Best Countries to Immigrate to from South Africa

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For South Africans seeking a fresh start abroad, choosing the best countries to immigrate to from South Africa involves weighing various factors such as economic prospects, quality of life, and ease of integration. Whether driven by the desire for better job opportunities, superior social services, or a welcoming political climate, South Africans are exploring a range of destinations that promise new beginnings.

From the scenic landscapes of Oceania to the robust economies of Europe and the cultural diversity of North America, we list the top countries where South Africans can thrive both professionally and personally. We offer insights into the immigration policies, cultural affinities, and opportunities that each country presents, helping potential migrants make informed decisions about their future homes.

Factors Influencing Immigration Choices

Economic Opportunities and Employment Rates

When South Africans consider moving to another country, they’re often drawn by better economic prospects. The gap in income levels between South Africa and potential new homes can be a huge draw. You might be looking to boost your earning potential and secure financial stability.

Many families use migration as a way to spread their income sources. Some family members might head to urban or international spots with higher wages. This is especially true for young people looking for job opportunities in a world where youth unemployment rates are high in some places.

As the global economy changes, with industries like agriculture becoming more mechanized and multinational corporations growing, these shifts will likely shape international migration patterns. The growing economic divide between countries means that folks from lower-income nations and other countries with less skilled workforces are more tempted to move to wealthier countries that need their skills.

Quality of Life and Social Services

Quality of life and access to social services are also key when you’re thinking about moving countries. Wealthy countries with older populations might not have enough workers, especially in areas that care for the elderly, like geriatrics and home care.

If you see immigration as a way to fill these gaps, you might find the idea of joining a country’s workforce while enjoying better social services quite attractive.

Also, when working-age people leave South Africa, it can take some pressure off the local job market. About a third of governments have noticed these trends and have started immigration policies to deal with ageing populations and boost their numbers.

Immigration Policies and Ease of Process

The political climate in potential new countries can make a big difference in how easy it is to move there. Countries’ willingness to welcome international migrants and the rights they give them are often based on United Nations Human Rights Conventions. However, in many countries, the rise of nationalism can make political leaders less open to migrants, especially those who might not have all their paperwork in order.

Social media can spread false information, making people more against immigration. This can lead to tougher immigration laws, which might make you think twice about moving to a place where you might not feel welcome.

If you have the skills and choices, you might be extra careful about choosing a country with a lot of anti-immigration talk.

Cultural Affinities and Community Presence

Cultural and social factors play a big part in deciding to move. Social norms and cultural customs can either make you want to stay put or push you to look for opportunities elsewhere. Discriminatory policies and practices based on these norms can either keep people where they are or force them to look for a safer place.

As societies change, choosing to move rather than having to become more common. This can happen when new ideas and values come back from people who’ve lived abroad. Social networks are super important because they give you the info and help you cross borders and settle into new places.

Family is a big reason people move, too. Parents might go to give their kids better schools or young people might leave to get a higher education. If a community in the new country already shares your culture, it can make moving there a lot easier and help you feel at home.

Top Countries in Europe for South Africans

Portugal: Golden Visa Program and Climate Appeal

Portugal has become a favored destination for South Africans due to its Golden Visa Program. Since its inception in 2012, the program has been a popular route to residency and, potentially, permanent residence or citizenship after five years.

The appeal of the program includes a minimal requirement for time spent in the country and a work and residence permit, which suits those not intending to reside in Portugal year-round. Investment options for obtaining the Golden Visa have evolved, and since October 2023, property investments have been no longer eligible. However, alternatives such as investing in venture capital funds, scientific research, and job creation remain viable.

These investment avenues provide the opportunity to live, work, and study in Portugal and extend these rights to immediate family members. The nation’s political stability, expanding economy, and high living standards are significant incentives. The climate, characterized by gentle winters and warm summers, further enhances Portugal’s allure.

The Non-Habitual Resident (NHR) tax regime offers beneficial tax conditions, although it’s set to expire for new applicants post-2023. To secure the Golden Visa, one must select an investment, obtain a Portuguese tax number, and open a bank account locally. While there are application and processing fees, the benefits, including educational access and Schengen Area travel rights, are compelling. South African expatriates often gravitate towards Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve for their urban and scenic offerings.

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United Kingdom: Familiar Language and Strong Expat Community

The UK attracts South Africans with its shared language and robust expatriate network. Various visas are available, including those for students and workers, which can be applied online. The duration of a student visa is contingent on the level of study, with a maximum of five years for degree-level programs.

Applicants must demonstrate English proficiency and financial sufficiency and pay both the application fee and a healthcare surcharge. The Skilled Worker visa requires a job offer from an approved employer and a certificate of sponsorship, which is valid for up to five years. Costs vary based on the length of stay.

Job seekers should prepare for a competitive market and utilize reputable platforms for job searches. Despite the high cost of living, the advantages such as access to the National Health Service (NHS), competitive salaries, and skilled job prospects are persuasive. The UK’s cultural heritage is an added attraction, though the climate and visa procedures may present challenges.

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Germany: Robust Economy and Job Opportunities

Germany seeks skilled South Africans to contribute to its robust economy. A visa is necessary for stays exceeding 90 days, obtainable upon application approval. Direct applications to companies or engagement with recruitment agencies are recommended for job seekers.

Applications should include a CV, cover letter, and qualification proofs. Germany’s labor market is ripe with opportunities, particularly for those with vocational skills or interest in the startup sector. The Federal Employment Agency’s approval is required for foreign job applications, but support is available through job boards and career services.

Maintaining an up-to-date professional online presence is crucial for success in the German job market.

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Popular Destinations in Oceania

Australia: Skilled Immigration Streams and Quality of Life

Australia’s multicultural society includes a significant South African expatriate community. The country is known for its stable economy and emphasis on work-life balance, which are attractive to professionals seeking new opportunities.

Various visas are available for skilled migrants, including the Skilled Independent Visa and the Skilled Nominated Visa. Employer-sponsored visas, such as the Temporary Skill Shortage Visa and the Employer Nomination Scheme Visa, provide temporary and permanent employment opportunities. Business Innovation and Investment visas cater to entrepreneurs, while family stream visas and student visas are also options.

Eligibility for skilled migration includes age, English proficiency, skilled employment experience requirements, and a points test. Australia’s South African-born population is the seventh-largest migrant community, drawn by the job opportunities and high quality of life.

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New Zealand: Scenic Beauty and Work-Life Balance

New Zealand is known for its inclusive society and emphasis on work-life balance. Despite high living costs, the public healthcare system and legal protection of leisure time contribute to a high quality of life.

Immigration options include the Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa and the Partner of a New Zealander Resident Visa. These cater to individuals with job offers from accredited employers, those with in-demand skills, or those partnered with a New Zealander. The application process ensures that immigrants meet the country’s needs.

New Zealand’s lifestyle is reflected in its annual leave policies and public holidays. For international students, the ability to work part-time during academic terms is an added benefit.

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Relative Ease of Acquiring Residency Compared to Other Regions

Oceania offers a more straightforward residency process for skilled workers, entrepreneurs, and those with family connections. Both Australia and New Zealand have systems that favor economically and socially beneficial applicants.

The processing time for Australia’s Skilled Migration Visa is about 11 months, and while costs vary, the potential benefits are significant. New Zealand’s visa options are designed to attract skilled individuals and those with New Zealand partners.

Family sponsorship is available in both countries, and Australia’s Citizenship by Investment programs offer provisional visas that can lead to permanent residency for investors.

North American Options for Migration

Canada: Inclusive Immigration Policies and Cultural Diversity

Canada has become a top choice for South Africans looking for new beginnings, with over 5,000 South Africans entering its immigration system each year. The country’s appeal lies in its welcoming immigration policies, abundant job opportunities, and high standard of living. It’s recognized as one of the safest countries in the world, and the country offers a publicly funded healthcare system, providing free medical services to residents and expatriates.

The nation is known for its cultural diversity. English and French are its two official languages, and some jobs may require proficiency in both languages. Canada’s attractiveness is also enhanced by its high quality of life, education, and economic freedom rankings.

With a population of about 38 million living in urban areas, Canada has welcomed approximately 2.4 million foreigners over the past seven years, including 11,210 South Africans. If you’re from South Africa and looking for a tourist visa to relocate to Canada, you can consider two main visa types: Express Entry and the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP).

The Express Entry visa is particularly suited for skilled workers. It grants them the right to work in Canada and provides a pathway to permanent residency and citizenship. You can apply for Express Entry through three streams: the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), Canadian Experience Class (CEC), and Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP).

Alternatively, the PNP allows individuals to apply directly to a Canadian province. When considering the move, the cost of living is an important factor to consider. While the cost of living in Canada can be on par with South Africa, it’s important to note that prices of everyday essentials may vary.

Opening a bank account in Canada is straightforward for South Africans. It can be done in person, over the phone, or online. However, finding employment may present challenges due to strict application standards and the competitive job market, with many foreigners vying for the same opportunities.

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United States: Economic Hub and Diverse Visa Categories

The United States is a highly desired destination for South African expatriates, especially for its wide range of work opportunities. To become a permanent resident, South Africans must obtain a Green Card, which can be achieved through various visa categories, including Employment visa, Family sponsorship, and Study visas.

The cost of living in the United States varies, with cities like New York and Los Angeles being more expensive compared to smaller towns or suburban areas. Opening a bank account is relatively easy, although many banks require customers to be residents. The job market in the USA is competitive, with many skilled workers already seeking employment, which can make the job search lengthy.

Culturally, the USA is known for its welcoming nature, which can differ depending on where you choose to live and how you approach socializing. However, healthcare is a significant consideration, as it is notoriously expensive, and most individuals are responsible for their own medical expenses. Securing a job that includes healthcare insurance is the most effective way to ensure coverage without incurring personal costs.

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Criteria for Eligibility and Application Process Insights

If you’re a South African considering immigration to North America, it’s crucial to understand the eligibility criteria and application process. The Express Entry system in Canada requires applicants to meet specific criteria based on skills, work experience, and language ability. The PNP varies by province, with each having its own requirements and application procedures.

In the United States, eligibility for a Green Card can be based on employment, family ties, or educational pursuits. Each category has its own requirements and steps in the application process. Potential immigrants should thoroughly research and prepare for these processes, as they can be complex and require detailed attention.

Both countries offer assistance to applicants, but it is advisable to seek professional advice or consult with immigration authorities to successfully navigate the application process. Understanding the intricacies of each country’s development fund and system can significantly impact the success of your immigration experience.

Emerging Immigrant Hotspots in Asia

Singapore: Business-Friendly Environment and High Living Standards

Singapore attracts South Africans with its robust economy and high living standards. For short visits, South Africans benefit from a visa exemption for up to 30 days, which can be extended under certain conditions.

Established diplomatic relations since 1992 facilitate this ease of entry. For extended stays, the Long Term Visit Pass (LTVP) caters to various groups, including spouses and parents of Singapore citizens or permanent residents and graduates from tertiary institutions seeking employment.

The LTVP is also available to children of legally married couples and individuals holding an Employment Pass or S Pass with certain income requirements. This pass allows you to reside in Singapore and sponsor family members.

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United Arab Emirates: Tax-Free Earnings and Expat-Friendly Policies

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is another destination that appeals to South Africans. It offers tax-free earnings and expat-friendly policies. Approximately 50,000 South Africans have chosen Dubai, enticed by the prospect of tax-free income.

South African law now taxes foreign income above a certain threshold, necessitating careful financial planning for South Africans abroad. To obtain residency in the UAE, a resident visa and a labor card are typically required, which employers often facilitate.

Freelance visas are accessible through free zones like Media City and Internet City. Students and investors have dedicated visa categories. For investors, the terms are contingent on the level of capital investment.

Real estate investors can secure a visa by purchasing property and meeting minimum value requirements. Finding housing is a crucial step, with rental contracts typically lasting one year and requiring a deposit.

Dubai and Abu Dhabi are favored by expatriates, offering a range of living spaces, from city center apartments to more budget-friendly areas like Sharjah and Fujairah. The expat community provides a network for support and cultural integration.

UAE Flag

Evaluating Long-Term Residency and Citizenship Options

For long-term residency or citizenship in Asia, Singapore’s LTVP provides a pathway for certain groups to establish longer-term residency, with the potential for citizenship for those who integrate well into society and the economy.

The UAE offers a path to long-term residency through sponsorship by an employer or family member or via business or real estate investment. A freelance residence permit is another avenue.

The UAE’s investor visa is notable, offering up to a 10-year residence visa for significant investment, indicating the UAE’s desire to attract affluent individuals who can contribute to the economy. Both Singapore and the UAE offer attractive options for immigrants, with the choice depending on professional opportunities, family considerations, and financial implications. Staying abreast of immigration policy changes and seeking professional advice can be advantageous when considering relocation to these Asian hotspots.

Making the Move

Deciding on a new country to call home is no small feat, and for South Africans eyeing opportunities abroad, the world is brimming with possibilities. Whether you’re drawn by the siren call of Europe’s historical charm, enticed by the balanced lifestyle of Oceania, inspired by the inclusive culture of North America, or intrigued by the emerging prospects in Asia, each destination offers its own unique blend of opportunities and challenges.

Armed with the right information and a clear understanding of what you value most in your quest for a fresh start—be it economic stability, social benefits, or a vibrant expatriate community—the journey ahead is yours to embark upon. We’ve navigated the globe to lay out a map of viable options, and now it’s your turn to plot the course of your new life. Bon voyage!


Which is the Easiest Country to Immigrate to From South Africa?

The ease of immigration can vary based on individual circumstances, including qualifications, financial status, and reasons for immigrating. However, countries like Canada and Australia are often considered among the easier options due to their points-based immigration systems, various immigration pathways that favor skilled workers, and relatively clear and streamlined application processes. New Zealand, with similar immigration policies, is also seen as accessible for South Africans.

Which Country do South Africans Immigrate to the Most?

The United Kingdom has historically been one of the top destinations for South African emigrants due to cultural similarities, language, and historical connections. Other popular destinations include Australia, the United States, and Canada. These countries attract South Africans because of better job opportunities, higher standards of living, and a perceived higher quality of life.

Why are so Many People Leaving South Africa?

There are several reasons why many South Africans choose to emigrate. Key factors include concerns about high levels of crime, political instability, and economic uncertainty, including high unemployment rates. Additionally, some seek better educational and career opportunities abroad and a more stable environment in which to raise families.


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Rihab Saad

Managing Director
Next Generation Equity

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