Image via Adobe Stock

Financial Emigration: We’ve got the answers to all your questions

If you’re thinking of emigrating financially, here are some key points to note before moving ahead.


Image via Adobe Stock

When looking to emigrate from South Africa, one of the most common topics that potential applicants want to discuss is financial emigration. Whether it is if they can still own property in South Africa, leave bank accounts open in South Africa or if they will be taxed in two different countries, the topic is always an important one to potential emigrants.

We spoke to financial specialist and actuary, Vincent Heys from Kingsmere Financial Services, to find out what South Africans need to know about financial emigration.

How long does the process take to financially emigrate from South Africa?

The process is very dependent on what assets the applicant leaves in South Africa and if any complications arise during the process. For a straightforward case, the process would take a minimum of three months, but to be conservative one should expect the process to take six months.

Are there any additional fees to financially emigrate from South Africa?

There would be a cost associated with a service provider to assist with Financial Emigration process. This fee would vary on a case by case basis depending on the applicant’s financial background.

In general, the above-mentioned financial emigration service costs include:

a) Reserve Bank emigration application and all charges levied by the South African Reserve Bank

b) SARS emigration tax clearance application

c) The opening of blocked ZAR bank accounts to facilitate the transfers overseas (where applicable)

d) Guidance relating to an application to your foreign tax authority for a Certificate of Residence (where applicable)

e) Retirement fund tax directive submission (and collection) in person to reduce processing times (where applicable)

Are you still liable to pay tax in South Africa if you do not financially emigrate from South Africa?

No, not necessarily. There can be two ways one may be liable for tax in South Africa

  1. If you are South African tax resident, then one would be liable to be taxed on a worldwide income and assets
  2. If you are NOT a South African tax resident, then one would be liable to be taxed on South African ‘source-based income’ only

The financial emigration process does not automatically change a person’s South African tax residence status because it is a Reserve Bank process. A simple example would be that even if a person completes a financial emigration process, they could still be a South African tax resident if they intended to return to South Africa at some point in the future or they spent a significant amount of time in South Africa thereafter.

Can you still own property in South Africa if you financially emigrate from South Africa? 

Yes, you can but going through financial emigration process with immovable property in South Africa makes the process more complicated. The same is true if you are a beneficiary of a South African trust.

Can you have any bank accounts in South Africa if you financially emigrate from South Africa?

You can no longer have a South African resident-based bank account because you would be a non-resident from a banking perspective thereafter. Existing bank accounts would either be closed or would be converted to blocked/non-resident accounts.

What are the benefits of financially emigrating from South Africa? 

  1. You can access retirement fund lump sums that one would normally not be able to access without going through this process
  2. It can be beneficial if one needed to externalise significant assets or inheritance
  3. One would be classified as a non-resident from a South African banking and reserve bank perspective which means that one would not be bound by certain restrictive exchange control regulations
  4. While this process does not automatically break South African tax residence, it could be seen as a factor that may be taken into account to determine whether or not an individual broke his or her tax residence

What are the disadvantages of financially emigrating from South Africa? Who may not want to do this?

There are no significant disadvantages of financially emigrating from South Africa, but there is no reason to go through this process unless one needs to do so. This is due to the fact that it is an onerous process and it will have associated costs. To determine if it would be beneficial for one to go through this process, applicants would need to discuss it with a professional.  

For those looking to immigrate to Canada, it can be important to know the process ahead of time as some applicants for permanent residency are required to have a set amount of liquid funds available to take with them to Canada. For some applicants this can involve accessing retirement fund lump sums which cannot be done without completing the financial emigration process. It would be important to know the steps and timelines involved ahead of time to ensure you will be able to afford the process.

In addition to financially emigrating it is important for potential applicants to also think about their insurance products in South Africa, especially if they will be financially emigrating and not keeping any South African bank accounts open. The payments associated with the plans can become more complicated. It is important for applicants to speak to a professional to discuss:

  • Creating a Canadian financial plan
  • What to do with your South African retirement funds
  • Transferring non-retirement funds to Canada
  • Building an investment portfolio in Canada
  • South African and Canadian insurance products and which is best for you and your family

Deanne Acres-Lans is a Regulated Canadian Immigration has helped thousands of individuals with their Canadian immigration journey. Deanne’s company Canada Abroad provides full immigration services for all visa programs. Tel +27(0)14 941 0802 email