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The Ups And Downs Of Immigrating: A South African’s Experience


Growing up in beautiful South Africa, surrounded by the sea and mountains, vineyards, delicious food, and incredibly hospitable people, I would never have guessed that I would choose to leave in search of expanding opportunities one day.




Nevertheless, here we are, five years later with much experience to impart to those thinking of living or working abroad. Every person’s reason for leaving their country is different, but the immigration experience is similar for everyone in one way or another.

Each country is unique with its various laws, rules, limitations and cultural differences. So how do we prevent, circumvent, or face the obstacles we don’t even know we will have?


We’ve put together just a few practical tips on what to expect and how to deal with it.

When you announce your decision to leave, you may have resistance from friends, colleagues and family. They will caution against a wide variety of legitimate concerns such as difficulties in moving over pensions, tax certificates, investments, mortgages, stranded assets, or the less legitimate query – the weather.

The best response to this would be that you are using well-established, reputable companies like ABG to assist you with this challenging process. And that you are looking forward to starting a new life with new experiences, people and opportunities, which inevitably will expand your horizons dramatically. For the most part, they don’t want to see you go and offering the possibility to visit you is a great ice-breaker.

Expect tons of planning. To plan, you need information. There is so much information out there, making it difficult to find your way through it. You’re not only moving house; you’re moving children, schools, pets, education, licenses, work, finances, pensions, investments, insurance – you’re moving your entire life. This is a painstakingly time-consuming process, but with the right companies helping you deal with the legal and financial responsibilities, you can focus on your other, more immediate needs.

Ask friends in your destination country for references, or join groups on Facebook with people who did this recently. These groups are great to refer trusted resources, areas to avoid or stay, tips and help. Many would be happy to assist you during a visit- making connections as quickly as possible is vital after your move. Leverage your relationship with your financial company and ask if they could refer other reliable immigration sources within their network. If the company is based in both origin and destination countries, you would already have a reliable connection when you arrive.

It is expensive to immigrate. Not only will you physically move all your belongings which is costly, but there are also currency conversions and transfer costs to consider. There are taxes and fees attached to moving assets, pensions, insurance or investments between countries as well. Financial advisers could mitigate some of the fees or taxes, and they could assist with better currency transfer rates via their currency transfer partners, such as in ABG’s case- click here for more.

They can also suggest tax-friendly options for pensions or insurance and make the entire process so much easier than having to do it on your own.

Visit the destination country before moving to ensure it suits your needs – visit schools, view rentals or home sales, explore different neighbourhoods and pursue work opportunities. A trip like this is an exciting part of the process and an excellent opportunity to start building a sense of community that you can build on upon landing.

Start setting up possible living arrangements, either temporary or permanent, for the date of your final move. If you still have a home or investment rentals left in SA, it’s a good idea to discuss your options with a financial advisor for mortgage advice on buy-to-let options or asset management. These are services offered to South Africans by ABG and could save you from many stressors and preventable costs later on – click here for more.

Obtain all your birth certificates, marriage certificates, degrees/diplomas, driver’s licenses and background checks and have them certified. Ensure the certification won’t be expired by the time you arrive. Some of these documents can take months to acquire from Home Affairs or police, and you have to sign to receive them, making it very difficult to do once you’ve moved. Find out from your financial adviser which documents they would need to handle all your financial transactions and when they would need it. Timing is essential to avoid last-minute expensive document rushes or, worse, having to postpone the move for additional paperwork.

Immigrating can drastically alter your retirement plans making it critically important to discuss your options with a financial adviser. Whether moving it or leaving it behind, for pensions, investments, or assets, find a professional to help navigate all the financial, tax, and legal obstacles. Have them manage your assets left behind. When you are busy exploring an entirely new country, new job, new people, new schools, it gives great comfort knowing your finances are taken care of and don’t need your continuous attention. Handing it over gives you the much-needed time to enjoy your new environment, sharing the experience positively with your loved ones, or just adjusting to your new routines.

Having a professional helping hand in your corner when it comes to financial aspects can change your overall experience. They know the pitfalls and how to navigate them. Preferably, use one company with offices in both origin and destination countries to make asset management more manageable. At Alexander Beard Group, there are many resources to see what services you may require.

Making this move is exciting and daunting, but most importantly, absolutely worth it. Five years have flown by, and we don’t regret it for a second.



If you need any financial immigration advice or services, contact info@abg.net for a free consult to determine how they can assist you in this process both before and after arrival. They’re standing by, ready to assist you on this journey.