So yesterday, I promised this:

Thanks movehub
Thanks movehub

But in addition to that, I had a really good comment left on Wednesday’s post – which I think is worthy of a longer answer than just a comment reply.

The basic gist was this:

If the South African market is so appealing for overseas professionals, then why aren’t they flocking here? Sure – there might be some security concerns, but there are always trade-offs – is that really all that there is?

So I have some answers:

Immigration Regulations

Firstly, when it comes to non-resident professionals, you should know that South Africa’s immigration regulations make moving here practically impossible:

  1. Standard work permits are a non-starter – because which employer is going to spend three months posting multiple national newspaper adverts, followed by a further three months of waiting for the Department of Home Affairs to decide on whether they’ve done enough to prove that they need the foreign professional in question? When you decide that you want to hire someone, you want them to start soon-ish. Not in half a year’s time. And not with all that admin.
  2. Critical Skills work permits are relatively easier – but they are also onerous. And you need all kinds of pre-application stuff (like independent assessment of your qualifications by SAQA, which can take months).
  3. Also, the Department of Home Affairs itself is fairly opaque – in that the requirements for your visa application are not all included in the official listing. There are some requirements that are only communicated internally on DHA directives, which you’re only told are missing on submission of your application. And then there are the requirements that come out after your application was submitted but before it gets finalised – which you’d still need to supply after the fact.

All of which is to say: South Africa keeps the barriers of entry extremely high.

And also, The Fear

When you look at the cost of living, you’re talking about a very rational approach to big life decisions. But in the grand scheme of things, we’re not so good at the rational approach.

Instead, the big life decisions tend to be based more on feelings, intuitions, and sentiment. You have young South Africans who leave because they want to experience life in Europe or the United States. Or, they leave because a lot of their friends are leaving, and they don’t want to be left out (we’re herd animals, and most of us prefer to follow the crowd).

I just think that “lower cost-of-living” is a fairly unimportant metric in the moment. It’s a useful rationalisation if you’ve decided to stay – and “not enough to counter the fear of murder and hijacking and the way that this government is going” if you’ve decided to leave.

And that, I guess, is why I want to emphasise it.

I am not a South African who has particular biases about whether to stay or leave. Rather, I am on the outside, coming in. So having already decided to leave my country of birth, I have chosen to undergo the immigration process here, specifically. Doing that against a great deal of resistance (both regulatory and rhetorical) means having a more rationalised viewpoint, if only because the emotional triggers are pointing in almost every other direction.

Which is probably a viewpoint that is worth sharing.

I hope that helps answer the question.

Happy Friday!

Rolling Alpha posts opinions on finance, economics, and the corporate life in general. Follow me on Twitter @RollingAlpha, and on Facebook at