-operating ones in the yellow or white pages (which is still a thing in South Africa, along with Woolworths). You will also see plenty of advertisements in local newspapers.
Some of the larger, better known real estate agents in South Africa include:
Rent in South Africa tends to be more expensive in the larger cities, with Cape Town boasting some of the most expensive rent prices in the entire country. Apartments in Capetown can often exceed $1,700 (USD) per month for an average 120-sqm apartment, compared to around $1,400 in Johannesburg. For those searching for family homes, an average 300-sqm property in Cape Town costs the equivalent of around $3,500 per month.
That being said, data statistic website Numbeo shows that, on average, rent in South Africa is 57.04% lower than in the United Kingdom. It collected the average data over the course of 18 months from 1909 different contributors to estimate monthly rental costs in South Africa. The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom city centre apartment was 6,559.97 ZAR (South African Rand). This is roughly equivalent to £281.95 (GBP) or $352.77 (USD). An apartment of the same size in a less central location would typically cost 5,697.87 ZAR per month (£244.91 or $306.42). The average monthly rent for a three-bedroom apartment in a central location was 13,392.30 ZAR (£575.73 or $720.21), whilst its suburban counterpart was more likely to cost 11,060.18 ZAR per month (£475.55 or $594.83).
Foreigners are generally subject to the same laws as South African nationals and, as such, may purchase property and land with little to no restrictions. Working residents should see no issues at all, whereas non-residents will need to apply for a permit as per Immigration Act 13 of 2002.
Once you’ve found your dream property, you will need to make an offer. If you are using the services of an estate agent (which is highly recommended) then the offer will be made through them. The estate agent will request a formal letter confirming the details of your offer, which they will read through and alter or approve, before sending to the seller. If the seller accepts your offer, both of you will sign the document, which effectively becomes the sale agreement. At this point, you will pay your deposit.
The seller will then appoint a conveyancer to deal with the legal aspects of the transaction. While the seller typically chooses the conveyancer, the buyer usually has to pay the fees, which typically range from 0.1% to 1% of the property value. You will then need to submit your identification documents to the Deeds Registry, so that you can be officially registered as the new owner. Once you’ve been officially registered as the new owner, you’ll need to pay the remaining balance, after which the conveyancer will deliver the title deed.
When purchasing a property, there are additional costs to take into consideration, such as registration fees and the estate agent’s commission (if applicable). It is also worth noting that buyers are liable for transfer duty on properties with a value exceeding 900,000 ZAR. Properties purchased for developers will be liable for Value Added Tax (VAT).
It is generally advised, particularly if you are unfamiliar with the country, that you use a reputable estate agent (details of these can be found in the rental section). There are also some websites that you can use to conduct your property search, such as:
Foreigners fitting certain criteria can take out mortgages relatively easily in South Africa. Your eligibility will depend on a number of factors, such as your residence status and whether you are working in the country or not, as well as your background, credit history, and financial status. For example, if you are not working in South Africa, you will typically not be granted more than half of the purchase price of the property you wish to purchase. The balance must then be paid in cash, and this may be cash generated in South Africa, or off-shore funding.
Some lenders may require you to have a work permit of at least four years before they will consider a bond for more than half of the purchase price. Individual banks set their own terms, but they need to work within the legal framework of the South African Reserve Bank. Therefore, you will also need to obtain permission to take out a loan from the South African Reserve Bank.
The conditions on mortgages are often more strict for non-residents of South Africa, and you may find that this can delay the buying process. Many expatriates choose to work with a mortgage broker to avoid any pitfalls or delays.
You will need certain documents in order to make the mortgage application, such as:
• Passport (or ID card, if you have one)
• Proof of address
• Offer documents
• South African Reserve Bank permission certificate
• Proof of income, such as your last three months of wage slips
• Accountant’s reference and your last two years’ audited accounts and tax returns (if self-employed)
• Your last three months’ bank statements
• Your most recent tax certificate and an employer’s reference
Move Your Belongings
Consider if you want (or are able) to transport your belongings yourself or whether you will need the services of a removals company that deals with international moves. Unless you are travelling very light, or making a fairly short move by road, you will probably need professional help to ship your possessions. Ask for quotes from several companies first, ensuring that they visit your home to carry out a survey of your requirements. It may be worth paying extra for the removals firm to pack your possessions for you, particularly if they are going to be transported to a distant country and need special protection for the long journey. Make sure you bring to their attention anything fragile or precious that needs particularly careful wrapping and packing.
Before agreeing to a quotation, ensure that you are fully aware of exactly what is covered in the price, and that the service to be provided meets all of your requirements. For example, does the service include both packing and unpacking of your household effects? What about disassembling and reassembling of furniture? If you are planning to put anything into storage in your destination country while you find accommodation, does the price include final delivery and unpacking at your home, or will you need to arrange collection of the items? Obtain a firm estimate of the likely arrival date of your items and obtain contact details for any agents that will be dealing with the removal in your destination country. Ensure that the removals company is aware in advance of any practical considerations such as the lack of an elevator to your apartment, or likely parking problems.
If using a removals company, you may be required to take out their insurance cover for your possessions. Whether or not this is the case, ensure that you have adequate insurance for anything of actual or sentimental value that could get lost or damaged during the move. Take the time to accurately complete or check an inventory of your possessions to be moved, as this will form the basis for any insurance claim for losses or damages. Find out if insurance is included in the price quoted by the removals company, or whether you are required to pay extra for this.
The removals company should arrange any customs and importation documents on your behalf, but if you are arranging the move independently you will need to find out what documents are required and what import duties and taxes are payable (and whether you are eligible for exemption from these).
Make sure that you set aside the important documents you will need for the journey, such as passports and air tickets, and keep these easily accessible in your hand luggage.
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Register For Healthcare
QUICK LINK: South Africa health insurance
Currently, South Africa’s health insurance is based on a number of medical aid organizations, such as Discovery, Bonitas and Momentum, and the Government Employees Medical Scheme (GEMS). It is estimated that South Africa currently has around 80 different medical aid schemes. Of these, 21 are open schemes (anyone can join) and 59 are restricted schemes (for companies, specific sectors or industries). The top 15 schemes currently cover 84% of the South African population who are insured – but in practice, that only means about 15% of the population overall.
South Africa’s new public health insurance scheme, National Health Insurance or NHI, aims ultimately to replace these myriad schemes and to provide universal coverage for all residents, regardless of their socio-economic status, that is free at the point of delivery. Its goal is to improve access to healthcare for the country’s poorest residents, based on the South African principle of ‘ubuntu,’ or compassion and humanity.
The NHI will fund both public and private healthcare so that patients will be able to access care providers who are closest to them regardless of sector, and aims at reducing the cost of private health insurance. It will be funded through general taxes, a re-allocation of tax credits, and payroll deductions calculated according to income levels.
The South African government plans to use the money to buy healthcare from public and private doctors, specialists, and hospitals that have been registered with the state system. If the contributions do not prove to be sufficient, the government is expected to pay the balance. All healthcare institutions will have to be compliant with a government-set standard, in an attempt to improve the quality of medical units.
Prior to the advent of the NHI, there was little resembling public coverage in South Africa for expat workers, who were obliged to take out private plans.
Under the new scheme, as an expat you will be eligible if you are making contributions into the system. However, note that the scheme is currently in its infancy. It was introduced in the summer of 2019 and is in the initial phase of a three-stage roll-out. Full implementation is planned for 2026 and may face some teething problems: the South African Health Minister has warned that implementation is an ‘ultra-marathon’ not a ‘sprint.’
The NHI will be introduced in three phases under central government control and will include the following steps:
• preparing hospitals to provide specialised services to all citizens
• registration of those who qualify for NHI and distribution of NHI cards (priority will be given to vulnerable groups such as mothers, small children and the elderly)
• a transitional fund will be be set up to buy healthcare services from certified non-specialist public and private providers. “Ideal clinics” will be accredited to provide primary care
• public hospitals will be accredited by the Office of Health Standards Compliance (OHSC). Emergency medical services and the National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS) are to be contracted in
• private doctors will also be contracted in to provide primary healthcare services, and this will be extended to providers who can address “physical barriers to learning” for school children: for example, audiologists, speech therapists, psychologists and optometrists
• (final stage) mandatory payroll contributions will be introduced and private sector providers, such as hospitals and specialists, will be contracted to provide services
The full scheme will not be in place for several years.
Everyone who is covered by the NHI will be automatically registered as the roll-out proceeds; a number of patients have been registered already. There is currently no way to self-enroll.
Open A Bank Account
South Africa’s banking system is one of the most developed in the world. However, there has been a decline in the number of financial institutions operating in South Africa in recent years. Some gave up their banking licenses while others, such has the Merchant Bank, ING Bank NV, PSG Investment Bank, BOE Bank and the Brait Bank, have had to make drastic staff cuts to minimize operating expenses. However, appetite for bank loans and mortgages remains high.
There are around six foreign-owned banks, 15 locally controlled banks, 50 registered foreign bank branches and representative offices, and two registered mutual banks operating in South Africa.
Standard Bank, Nedcor, Absa, and the First Rand Bank, are the big four banks that dominate the retail market. They share 15 million customers including almost 1 million internet banking subscribers and operate over twenty-five million accounts.
The South African internet banking sector is projected to increase steadily in the next few years. However, reports in the media about clients’ bank accounts being hacked have made many people in South Africa wary of internet banking.
Poor levels of customer service, over-regulation of foreign-controlled banks, and high banking charges are some of the problems associated with some South African banks. However, these problems are not unique to South Africa; they have been experienced in many other developed countries including Australia and the US. Before signing any contracts or taking out a loan, you should always shop around and compare rates to find the most suitable banking service.
Bank opening hours are generally from 9 am until 3.30pm from Monday to Friday and from 9 am to 11 am on weekends. However, this varies depending on the bank.
An independent body known as the Banking Adjudicator (Tel. 011-838 0035), provides a free, informal, confidential problem-solving service to people with complaints regarding banking services or specific banks. Therefore, if you have a complaint about a banking service or product or an unresolved dispute with your bank you can contact the Banking Adjudicator. The Adjudicator may require copies of all correspondence between you and the bank and your complaint reference number.
A nonprofit body established by the government known as the Micro Finance Regulatory Council was set up to protect the interest of customers and their doors are always open in case you have a problem concerning a loan.
South Africa’s two major credit bureaux, Trans Union (Tel. 0861-482 482) and Experian (Tel. 011-799 3400), are used to check a customers credit rating (for a small fee). They also provide advice regarding credit.
The Credit Information Ombud (Tel. 0861-662 837) is a voluntary, independent association reporting to the industry council. If South Africa’s two major credit bureaux are unable to solve your credit problem, report the matter to the Credit Information Ombud for further assistance.
How to open a bank account in South Africa
Citizens, residents, and non-residents can open bank accounts in South African. However, it is advisable to open a South African bank account in person instead of trying to open one from abroad.
You can choose to go to the bank of your choice and introduce yourself, or you can ask your friends, colleagues, or neighbors for their recommendations. The banks will require you to be at least 18 years old. You will also be required to provide other details including your address in South Africa, (or a utility bill as proof) and proof of identity, e.g. a passport.
Be sure to compare the fees charged for international money transfers because some banks charge higher fees than others. Although many banks provide details of their banking fees on their websites, many clients find it difficult to go through all the details in banks’ websites trying to find the information they need.
If you wish to open a bank account in South Africa from abroad, you will be required to obtain an application form from a branch of a South African bank (either in South Africa or your home country). You will also be required to provide a photocopy of the relevant pages of your passport and a letter of reference from your bank.
Most banks in South Africa provide their clients with debit and credit cards so that their clients can transact using the cards wherever they are. In addition, expats can use NYCE networks and CIRRUS to obtain cash from abroad. However, it is advisable to carry enough cash around because some banks’ ATM machines often run out of cash or go out of service. Some banks limit ATM card withdrawals to around R2,000 (€206) per day for security reasons.
The Rand (R) is the official currency of South Africa. The value of coins minted is in the following denominations: 1 cent, 2 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents 50 cents and R1, R2, R5. Notes are printed in denominations of R10, R20, R50, R100, and R200. The South African currency denominations have been designed to reflect the country’s diverse fauna. They have depictions of various animals including antelopes and birds.
It is advisable to exchange some of your money for South African coins and banknotes before arriving in South Africa to familiarize yourself with the currency. This will also eliminate the need for exchanging currencies at unfavorable rates on arrival at a South African airport. In addition, avoid high-value notes like R200 because they are not widely accepted in most public transport vehicles and when making small purchases. They are also easy to counterfeit. You may also pay for goods at higher rates if you pay for them using the high value notes as sellers exaggerate the prices of their goods and services to exploit you.
There are many ways of sending money from one country to another. As always, expats can save themselves a lot of trouble and expense if they do a little research and shop around for the best deal.
International Bank Transfers
For most expats, currency transfer involves transferring small to medium sized amounts regularly from an existing bank account back home into a new overseas bank account in the local currency. These may be pension payments, benefits, or any other form of income.
Your home bank will usually be glad to oblige. You can set up facilities with them “on demand” whereby you fax or call them on the phone, provide a secret code or two, tell them the amount in question, and they will transfer it to your new bank, automatically converting it into the relevant local currency. Some banks also allow you to make international payments online. Whatever method you choose, transfers normally take between 3-7 days although 1-2 day transfers are often available but be prepared to pay more for these.
You can also set up regular transactions that are processed automatically on a fixed day of each month. Many state pensions and benefits can be paid directly into your new bank abroad without going through your home bank at all. Some private pension organisations may also offer the same facility.
When you first set up a transfer of funds abroad, the sending bank or institution will ask you for various codes that identify the destination bank. Often they will ask for IBAN (International Bank Account Number), BIC (Bank Identifier Code) or SWIFT codes but don?t panic – your new bank will give these to you and they may even already be listed in your new chequebook or bank statements.
As far as charges are concerned, you will probably be required to pay a flat fee per transaction. Additionally a percentage fee is often charged for the currency conversion itself. You may also find that your receiving bank charges you for receiving the transfer. Charges vary by bank but can quickly add up – ask your bank(s) for an indication of the fees involved.
As a general rule, transferring larger sums less frequently usually works out cheaper than transferring smaller amounts more often. However, if you need to transfer regular amounts of at least a few hundred pounds/dollars or need to make a larger one-off payment (e.g. for a house purchase) you should consider the services of a currency broker.
Cash Machine/ATM Withdrawals
Thanks to modern technology, most people abroad can go to a cash machine/ATM and withdraw local currency funds directly from their home bank account. This is a useful option to have for expats but exercise caution – many banks make hefty charges for using this type of facility. You may also find that withdrawal limits are in place (as a security measure) even if you significant funds in your account back home.
You can also use VISA or Mastercard credit cards to obtain cash in this fashion and if you pay the amount off quickly and avoid interest charges then fine – but once again credit card charges for cash withdrawals can be high. Check the rates carefully.
Currency brokers (also called foreign exchange brokers) offer significant advantages over traditional banks. Firstly, brokers will often be able to offer you a better rate than your bank. Secondly, the entire process is more transparent – many banks require you to accept the exchange rate available on the day they process your transaction, whatever and whenever that may be, but a specialist broker will offer greater flexibility, even allowing you to specify the rate you want in advance.
Currency brokers are smaller companies than major banks so always check their background carefully. Ask existing expats for their own experiences and recommendations before choosing a firm to handle your own foreign exchange requirements.
A good broker will discuss all the options with you and enable you to make the best decision for your circumstances. Using a broker will typically off the following advantages:
1) Currency brokers generally provide superior exchange rates to the high street banks. The currency brokers have access to the interbank rate and do not have the high costs that the banks have. This means that they can usually offer better exchange rates.
2) Use of a free Market Watch/Order Service: This allows you to tell your currency broker your target or budget exchange rate and they will ring you if that exchange rate level is reached. As the rate moves every few seconds, currency brokers can act as your eyes and ears on the market.
3) Ability to fix the exchange rate in advance using a Forward Contract. If you know you need to convert/move funds in the future but don?t yet have the money you can reserve a rate in advance using a Forward Contract. During this period, you are exposed to exchange rate movements and therefore, a forward contract is ideal if, for example, you have agreed to buy a house and want to fix the rate now but will not be making payment for a couple of months.
Savings from currency brokers can vary from between 1 and 4 per cent on the exchange rate alone, and specialists do not typically charge any fees for transmitting the funds abroad, unlike banks which often levy expensive fees or charges. If you are emigrating and transferring a large sum of money – such as the proceeds of a property – a foreign exchange company could potentially save you thousands.
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Learn The Language
If you are planning on relocating to South Africa, you will find a diverse and vibrant linguistic community awaiting you. The country has a number of official languages, one of which is English. Can you get by in English, however, or will you need to learn another language in order to live and do business here? We will look at some of your options below.
South Africa has a number of languages and 11 of these are official:
• Sepedi (also known as Sesotho sa Leboa)
The most widely spoken first language is Zulu (spoken by 23% of South Africa’s population), followed by Xhosa (16%), and Afrikaans (14%). English is spoken by just under 10% of the population and is the fourth most common first language in the country.
South Africa was first colonized by the Dutch and the language of Cape Dutch evolved into Afrikaans, alongside its colonial rival, English: this is why South Africa has the latter language as one of its official tongues. Many people are bilingual, however, between English, Afrikaans and indigenous languages, or between English and their native languages if they are from elsewhere: languages spoken here include Hindi, Swahili, Tamil, Urdu, German, Dutch, Portuguese, Italian and Greek.
South Africa is thus a multicultural melting pot. However, English is the dominant language in government and the media and if you are living in an urban area, you should find that you have few difficulties in communicating in English. In addition, it is the language of commerce and you will thus be able to communicate with ease in your workplace if you are a native English speaker.
Due to the history of colonialism in South Africa and the considerable racial tensions exemplified in the apartheid regime, politics has inevitably impacted to some extent on language. Afrikaans is therefore sometimes seen as a badge of nationalism and this is difficult cultural territory to navigate if you are coming from elsewhere. However, if you have Afrikaans-speaking friends or colleagues, or if you are in contact with people who speak other local languages, you may wish to learn a few phrases in those tongues in order to smooth the path of integration and to be polite.
Private language schools teach a range of languages, but you do not have to confine yourself to Eurocentric ones. Expats resident in the country suggest that which languages you should learn will depend on which part of the country you are going to be resident in:
• Durban: Zulu
• Mbombela in Mpumalanga: Ndebele, Zulu or Swati
• PE or EL in the Eastern Cape: Xhosa
• Cape Town in the Western Cape:Afrikaans and Xhosa
• Polokwane in Limpopo: Tswana, Venda, Pedi and Tsonga
• Bloemfontein in the Free State: SeSotho
• Upington in the Northern Cape: Tswana, Pedi, Xhosa and Afrikaans
• Mafikeng in the North West: Pedi, Tswana, Pedi and Sotho
It is advised that you take a good phrasebook with you and do not rely solely on digital methods such as translation apps on your phone: more rural areas of South Africa may not have extensive wifi or mobile signal coverage.
Some of the country’s universities teach African languages, for example Rhodes University, and Wits Language School in the University of Witwatersrand, which teaches isiZul. Ubuntu Bridge in Cape Town offers classes in isiXhosa at different levels. You will also find a number of online resources for learning African tongues. Private language schools also offer training in Afrikaans. You may wish to hire a private tutor and undertake some one-to-one classes: they will also be able to fill you in as regards cultural factors. Private tuition can also be more easily tailored to your particular requirements: for example, if you wish to learn a language for a business environment.
It is advisable to do some preliminary research on the language situation overall in South Africa before you come out. Study an overview of how some of these languages relate to one another and how they reflect the political and colonial background of the country. It is a fascinating study in its own right and will give you an insight into the role that languages play in this very complex region.
You may also be intending to come to South Africa to teach English. Because English is an official language of the country, South Africa is a limited market for English teaching, but you may be able to find work in a private school or an international school. Competition is quite high, however, and it is always easier to get work in international education if you have at least a certificate in either TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages).
It is also preferable if you have experience in teaching schemes such as the Cambridge English exams or IELTS (International English Language Testing System): the English test for study, migration or work. Some teaching experience in the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) will also be helpful. This assesses analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English for use in admission to graduate management programs, such as the MBA. You may also find work more easily if you are experienced in teaching English for particular sectors, such as tourism and hospitality, or in summer schools.
It will also be helpful to have at least a Bachelor’s degree as most language schools require this: basically, the rule of thumb is that the more qualifications you have, both in TEFL and in academic subjects, the easier you will find it to get work. Salaries are around US$1170 per month and the cost of living is commensurate with this: you should be able to live fairly comfortably on the amount that you are paid.
Choose A School
The South African government is responsible for education as a whole. The Ministry of Basic Education is responsible for primary and secondary education, with the Ministry of Higher Education and Training is responsible for higher and post-secondary education.
South Africa has a number of languages and English is included in the official list. Pupils at primary school have the right to follow education in their home language, if it is one of the 11 official languages. From grade four onwards, however, pupils only receive instruction in English and Afrikaans.
Education is compulsory from the ages of 6-15.
From the age of six, children are of compulsory school age and must attend primary education, consisting of two stages:
• foundation phase
• intermediate phase
The foundation phase, the intermediate phase and the senior phase are collectively known as General Education and Training (GET).
The foundation phase starts in grade R (reception year, or grade 0) and lasts four years, up to and including grade three. There is an emphasis on basic skills such as reading, writing and maths, and the development of language skills. From grade three onwards, children must study another approved language as well as their language of education.
The intermediate phase starts in grade four and lasts three years, up to and including grade six. The focus here is on reading and speaking skills in the home language as well as in the second language, and on a basic core curriculum.
Secondary education consists of two phases:
• senior phase (grades 7 up to and including 9)
• further education and training phase (grades 10 up to and including 12)
The senior phase concludes lower secondary education and when completed, a pupil is no longer required to attend school.
The upper secondary education is called Further Education and Training (FET). Pupils choose between:
• general secondary education
• vocational secondary education
If pupils choose general secondary education, they take the National Senior Certificate (NSC) at the end of Grade 12.
Further education and training (FET) also includes vocational programmes within secondary education. Pupils can undertake this at technical colleges, community colleges and private colleges and can obtain the National Certificate.
The standard of education in the country is held to be globally low. Out of the countries evaluated in a recent OECD survey, South Africa came 75th out of 76th. Amnesty International has described the nation’s public education system as ‘broken’ and says that crumbling infrastructure, overcrowded classrooms and comparatively poor educational outcomes perpetuate inequality.
Therefore you may wish to opt for educating your child in the private sector. Around 8% of South African schools are private, teaching a variety of curricula from the British national curriculum, to the International Baccalaureate and American syllabi, but you will also find German and Russian-based schools in Johannesburg. Check the location of your proposed school: if you are in a city such as Johannesburg, for instance, the nearness of the school to your home and ease of travel will be critical. Note that a number of South Africa’s schools follow a Christian ethos.
Should you need more information, you can contact the Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa, which covers around 850 private sector schools.
The International School of Cordoba in Johannesburg ISC offers Grade R / pre-primary to grade 11, and is English speaking. Fees range from US$1700 – 2200 per year.
MEL International School offers a full core curriculum and is also English speaking. Fees run from US$1100 – 1500 per annum.
Rodean School is affiliated to the British girls’ boarding school, but follows a South African curriculum here. Fees are in the bracket of US$6K – 11K per year.
The American International School of Johannesburg offers an American curriculum and the IB. Fees range from US$17K – 32K.
Reddam House Atlantic Seaboard is based in Cape Town and teaches both an international and South African curriculum. You will need to contact them for their fees.
Alma Mater International School in Krugersdorp offers a British curriculum leading to IGCSEs and A Level. Fees range from US42K – 5K per year.
The public school year in South Africa runs from January to December, but although a couple of international schools follow this pattern, most run from August-June. Check with the school, however, if you are planning to move your child back into education in their home nation as this can be disruptive.
You will need to contact your selected school directly for a full range of fees but check not only for tuition costs, but also for one-off maintenance/capitalisation payments, registration and admission fees. Check whether you are entitled to a sibling discount. Enrolment policies will vary between establishments but you may need to provide previous school reports as well as supporting documentation relating to your residency. Your child may also be assessed, for instance in English language proficiency.
Homeschooling is legal in South Africa but relatively new, and you will find a number of local homeschooling groups, although some of these groups follow a Christian ethos, so check beforehand if you are following a secular curriculum. It may be advisable to contact the educational authorities in your region if you are intending to homeschool your child.