A digital nomad visa programme is in the pipeline for South Africa. This is an exciting and critical development, with more than 35 million digital nomads globally, South Africa will finally be opening its borders to welcome the new world of work. Let’s take a look at what we know about the remote work visa in South Africa at this point.
What is a digital nomad?
A digital nomad is an individual who has chosen to leverage the power of technology and communication tools to work remotely in order to travel the world. Before technology, such travel arrangements would usually involve backpacking on the cheap, with travelers earning their money to travel by working menial jobs, usually in the hospitality or service industries. Today, this has changed, and the lifestyle has had a major upgrade.
Now, digital nomads use technology and communication tools to complete work remotely in order to travel the country or the world. This gives them the power to earn a good income, while seeing the world on their own terms.
Some working nomads choose to work remotely in one location for a period of time, making a temporary home for themselves for a few weeks, or a few months, before moving onto the next destination on their travel bucket list.
Why do people choose to become digital nomads?
Generally speaking, most people choose the digital nomad lifestyle because:
- 73% want a better work-life balance
- 68% love the freedom of the lifestyle
- 55% love to travel
- 43% want to avoid office politics
- 37% have an urge to explore other cultures
Of course, high on the list is freedom and the ability to create a better work/life balance.
Getting into South Africa : presently tricky for digital nomads
Currently, working travelers who want to live and work in South Africa can only get in on a tourist visa, or by means of a temporary residence permit. The challenge with the tourist visa being that it only permits travelers to remain in the country for 90 days.
Although there are currently over 130 countries that are exempt from visa requirements in South Africa, for travel and tourism purposes these exemptions are for limited periods, ranging between 30 and 120 days, and depend on the passport being used to travel. Furthermore, they do not grant permission to work in the country.
Digital nomads that want to stay on for more than 90 days must apply for the Temporary Residence Visa, which is also called a Business Visa. A business visa is granted to individuals who want to work, create a business, or invest in South Africa. The processing time for the business visa is about four weeks. A temporary residence permit enables an individual to remain in South Africa for up to three years.
While this residence permit currently covers people who want to move to South Africa to study, set up a business, retire or work for a company, it is not geared specifically toward welcoming digital nomads, and such a permit is tricky to obtain for most people unless they have a specific business in South Africa.
South African remote work visa incoming
It was announced in April 2022, and again mentioned in the State of the Nation Address in February 2023. This visa would welcome digital nomads and allow them to become temporary residents of South Africa even while working remotely for companies outside the country.
Why is a digital nomad visa programme important for South Africa?
Tourism is a major part of the South African economy. Like many other countries, tourism took a serious knock as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic with tourist arrivals dropping by around 80%.
This digital visa programme holds much promise for attracting long-term visitors, which will enable South Africa to boost its tourism numbers and profit from longer-term residents. The City of Cape Town has been pushing for the introduction of a remote working visa since lockdown was lifted in order to capitalise on its incredible economic benefits for tourism and the economy as a whole, noting that such a visa would attract more international visitors such as digital nomads who are equipped to work from anywhere in the world.
According to the City, working tourists spend an average of R50,000 during their stays. With more than 40 other countries around the world having already adopted special visas to boost their own economies, the aim is to cash in on these cash-flush travelers. This will not be possible unless our visa system is overhauled. South Africa stands to lose out to other countries who have jumped on this trend.
How to apply for a remote work visa in South Africa?
Applications are not yet open, as the visa programme is not yet official. As such, we can only speculate that the process and requirements of the digital nomad visa application will be similar to other visa applications.
- Prepare the documents you need. See further, below. (Depending on the passport you hold, you might need a tourist visa to enter South Africa, first)
- Make an appointment with the South African embassy. You will need to find your nearest Home Affairs representative office (such as a South African embassy, mission or consulate abroad) and make an appointment with them.
- Submit the application at the South African embassy. At the appointment, you should submit the required documents. Make sure to be on time.
- Pay the necessary fees. There is no indication yet of what the cost for a remote work visa is likely to be.
- Wait for approval. It is still unclear at this point how long it will take to process a digital nomad visa, but there are plans in place to make it easier with an eVisa programme.
The documents required to apply for a South Africa digital nomad visa are likely to be:
- A valid passport. This needs to be valid for at least three months from arrival.
- Proof of accommodation. In the form of a lease, hotel booking or rental agreement/Airbnb agreement that verifies that you have somewhere to stay.
- Health insurance. Health insurance is a critical component that you do not want to overlook. South Africa is not known for its public healthcare system, and it is something you’ll want to avoid at all costs.
- Proof of income. It has been speculated that the income requirement will be $3000. You can use bank-certified copies of your bank statements (usually 3-6 months worth) to verify your income.
- Proof of employment. This is an employment contract, or any other documentation that proves you are self-employed.
How long will you be able to work in South Africa on a digital nomad visa?
The validity period is likely to be three months to one year. Just long enough to experience the best that South Africa has to offer.
FinGlobal: cross-border financial specialists for South African expats
We provide a full suite of cross-border financial services for South Africans who are planning on adopting a digital nomad lifestyle to see the world. From retirement annuity encashment, to tax emigration and international transfers, we are ready to help you every step of the way. All of our services are digital, and you can track our progress online, in real time.
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