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What South Africans need to know about financial emigration

by Lucy Smith | Sep 09, 2016
  • As a South African in the process of emigrating or who is already living abroad, there are several benefits to completing the process of financial emigration. A major advantage is that financially emigrating allows you to withdraw and transfer your retirement annuities offshore. Let’s take a look at why you should complete this process as soon, and as extensively, as possible.
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    Financial emigration in a nutshell

    Financial emigration (or formal emigration as it is also known) is the process whereby a South African citizen changes their status to non-resident with the South African Reserve Bank (SARB). This enables the individual to, amongst other things, withdraw and transfer their retirement savings offshore - even if they are below the age of 55. It is important to note that you do not have to give up your South African citizenship when you financially emigrate.

    The process opens previously unavailable streams of capital to a person emigrating from South Africa. It is, however, not a simple procedure and there are numerous benefits in having a respected professional service provider help you execute your financial emigration application.

    Do it early and reap the rewards

    Legislation may change in the years between your immigration overseas and your application to financially emigrate. You can never be sure if new legislation will restrict your ability to send your South African retirement funds and other assets overseas. It’s advisable to complete the process once you have decided your intention is not to return to South Africa so you can start enjoying the benefits of having access to your funds.

    Trying to get all the necessary documentation in order can be tricky if you are not present in South Africa. It is far easier to use a professional service to assist you through the process and guide through the application with instructions.

    We can help you assemble and submit the correct documentation while giving you expert guidance. Feel free to chat to us no matter what your current emigration situation is, even if you are still residing in SA and not left yet.

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    Ensure you have identified all your policies

    When you use a professional service to help you financially emigrate, you will be sure that none of your policies will be left out when you apply to the SARB for clearance.

    Often, when individuals try to financially emigrate on their own, retirement policies and other retirement funds are not identified correctly and get omitted from the application to SARB. If this happens, it could mean that you will incur further unnecessary costs in having to re-apply to SARB for an amendment to be made to your previous application and a delay in accessing these omitted funds and remitting them overseas to you. You may also be in contravention of SARB rules and regulations.

    So what happens if you have already financially emigrated and did not include all South African assets?

    If you have financially emigrated but did not declare all of your SA retirement policies correctly to SARB originally, we can help you amend your declaration to the SARB. This will allow you to transfer these funds out of South Africa so that you can invest them in your new residing country.

    How we help clients in these kinds of circumstances: A case study

    Time and again, the withdrawal stage proves to be the most tedious part of accessing your retirement funds. Our knowledge of how the providers operate and relationships we have built enables us to take away the hassle from the client doing this themselves.

    A client came to us for assistance with the withdrawal of funds with their service provider, having already completed the financial emigration process a couple of years ago. We carried out an initial complimentary assessment prior to engaging with the client and found two additional policies totalling an additional R1 million which had not been declared to SARB.

    We were able to get an amendment application completed to SARB, proceed with tax clearance for their retirement funds and successfully withdraw all of their retirement annuities – additional ones included.

    Always worth the effort

    Financial emigration is a complex process requiring strict adherence to all of the applicable rules and regulations. In extreme cases, we have had to restart the financial emigration process for some of our clients. Unfortunately, they had either received below-par service from the company handling their paper work or tried to do it themselves and failed to do everything to the letter.

    Whilst is may be a daunting and a relatively long process for those individuals wanting to access their retirement funds, a comprehensive completion of their financial emigration through a reputable professional provider is always well worth it in the end.


    Whether you have emigrated or are about to we can help you financially emigrate so that you’ll have access to your South African retirement funds. 

    Give our consultants a call on +27 (0) 21 657 2133 or send us an email and we’ll get back to you.



    We are a professional services company that specialises in cross-border financial and immigration advice and solutions.

    Our teams in the UK, South Africa and Australia can ensure that when you decide to move overseas, invest offshore or expand your business internationally, you’ll do so with the backing of experienced local experts.

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    Sable International is a trading name of 1st Contact Money Limited (company number 07070528), registered in England and Wales. We are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK (FCA no. 517570), the Financial Services Conduct Authority in South Africa (1st Contact Money [PTY] Ltd - FSP no. 41900) and hold an Australian Financial Services License issued by ASIC to deal in foreign exchange (1st Contact Group - AFS License number 335 126).

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