Poland Welcomes South Africans

Poland Welcomes South African Expats

Poland may not be the most popular expat destination for South Africans but it is making significant strides in addressing labour shortages by relaxing visa and tax regulations.

The new regulations are meant to counter ‘brain drain’ and boost the Polish labour force. At the end of 2017, Statistics Poland indicated that the country had 118 000 vacancies in its labour force and that the number had increased by 50% from the previous year. 

But what does this mean for South Africans and why would we want to move to Poland anyway?

Relaxing visa restrictions

In 2018, Poland was intent on addressing the issue of brain drain and labour shortages in their country. The shortages had been blamed on a combination of factors, such as Poland joining the EU and low wages in Poland compared to other EU nations.

The result of months of negotiation was the decision to amend legislation which restricts employment of immigrants from outside the European Union and extend visas for workers based on qualification.

The new visa regulations aim to:

  • ease the visa application process for non-EU immigrants
  • extend the maximum duration of work permits from three to five years
  • allow spouses of those with permits visa-free entry
  • extend the list of countries whose citizens can benefit from the new rule

Waiving income tax for people under 26

Another new initiative which Poland hopes would attract and retain young talent is the waiving of income tax for individuals under the age of 26.

This could be highly beneficial for young South African workers who remain in Poland permanently or semi-permanently given that South Africa has a double taxation agreement in place. Under a double taxation agreement, an individual is only liable for taxation in the country where they are a resident.

Under the DTA between South Africa and Poland, residency is determined as follows:

  1. An individual is deemed a resident of the country where they have a permanent home
  2. If the individual has a permanent home in both countries, residency is determined by the country with which he/she has the most ties (centre of vital interest)
  3. If residency cannot be determined for either country, residency will be determined by the country in which the person has a habitual abode
  4. If an individual has a habitual abode in both countries, the person’s residency will be determined by their nationality.
  5. If neither of these terms can determine residency, then the countries will settle the residency via a mutual agreement.

But of course, the DTA will only be valid under the determination of the new tax amendment applicable to South African expats from 2020. Luckily, young workers who earn less than R1 million a year in Poland will not need to concern them with the tax amendment as the 45% taxation won’t apply to them.

To prevent tax evasion, however, SARS and the SARB have warned that they will be much stricter in applying their own two tests to determine residency, namely the ordinary resident and physical presence tests. South Africans deemed residents of SA will be liable for the tax shortfall in foreign countries and may no longer be able to leverage their tax-free status in foreign countries.

It seems the overwhelming consensus among saffas abroad is that they need to emigrate financially in order to cut their tax ties with SA — something which is not necessarily feasible for young travellers who wish to return.

But why would you want to immigrate to Poland?

There are several reasons why Poland is an attractive alternative for South Africans who want to make a move.

EU Travel

Though South Africans moving to Poland will need a Schengen visa to travel freely to and between European countries. This visa allows for 90 days of unencumbered travel between European Union states in a 6-month period. But of course, should you prefer to stay on a more permanent basis, Polish citizenship will allow you all the benefits of being an EU citizen.

Cost of living

The websites, MyLifeElsewhere and Numbeo do comparisons between the cost of living between countries based on numerous factors. Based on this data, it is indicated that South Africans:

  • Pay 69,9% more for a meal at an inexpensive restaurant
  • Pay 52,6% more for a litre of milk
  • Pay 70,8% more for monthly public transport
  • Pay 373% more for internet
  • Pay 20,46% more for accommodation outside city centres
  • Pay 104,9% more for water
  • Pay 109,94% more for 1 kg of potatoes
  • Pay 168,61% more for mortgage interest rates
  • Pay 80,37% more in mobile phone tariffs

Though certain things like childcare, it should be noted that the government provides amazing subsidies and support for families.

Poland is also ranked the third least expensive EU country to live in (47% lower) , which makes it a great prospect for those who love Europe.

Education

Given the state of South Africa’s education system, most parents don’t need much of a prompt to consider offshore education, but nevertheless, here are some pros of Polish education.

Unlike South Africa, education is free. There is one catch though — you can only benefit from free Polish education if you accept that your language of instruction will be Polish. 

Another plus which has proven a major benefit to children is that children only write exams when they move from one tier of the education system to another. This differs vastly from South Africa where students generally write exams two terms of the year and where the last exam of the year determines whether they pass to the next year.

Furthermore, the exam results aren’t used to determine whether children will move on to the next level of education but merely which schools or studies would suit the students best. As an example, there are three types of high school students could attend: vocational (3 years), general (4 years) or professional technical (5 years). 

Health and safety

There are few countries with such a high crime rate and resultant high stress levels as South Africa. But just how much safer and healthier is it to live in Poland?

According to the Global Peace Index, Poland has a ranking of 1.654 (position 29) and South Africa is indexed at 2,399 (position 127). Furthermore, South Africans are live 14 years less on average, are 22,5% more likely to be obese and 46 times more likely to die during childbirth.

Income

When comparing Poland and South Africa, working in Poland is a no-brainer.

World Data places the average income for Polish citizens at R17 936,54 with South Africa’s average income at R7 256,77. This may not make such a big difference given South Africa’s unemployment rate of 27,6% (compared to Poland’s 4,8%), but consider that Poland’s minimum wage is also higher than SA’s average monthly income. The minimum wage in Warsaw is R8 968,21 per month.

South Africans also spend an average of 40,6% more on taxes than Polish citizens. And despite being the third least expensive EU country, Poland boasts the sixth largest economy by GDP.

Still deciding?

No matter where you plan on moving in the world or which place you plan on making home, Rand Rescue can assist you with settling in financially. We offer better rates than conventional banks and have the necessary experience and credentials to assist with your foreign exchange, financial emigration and other cross-border needs.

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