Reasons to Return to South Africa

  • Popping round to family & friends any time you want
  •  Braaing all year round
  •  Being surrounded by people who know the difference between “just now” and “now now”
  • That special smell right after a typical Jozi thunderstorm
  • Kids running barefoot on green grass
  • The purple carpet of jacarandas along the avenues
  • Creme soda, magwinya and bunny chow
  • The unmistakeable sound of hadedas
  • Umqombothi at a family gathering
  • A cup of rooibos and a rusk for afternoon tea
  • Almost never having the temperature drop below 16
  • Being able to make a difference, even if it’s just for one person

A Few Words From Some Homecomers

“I have never regretted coming home. It has been the most phenomenal quarter of a century to have been a cartoonist. I think there are amazing opportunities despite the new mayhem that exists. It is an amazing country to be in.” – Zapiro

“There is no better place in the world to be young, gifted and African than here.”- Edward Ndopu

“I feel more alive here than I have for many years living overseas. The challenges ar enormous but there is a sense that one can engage and make a contribution.” – Simon Middleton

“The best things about being home are being with my family, the food and being able to be in a community where you truly belong, not just with family but even in the workplace.”-Shirley Duma 

“I am in love with South Africa – but in a real way. It is not a responsible love or an infatuated love. I can see South Africa’s flaws and its virtues. It makes no sense to live here. It is completely irrational. But it feels so good!” – Rosalie Clark

“My children are being children and spend more time outdoors than playing DS’s, Wii and watching TV.” – Rosemary Hawkins

“I only regret not coming home sooner.” – Lerisha Kissoon-Higgs

Moving Home Checklist

Given the constantly fluctuating immigration/nationality laws, we are not equipped to give you the necessary up-to-date information regarding visas.

Our 6 month moving home checklist is a great resource for finding out what you should be doing each month leading up to your actual return date. Once you’ve made the decision to return, it can be extremely daunting trying to figure out how to get the ball rolling and what needs to be done. Here are some suggestions to help you prepare for your return:

Back on SA soil

If you’ve decided to return home with only 1 month to go, then check out all the previous months’ tips and suggestions.

  • Let the local tax authority know that you are no longer going to be a permanent resident.
  • Make an application for a tax refund.
  • Cancel or make arrangements for your foreign pension fund/contributions.
  • Let your bank know your new SA address (or a family member’s address as a temporary measure).
  • File your most recent documents in case you need them (the norm is the past 5 years) – take these with you on the plane, do not post or ship them.
  • Give notice to your landlord.
  • Cancel all bills in your name if you live in a communal environment – you don’t want bills arriving in your name when you are gone as you will be liable.
  • Send your pets home.
  • Send out a change of postal, email address and telephone number to all your friends and colleagues.
  • Arrange for a redirection service with your local postal service, so that all of your post can get sent to a friend or family member in the country you were living in and forwarded on to you if anything does arrive.
  • Send money back home.
  • Pack your boxes, list an inventory (take a copy for yourself) and have them collect the boxes. It takes a while for the boxes to get home and clear on the other side.
  • Make sure you’ve taken out insurance on the goods you’re shipping home.
  • Contact schools and arrange for the transfer of student records.
  • Contact your doctors for medical records and possible referrals to new physicians.
  • Arrange for hotels, rental cars or temporary housing if needed.

Financial solutions

If you’ve decided to return home with only 2 months to go, then do check out all the previous months’ tips.

  • Write your letter of resignation and have it ready to hand in one calendar month before you leave – you may wish to leave a week or two without work so that you can wrap up your affairs – some people have 3 month notice periods!
  • Send money back home.
  • Ship your goods back home – it takes a few months to get there. Don’t pack anything you need to use during that time.
  • Make contacts with old friends to let them know you are coming home. You are going to need the network on your return.

Getting around

If you’ve decided to return home with only 3 months to go, then do check out all the previous months’ tips.

  • Stop buying things that you may have to throw away or ship home – consider every purchase.
  • Start using up consumables in your cupboards.
  • Research how to get your pets back home.
  • Send money back home.
  • Sell your car, earlier is better than last minute – you could always use public transport.
  • Research removals companies for the best service to get your stuff home.
  • Find a home.
  • Find out what tax regulations there are in terms of moving your money to SA.
  • Get your CV up to date.
  • Send money back home.
  • Consider the cost of buying a car in South Africa or shipping your current vehicle home.
  • Write your letter of resignation and have it ready to hand in – some people have three calendar month notice periods! (You may wish to leave a week or two without work so that you can wrap up your affairs)
  • Get out and about on weekends, see all the sights you wanted to see before you return home.
  • Send money back home.
  • Register your kids in schools of choice.
  • Make plans to start selling your house if you own property abroad. Or start looking into agencies that can let it out on your behalf.
  • Chase up with companies you are interested in working for.
  • Do a recon trip to see where you want to live, where you want to work, where your kids will go to school.
  • Book your flight home – it will give you a tangible goal to work towards. Flights booked in advance usually cost a little less. Circle the date in your calendar.
  • Open a South African bank account and transfer R5000 into it – this will ensure you have some kind of credit history.
  • Start researching the job market back home to see if your skills are in demand. Check out job sites, speak to employment agencies and headhunters, identify companies you want to work for and get in touch.
  • Do you have an SA Driving License? If not, find out what you need in order to get one.
  • Send money back home.
  • Research starting a business back home if you want to be an entrepreneur.
  • Start looking at where your kids will be educated and putting their names down.
  • Send money back home if you already have an account.
  • Invest in property in South Africa. You are able to get an SA home loan whilst living and working abroad and you can start paying off your investment before you return. You also have the option of renting the property out, which will enable you to pay it off quicker.
  • Start putting money away to help tide you over in the first few months back, whilst you’re looking for work, outfitting a household, buying a car and also to cover relocation expenses.
  • Check that you have all your papers in order.


Below we answer some of the most commonly asked questions by South Africans considering a return home.


For all your international removal needs, contact White & Co. With almost 150 years of international experience, White & Co has perfected international moving, and ships everything from household goods to vehicles.

For an approximate cost of your removals (going through White & Co), please click here.

If you need to keep items in storage, White & Company will provide two months’ storage free of charge.

Owner of the shipment must be in South Africa for at least 10 days before the vessel arrives, for Customs clearance purposes.

The following will be required for the importation of personal effects and household goods:

  • Inventory of the goods
  • 160 Declaration in respect of unaccompanied manifested household effects
  • DA 304 Item 407.06 Scheduling No. 4 to the Customs and Excise Act
  • SAD 500 Customs Declarations Form

No, as long as you can prove that you have been out of South Africa for more than six months (on an uninterrupted absence).

At the airport

Yes. You may not bring plants/plant products (e.g. seeds, flowers, fruit, honey, margarine, vegetable oils), dairy products, eggs, or animal products into South Africa.

Yes, but if it exceeds R25 000 or the equivalent of $10 000, it must be declared.

Narcotic and habit-forming drugs in any form, fully automatic, military & unnumbered weapons, explosives & fireworks, poison & other toxic substances, cigarettes with a mass of more than 2kg per 1 000, goods to which a trade description or trademark is applied in contravention of any Act (e.g. counterfeit goods), unlawful reproductions of any works subject to copyright, and penitentiary/prison-made goods are strictly prohibited.


Yes. You must have owned and used the car for at least 12 months prior to your departure to South Africa.

Only one motor vehicle per family under full rebate of customs duties may be imported. If you wish to import two, the second car will be charged an import tax.

The first step in this process will be to obtain a letter of authority. Your application fee will likely be between R300 – 1800, depending on vehicle type.

Yes, you can apply for one online if you meet the criteria, and this completed form will be submitted to ITAC. In addition to this form, you will also need to provide the following to ITAC: a certified copy of your identity document or passport, an employer’s letter confirming permanent employment reflective of the period of employment, and a certified copy of the official vehicle registration document.

  • Your permanent residence permit issued by the Department of Home Affairs (or a copy thereof).
  • Proof of emigration from South Africa, proof of permanent residence obtained abroad as well as evidence that such permanent residence has been withdrawn.
    • If this permit has any limitations or restrictions reflected thereon, it is not considered to be a permanent residence permit even if it states that it is.
  • A duly completed form DA 304 A form.
  • Purchase documents.
  • Registration certificate/permit.
  • Documentary evidence of the date on which delivery of the vehicle was taken.
  • Documentary evidence of the date on which the vehicle was handed to the shipper for shipment to South Africa.
  • An import permit.
  • An original Letter of Authority (all vehicles).

Yes, but only if you have originally emigrated from South Africa, obtained permanent resident’s status abroad, and will be returning to South Africa as a permanent South African resident.

To register your vehicle, you must complete the application for motor vehicle licence form. Along with this form, you must present your Customs Release Notification form (which must be completed after the vehicle has been cleared through customs).

Yes. A registered testing centre will conduct a roadworthiness test and issue you with a roadworthy certificate. If your vehicle fails, you will likely be entitled to one free re-test provided that any necessary work on the vehicle has been completed within 14 days.

You will need to convert your foreign driver’s licence within one year of receiving your permanent residence permit. The steps are as follows:

  • Go to the driving licence testing centre in the province where you obtained your permanent residence.
  • Complete form DL1 (exchange of a driving licence).
  • Complete the notification of change of address or particulars or person or organisation form (NCP).
  • Submit the following:
    • Identity document/temporary ID/valid SA passport/foreign passport with permanent residence permit.
    • Four black-and-white ID-sized photos.
    • Current foreign driving licence.
    • Proof of permanent residency in South Africa.
    • Proof that you were not a permanent resident of South Africa at the time the foreign licence was issued.
    • A letter of translation of the licence by a competent authority (only if the foreign licence is not in one of SA’s official languages).
    • Confirmation from a licence-issuing authority that you have a valid driving licence (stating the codes and relevant categories of vehicle that you are permitted to drive) that hasn’t been cancelled/suspended.
    • Proof of postal and residential address.
    • In case of an International Driving Permit (IDP), you must submit the driving licence on the authority of which the permit was issued.

No, but an eye test will be conducted on-site before the exchange is finalised.

You will need to register the vehicle to formally gain title ownership. Do this at your closest Licencing Office.

  • Roadworthy Certificate
  • Current registration (if the car was previously owned)
  • Invoice/proof of payment
  • Passport with valid work permit or permanent visa
  • Foreign or South African driving licence
  • Proof of residence (e.g. copy of lease agreement)
  • Two passport pictures
  • Traffic Register Number


For all your property queries, and to discuss your future home, contact Pam Golding Properties. An internationally-esteemed real estate group, PGP has more than 300 offices across Africa and covers all of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Yes, it is common for the purchaser to pay the purchase price into the trust account of the estate agent who brokered the sale, or into the account of the conveyancing attorney who attends to the registration of the transaction. A record known as a ‘deal receipt’ is kept of the foreign funds received by the South African bank.

Yes, but non-residents can only borrow up to 50% of the purchase price. The remaining 50% must be brought into the country in cash from a foreign bank.

You will have to provide proof of income and comply with the Financial Intelligence Centre Act. You must also produce documents such as your passport and proof of residential address. It is also likely that your spouse will also be required to sign the mortgage bond documentation.

Yes. As a non-resident, you will only be able to make payments on a mortgage bond if you open a non-resident banking account. This can only be done from within South Africa. You will need your application form, passport, and proof of source of income in order to do this.

Depending on the lender and how long you have been banking there, the standard deposit is between 5-20%.

Household Amenities

No, you will have to set up your own electricity/water account.

Once you have your lease agreement/proof of purchase on a house or apartment and a bank account set up, go to your nearest Customer Service Centre and ask for an Application for the Supply of Water and Electricity contract. In order to do this, you will need:

  • A valid South Africa identity document
  • Details of next of kin
  • Your banking details
  • Contact details (including name, telephone & cellphone numbers, email address, physical & postal addresses)
  • The deposit amount

You will need to go to your nearest Customer Service Centre with the following documents:

  • A valid South African identity document
  • Details of next of kin
  • Your banking details
  • The deposit amount
  • Your Offer to Purchase or Deeds document
  • Your meter number/s and latest readings
  • Contact details (including your name, telephone & cellphone numbers, physical & postal addresses, email address)
  • The completed Application for the Supply of Water and Electricity form

Yes. These are available at most supermarkets/major stores.

Once you have bought your cellphone, you will need to present your bank account data, a certified copy of a South African ID, proof of residential and/ or business address, and proof of income.

All SIM cards must be registered in accordance with The Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (RICA). In order to RICA your phone, visit your service provider (e.g. Vodacom, MTN, Cell C) with your SIM, proof of residence, and a valid ID.

While you could purchase a new SIM card and simply insert it into your phone, many foreign (particularly American) iPhones are locked against SIM card swaps. It is unlikely that your foreign iPhone will work in South Africa.

There are two fixed telecommunication service providers in South Africa: Neotel and Telkom. After contacting your closest branch, set a date for installation (Telkom) or delivery (Neotel).

Before setting up a connection, you will need to determine whether you want mobile broadband or ADSL fixed-line.

There are numerous ADSL fixed-line and mobile broadband providers in South Africa. A full list can be found here.

Once you have decided on a provider, contact the closest branch and arrange for your internet connection to be set up.

Yes. South African laws require every household/dwelling to obtain a TV license, which needs to be renewed annually at the post office.

Visit your closest MultiChoice office and buy a PVR cable box, and then arrange for a MultiChoice-certified installer to come and put up an antenna and wire your house (unless it is already wired). The monthly service for a PVR cable box will cost approximately R500.


Yes. You will need a form signed by your doctor confirming any psychological problems, as well as a chest x-ray. Before coming to South Africa, it is recommended that you bring along your medical records.

It is highly recommended that you get vaccinated against Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Polio, Rabies, Typhoid, and Yellow Fever (required).

You will most likely be responsible for sorting out your own medical aid plan, but some employers will offer this as part of an employment package.

Yes, but no more than three months’ supply for your personal use. All other pharmaceutical drugs/medicines need to be declared and must be accompanied by a letter/prescription from a registered physician.


You will have to be present in person in order to set up a bank account. You will need the following documentation:

  • Valid passport with entry visa
  • Proof of residential address (e.g. a utility bill)
  • Letter of introduction from your foreign bank
  • 3 months’ bank statements from your current bank

The following documentation:

  • Original company documentation
  • Proof of the identities of the director(s) of the company
  • Formation documents from CIPRO/CIPC
  • Memorandum and articles of association
  • Certificate of incorporation
  • Certificate to commence business
  • Agreement by a registered practitioner to act as the company’s financial officer
  • Statement by each Director indicating that there is sufficient capital in the Company for the purpose of the company’s business
  • Certified copies of the directors’ identity documents

All EMV/Chip cards will work in South Africa, although credit card facilities are not accessible country-wide.


  • The child’s birth certificate
  • Immunisation card
  • Transfer card or last school report card for learners who have been to school previously

If you are a foreign national who has immigrated to South Africa, you will also need:

  • A study visa for your child
  • Temporary visa or permanent residency permit from the Department of Home Affairs
  • Evidence that you have applied for permission to stay in South Africa

For Grade 0 (Grade R), the child must be four years old, turning five by 30 June in the year of admission.

For Grade 1, the child must be five years old, turning six by 30 June in the year of admission.

This depends on the respective school, but the national school year always starts in January and ends in December. Half-term holidays are between March and April, and September and October. Long holidays are typically in April, June, and December.

After pre-primary school/crèche, South African schools have three stages: primary school, junior school, and high school. Pupils are typically at school for twelve years, from Grade R/Grade O until Matric (Grade 12).

Public schools’ average annual fees range between R20 000 and R30 000, excluding boarding fees. Private schools’ average annual fees range between R 50 000 and R 100 000, excluding boarding fees.

Disclaimer: Please note that the following information is not to be taken as the final authority on these matters. If you have questions, please contact the relevant government/private agencies.