How to navigate evolving immigration landscape: UK remains hotspot, Greece on the rise – Andrew Rissik

Despite shifting dynamics in European immigration policies in response to global challenges, resistance to immigration, and upcoming elections, there are still plenty of opportunities for South Africans seeking to immigrate or explore alternative plans. In an interview with BizNews, Andrew Rissik, the Group International Director of Sable International, said that while options such as Ireland and Portugal’s golden visas and tax incentives are narrowing, Greece has gained a surge in attention. At the same time, the United Kingdom remains a steadfast and promising destination for South Africans, even as the job market experiences a slowdown. Rissik offers valuable advice for South Africans considering a “Plan B” by emphasising the importance of thoughtful, well-researched decisions over impulsive ones driven by emotions or the stresses of their home country. He underscores that mistakes in this process can be financially costly. International options from securing a second citizenship to living, working, studying or investing abroad can be explored at the Global Citizenship and Emigration Expos that Sable International is hosting in Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, Durban, and Cape Town in the coming month, where international options from securing a second citizenship to living, working, studying, or investing abroad can be explored. – Linda van Tilburg

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Excerpts from the interview

Europe adapts immigration policies amidst global challenges, elections, and rising migration

Globally, the convergence of COVID, the war in Ukraine, and the worldwide cost of living crisis are issues affecting numerous countries. If you happen to reside in the UK, it dominates discussions. Inflation is rampant across the globe, and, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a lingering consequence of the extensive quantitative easing following the 2008 financial crisis. The repercussions of those actions are now becoming evident.

What we’re witnessing in Portugal is closely tied to the upcoming socialist government elections, which will occur in the next year or two. This government is currently engaging in anti-wealth rhetoric and attributing the surge in property prices in Portugal to two key factors: golden visa investors and the non-habitual tax regime. It’s worth noting that many golden visa investors don’t even relocate to Portugal; it is merely a backup plan for them.

The Portuguese government established the non-habitual tax regime after the 2008 global financial crisis to entice affluent foreigners to make Portugal their tax domicile. Under this regime, individuals could enjoy a ten-year tax exemption on foreign earnings, making it exceptionally appealing to financially mobile individuals who intend to reside in Portugal for the specified period. This has undeniably influenced the Portuguese property market, as these individuals invest significantly when they plan to live in Portugal for a decade.

We have seen big changes, and the nature of our business is that it is very dynamic. No program is ever set in stone, and it’s subject to constant changes. This applies across all our businesses, including money transfers, where regulations and allowances are in flux. The more people seek to relocate, the more governments adjust their policies to either facilitate or discourage such moves, depending on their perspective.

South Africans are increasingly looking at Greece 

We’re currently observing an interesting surge of interest in Greece, likely influenced by the uncertainty surrounding the Portugal Golden Visa program. Ireland closed its program earlier this year, making Greece a more enticing option. In Greece, one can acquire permanent residency by purchasing a property for 250,000 euros, translating into a lovely lifestyle property anywhere in the country.

From an investment standpoint, the UK has experienced buoyancy this year, but we are noticing some stress in the market due to rising interest rates. However, it’s important to note that interest rate hikes are a global reality and shouldn’t deter individuals from investing. It simply means adjusting expectations regarding cash flow and deposits. The UK market remains robust.

Compelling reasons to consider the Isle of Man 

The Isle of Man is quite fascinating. I’ve been invited to an expo organised by the Isle of Man government, which is happening in South Africa in the next week or two. While the Isle of Man may not be the first choice for South Africans, there are compelling reasons to consider it. Living there can lead to UK citizenship, which is an intriguing option. Economically, it offers attractiveness, especially in financial services and offshore structuring. Additionally, they host a remarkable motorbike race every year called the TT, making it appealing for motorcycling enthusiasts.”

Job cuts at major UK employers like KPMG, but still an attractive destination for South Africans

While it’s true that the global job market is experiencing a slowdown and we are seeing stiffening in the job market, the UK remains a comparatively promising option for South Africans. When compared to South Africa, where high unemployment rates prevail, skilled individuals in South Africa usually find employment. However, our economy faces greater challenges than the UK. The UK is navigating the typical challenges shared by the Western world and the influence of Brexit.

At Sable Rissik International, we’ve developed a robust division focused on business immigration, witnessing strong growth. Since Brexit, we’ve been assisting companies in becoming sponsors for employing foreign individuals. This is because, post-Brexit, all Europeans are now considered third-country nationals. Consequently, they require work permits to live and work in the UK. This has levelled the playing field for South Africans in competition with individuals from Germany, France, and elsewhere who seek to work in the UK. We’re seeing a substantial demand for companies seeking assistance securing work permits for their staff.

When comparing the UK to South Africa, it’s evident that the UK is an attractive destination for job seekers. South Africans are known for their resilience and strong work ethic, but the process may not be as straightforward as one imagines. Nevertheless, I believe the UK remains a bet for South Africans.

Don’t run away from South Africa; rather find a destination that you are drawn to 

From what I’ve observed, my advice is that the younger you are, the easier it is to emigrate.  Being young provides a longer runway for rebuilding, allowing room for correcting mistakes.

Additionally, selecting a location where you can fit in culturally and engage in business activities is crucial. For instance, practising in a foreign country can be quite challenging if you’re a lawyer. On the other hand, if you’re a chartered accountant, the transition tends to be easier. When moving to a new country, we often don’t fully consider what we are moving to. This is a common misstep among South Africans, who might make hasty decisions fueled by emotions and stress in their home country, and we decide to run away from SA. 

We frequently advise against running away from South Africa; you must find out where you want to run to. It’s more beneficial to explore your potential destination thoroughly. Understand where you want to go and let the appeal of that country pull you in rather than feeling pushed away from South Africa. 

To illustrate, I’ve been residing in Portugal for six months a year, and surprisingly, I haven’t connected with the local South African community there until this year. I found out that they are battling in Portugal because making a living can be challenging. You’re dealing with a foreign language, navigating a socialist system, and encountering business practices that may seem exclusive or ‘cliquey.’

Unless you’re a remote worker or have opportunities to earn income abroad or substantial resources to retire or live mobile, it can be a tough journey. Witnessing many individuals who approach me grappling with these challenges is quite disheartening. In contrast, if you consider the UK, there’s a wealth of job opportunities; it is quite a relatively wealthy place. 

When contemplating a move, numerous factors require consideration. Youth and aligning your skills with the target economy are pivotal in this decision-making process.

Sable International Global Expo in South Africa 

This week, we’re in Johannesburg. Next week, we’ll be in Port Elizabeth and Durban, followed by Cape Town the week after. These are major centres, and we’re anticipating a substantial turnout. During these roadshows, we’ll be presenting a comprehensive range of services. If we break down Sable International into four core service areas:

  1. Immigration: We are well-regarded for our expertise in British nationality and visas for countries like Australia and the UK.
  2. Investment Migration: This involves investing to gain residency, such as the Portuguese Golden Visa. We have some exciting solutions related to Portugal, as the government has recently clarified the new regime.
  3. Financial Services: We don’t always recommend leaving South Africa. Some, like myself, choose to return after living abroad. In such cases, we advise individuals to hedge their investments and ensure they have funds offshore, utilising the annual R11 million allowance through the Reserve Bank. This is crucial for financial security, particularly when living abroad, where costs can be considerably higher. For example, South Africans running around Paris for the World Cup must fork out 10 euros, which is R200 for a beer.  
  4. Tax Planning: Cross-border tax matters can be highly complex, especially when moving from South Africa to countries like Portugal or Malta while having assets in the UK. It creates all sorts of tax complexities. South Africans from a lower-value currency need careful tax planning when venturing into the northern hemisphere. You can’t make mistakes. Starting tax planning at least two years before the move is essential for wealth and asset management. There are ways to mitigate your tax burden if you leave South Africa.

In addition to these core services, education is a rapidly growing aspect of our business. Sable Education Abroad, which we invested in, aids individuals in sending their children to universities overseas, providing an opportunity for international exposure and potential job opportunities in the chosen country.

Lastly, we offer a robust international property service for those interested in offshore real estate investments, spanning luxury, holiday, and investment properties in various jurisdictions. In essence, our services cover a wide spectrum of needs and options.

Mistakes can be costly for immigrants

My message is that we often encounter individuals who make ill-advised decisions and seek Sable’s assistance when in a predicament. I am keenly interested in understanding how clients end up in such difficulties.

I consistently advise people to exercise caution when involving friends and family in property purchases, investments, or relocation plans. These matters are considerably more intricate than they might appear. In the South African context, for instance, if you reside in Cape Town and wish to invest in Bloemfontein, having a trusted partner in Bloemfontein who can provide guidance is vital. Venturing into unfamiliar markets carries inherent risks.

Moreover, once you introduce international borders into the equation, you encounter a host of complexities. These include currency fluctuations and tax implications. Unfortunately, we do witness instances where individuals rush into overseas moves. They uproot their families, incurring significant costs by enrolling their children in foreign schools and selling their properties in South Africa. They later discover that they dislike the new environment.

Returning, in such cases, is financially damaging. Moving from a weaker to a stronger currency zone is challenging, but reversing the process incurs additional costs. This could also involve leaving behind jobs or selling businesses. 

My key message is to deliberate carefully. We have engaged with numerous people who have embarked on such journeys and possess a deep understanding of the associated risks. We are more than willing to engage with and guide anyone considering such a move.

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