The Cost Of Emigrating From South Africa

The Cost Of Emigrating From South Africa

How To Budget For A Life Abroad

Emigration is a costly affair – and anyone who’s gone through the process will tell you just that. But if you’re just starting off this journey or are considering relocating again after a few years abroad, you may not know exactly why it’s so expensive and which costs you should keep in mind.

So, we’ll take you on a rundown of the financial costs of moving your life to a new part of the world.

The financial cost of emigration

Moving to a new country can make a big dent in your savings, and some of these costs may not be as straight-forward as you’d imagine them to be. We’ve listed the main sources of fund-drain you need to be aware of if you’re planning on emigrating. 

Agency fees

If you’re moving abroad, chances are you’re making use of several agencies and/or individual agents to facilitate your move. Whether emigration agents, human resource agencies or estate agents – these companies or individuals tend to charge a handling or administration fee for assisting you with your move. Be sure to ask upfront what their rates are as some agencies may levy fees even if you decide not to use their services.

Shipping costs

It’s important to do your homework before just jetting off, especially when it comes to your precious cargo. Shipping companies charge different rates for relocating your physical assets, and the cheapest ones may end up costing you a fortune in the end. Questions you need to ask the shipping company include:

  • Whether they charge a flat rate for filling containers.
  • How long their shipments take on average to move abroad.
  • If and what kind of insurance they offer.
  • What, if any, issues they’ve had in the past with relocating goods.
  • Whether they offer group rates if you want to ship goods with other individuals.
  • Whether they have a list of prohibited goods and will notify you beforehand if anything in your shipment will be turned away at the border.

If your shipping company offers significantly lower rates than other companies, chances are they may be cutting some corners. These companies can usually offer lower rates through groupage – which could see your shipment take quite a few months before reaching you. They may also offer partial insurance only or rely on you to insure your goods through separate companies. This means that you may have to fork out quite a lot to rent or buy interim goods or insure your shipment on your own.


Whether you’re planning to rent a home, opening accounts, buying a car, shipping goods or enrolling your children in a new school, you need to be aware that many people or companies will ask for a deposit. Moreover, as in South Africa, deposits on things like property could be held back indefinitely until you move to a new place.

Be sure to enquire about deposits or holding fees and ask the company assisting you how long this money will be reserved.


There are different types of taxes you should consider when moving abroad, the first is the cost of import and export duties on items shipped between countries while the second pertains to the actual taxes levied on accounts, international transfers and encashments of policies such as retirement funds. Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all way to calculate how different people are taxed on offshore transfers or shipments, but your financial service provider and shipping agents should be able to give you a rough calculation of the fees levied on transactions or for shipments to and from different parts of the world.

Time is money

One of the biggest costs of emigration which most people overlook is the time-factor. If you consider how much your time is worth in your current circumstances, you can make a rough calculation as to how much “money” you’ll be losing during the emigration process.

Consider that you’ll spend several weeks packing, travelling, unpacking, completing administrative tasks and other menial duties in order to finalise the process. If this is an issue for you, it could be a good idea to schedule weekly “down-time” where you can leave the emigration duties for a few hours to check in with your work, answer mails and calls and ensure that your employment plans are on track so you don’t miss out on lucrative opportunities or fall too far behind.

Transfer and authorisation fees

As you’re moving to a new country with new financial, insurance and other institutions. Any transfers between your existing and new service providers as well as between countries may be subject to transfer and administration fees – either as a requirement by the service providers or as a legal requirement by the different taxation authorities.

One way to mitigate such fees is to use a single service provider to manage your transfers and financial authorisations, to split your transfers between different calendar or taxation years, and/or to either pool or segment your transactions in order to limit penalties or fees on excesses or transactions which exceed marginal rates or caps. 

Formal documentation

This is, of course, the first thing most people consider when thinking of relocation – the cost of all those forms and documents.

Bear in mind that there may be additional fees you haven’t considered. This includes the data costs of transferring large files, costs of calls to and from the various institutions, clearance fees to taxation agents or authorities, even something as simple as photo copies. This may seem negligible to you at the moment but when you add up all the cents spent here and there you could look at thousands of rands lost to minor admin duties.

Application fees

Remember that you may also be required to pay application fees if you’re enrolling yourself or your children in new programmes, courses, institutions or clubs. Unlike deposits, these application fees are usually non-refundable which means you will have to make peace with never seeing those funds again. In the long run, however, joining clubs or enrolling your family in classes or courses in your new country could accelerate integration in the new society and see you reap rewards which far outweigh the monetary cost of relocation.

Travel costs

All right, so you will certainly not have ignored the travel expenses relating to your emigration, but it still deserves mentioning. Remember to consider airport taxes and levies, spending money needed for stopovers or on the plane as well as the cost of travel insurance, travel clearance pertaining to inoculations and medical clearance certificates and so forth.

Also consider the cost of airport transfers and land-travel in your old and new country as these could amount to quite a penny.

Pet relocation fees

If you have furry friends you want to take with, you must be aware of the cost of pet relocation. These costs can be quite exorbitant, but totally worth it if you can’t imagine being away from your best four-legged friends.

Pet relocation costs include the actual cost of shipment, inoculation and veterinary check-up and clearance fees, container costs if you want to use your own pet-shipping container, pet-handling fees, additional fees for food and/or special items and lodging for your dearest cat, dog or other animal while you wait for them.

Also, be aware that some animals or breeds may be restricted from direct entry and may be required to stay in quarantine for a prerequisite period. This period can vary, but depending on the breed you could be looking at up to six months’ in quarantine which could also increase relocation costs.

Miscellaneous costs

Other costs you need to add to your budget include spending money for yourself and your kids, emergency funds spent on medical, entertainment or other needs and so forth. Additionally, if you’re moving to a new place far from friends or a region with a different climate, you may have to spend a few bucks to buy essentials such as a kettle to use in a rental home, some cutlery or clothing for a colder or warmer climate as you wait for your possessions or travel between destinations.

How can you afford it?

When running down this list, it’s clear that there are quite a few financial pitfalls you may not have considered. You may be wondering how anyone could consider relocating abroad at all – but there’s no need to worry.

As long as you’re aware of all the upfront and hidden costs of emigration, you can plan for the unforeseen and ensure that you’ve covered all your bases. Many South Africans find value from such assets like their retirement savings, which they are legally allowed to transfer offshore even before retirement age as expats. While living in South Africa such encashment is illegal, but as soon as you ship off to distant shores those rules governing the usage of your retirement monies fall away and you could use this money to fund your new life or reinvest it in your new home.

Furthermore, you could stand to save on transactional fees by utilising a vetted and approved financial services provider like Rand Rescue to transfer your funds abroad. With a 100% success rate, we are South African expats’ preferred partner for cross-border financial transactions. Just enter your details into our contact form and we’ll get back to you to kick off your new adventure abroad.


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