More and more in SA say, ‘We don’t see a future, sadly’ – Andrew Rissik from Sable International

More and more South Africans of all ages see no future for themselves in the country, according to Andrew Rissik from Sable International, the immigration specialists. However, he warns that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side – inflation, and high energy and living costs are a problem everywhere. So what should people who want a Plan B take into account to make sure they hedge their bets for an overseas move? Rissik told BizNews about the importance of having a strategy and choosing a destination where your skills are needed. He also highlighted that a Caribbean passport allows for business travel across the Schengen region, China and Russia and where the over 60s can move after retirement. Sable International is holding a Global Citizenship and Emigration Expo from October 27 to November 9 where those looking for an offshore strategy can discuss options with Sable migration specialists. You can register here. – Linda van Tilburg

Excerpts from the interview with Sable International’s Andrew Rissik

More and more South Africans are saying, ‘We don’t see a future, sadly,’ but moving carries risks

As a business over the years, we’ve been client-facing probably for the last of seven or eight years on the ground in South Africa – we were originally a UK business – but what has become very apparent to us is the enormous amount of interest in people internationalising themselves, their wealth, their businesses, their own family, even their pets, their motor cars. It means different things for different people. So, we’ve played in what is often called the Plan B space. For instance, the Portugal Golden Visas, the Plan B, is residency by absence. It’s just an insurance policy. What we’re seeing more and more now is South Africans of all ages who actually say, ‘We just don’t see a future, sadly’. I think it’s important to note as a business, we’re not a company that advocates people leave South Africa at all because everybody’s case is very different. This is what we tried to showcase with this Expo. 

How we approach the market is a holistic approach to your offshore strategy, and we don’t try to sell a solution to a client  just because the client comes and they tell us, this is what they want to do because their friend told them about it at a dinner party. We really want to try and understand, who are you, what are you looking to do long term, what is your net wealth? Because when you move from South Africa into the Northern Hemisphere, there comes a huge amount of risk because of the weak currency. So, unless you are very, very wealthy; it is something that you really need to take quite seriously, even if you’re wealthy, because we see people of all types making terrible mistakes when they go offshore. And the grass isn’t always greener on the other side; I can tell you. I had the privilege as the group international director of travelling all over the world doing business in some interesting markets. 

The cost of living, inflation and energy crisis is everywhere

A really big trend at the moment is Americans moving to Europe. I speak to every client and ask them, why are you moving? Inflation! Well, the whole world’s got inflation at the moment. So, it’s an amazing thing about a human how they think that when they’re experiencing a problem that they are the only person experiencing that problem. I see it in the British media, the cost-of-living crisis. Well, if you go anywhere in the world there is a cost-of-living crisis at the moment. It’s not only the Brits. Our message is the old thing: look before you leap. We’ve also got to be careful that you don’t think because the rest of the world is having these so called crises, that it makes South Africa a place where you can just put your head in the sand and ignore the risks. The risks in South Africa are very differently driven from different quarters. The problems in South Africa were all pre-COVID; they are pre the energy crisis. I think these problems just exacerbate our actual issues here, but it doesn’t detract from the fact that South Africa’s got real political risk, and has infrastructural decay. There are some real economic threats here. So one needs to just be realistic and then try and hedge accordingly. 

South Africa is not going to collapse in the next couple of years, there’s no rush

I think the most important thing is if you start thinking about moving, what’s your strategy? Rather than running from South Africa, I think what’s really important is to try and understand where you want to go. I think that you’re always in a far better position in life if you’re on the front foot and you say, I really want to go there, and then you set your goal. If you’re just blindly running from somewhere and you’re looking over your shoulder, you’re going to hit a tree. I mean, it’s not going to end well. South Africa is not going to collapse in the next couple of years. There’s no rush. So, be rational. That is always my advice to people. And then once you sort of sit back and consider all your options, you can at least make an educated decision where you can afford to do this. So just very simply, if you’re 25 years old and you’re a qualified chartered accountant, going abroad is really easy. But if you’re 55 and you’re married with three children and they’ve just been through private education and university and they’ve sucked you dry and you think that you’re going to go and start a new life in a foreign country where you’re going to be dependent on finding a job: you’re very much at risk. So, you just need to understand. We’ll then chat to you and find out what qualifications you have, we can then advise a person like that. If you’re a qualified civil engineer, this is your management experience; then there are countries where they’re looking for civil engineers, some countries where they’re not going to want civil engineers.  So, if you emotionally want to move to Portugal, my advice would be, don’t do it if you’re relying on income from a company, because they’re not employing 55-year-old civil engineers in Portugal. They might be in Australia, in Perth, I don’t know. But the reality is, let’s try and understand who you are, what are you looking to achieve? What are your needs? And then we can help you even identify the destination. 

The UK has become an interesting destination for South Africans and Australia has a skills shortage

We have a really interesting service called Sable Explore, which my partner Tom Barlow runs and Explore is almost taking the concept of financial planning and broadening it out to all the other aspects of an international move. So, if you sit down with a good financial planner, they’re going to ask you some pretty open questions about your income, your assets base, what are your goals in terms of retirement? Where do you want to live? They will plan investments accordingly based on what you are currently earning, etc. What we’ve done is we’ve taken that concept; we’ve brought them into all the other things that one needs to consider with your off-shore strategy. Have you got children? Where do you want them to study? I mean, it is premised on what you can afford. Let your kids finish school here and maybe do an undergrad here and then do a post-grad overseas. So, these are the things we can look at and help you plan for. Again, let’s understand your skills, your spouse, or your partner. Countries like Australia have got regularly updated skills shortage lists and are very proactive in looking for skills. The UK is actually a really interesting market at the moment because post-Brexit every single person who doesn’t hold a British passport is now on a level playing field to come to work in the UK. They need a work permit. So, suddenly relatively South Africans are quite attractive again in the UK because if you’re going to have to get a work permit for somebody from Holland or Germany, well you might as well get one for a South African. Whereas before it was difficult for us to compete in that market because an  employer could just employ without too much admin from the EU. 

There are opportunities to retire overseas for the over 60s

Obviously being very wealthy helps. There’s no doubt – but we know of people who are moving to places like Portugal. It is quite an interesting place for a retirement because it’s very easy to get a retirement visa provided you can prove that you earn around 12 to €15,000 a year, which actually even in Rands is not a huge amount of money. The Portuguese are looking to attract people who are going to come and live there, rent an apartment, possibly buy a place, spend money in restaurants and play golf. So, you don’t need to be uber wealthy to live in parts of Portugal but if you want to go and live in Quinta do Lago in an eight-bedroom villa, then you must be very wealthy. If you want to go to the UK, it’s really difficult. Australia is difficult. So, it really just depends on the different destinations that people are looking at. 

A Caribbean passport offers a good solution for business travellers

When we were first asked, do we do any of the Caribbean Citizenship Investment programmes, it was ‘no’, because it is a little bit like Portugal in 2012. South Africans didn’t really know much about Portugal. A few of us who lived in England in the nineties, we used to go down to the Algarve on holiday occasionally. Portugal was unknown; it is the same with the Caribbean. The Caribbean programme is a global mobility solution, so it’s not a passport that you would want if hell breaks out in South Africa and the only country you can go and live in is Grenada in the Caribbean. You might not want to go and live there  but what the Grenadian passport gives you – let’s say you’re a businessman who travels a lot and you do a lot of leisure and business travel – a Caribbean passport is very attractive because you get visa free travel to the entire Schengen bloc. So, that’s all countries that are part of Schengen and you can go visa free to most Commonwealth countries, including the UK. In fact, the Grenadian passport gives you visa free travel to Russia and China. So, if you think about a businessperson who’s doing business – maybe you wouldn’t want to go to Russia right now; China, I don’t think they allow you in yet with their Covid restrictions. But the reality is global mobility. We saw during COVID, South Africans with valid Schengen visas were unwelcome to travel but if you held a Caribbean passport, you would have been able to travel. COVID again, was a little bit of a wakeup call for a lot of people who felt quite trapped. So, that’s the solution. 

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