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10 easiest countries for South Africans to immigrate through investment

South Africans looking for a change of scenery and better economic prospects can benefit from investment migration programs. They are arguably the fastest way to get a new home abroad, move there with your family, conduct international business, and improve the quality of life.

If you wish to explore the options available to South African nationals, we gathered them in this guide.

Why is it worth getting a second residence permit outside South Africa

Global mobility. South African citizens have visa-free access to only 104 countries and face a 2.44% Schengen visa refusal rate. Meanwhile, as an EU resident, you can live, work, study, and travel freely within the Schengen Area.

After obtaining EU citizenship, the number of countries you can travel to without a visa will become as many as 188​​. And if you get a Caribbean passport, your tourist visits to Schengen countries will be visa-free. 

Residency for the whole family. In the residency application, you can typically include your immediate family members, such as your spouse and financially dependent children. Some countries allow adding registered partners and dependent parents, grandparents, and siblings.

Dual citizenship. South Africa allows multiple citizenships, so you can naturalize in another country without losing your first passport.

Tax advantages. More favourable tax regimes for high-net-worth individuals than in South Africa. Some countries have lower income tax rates, no capital gains, or no inheritance tax. For example, the corporate tax rate in South Africa is 28%, while in European OECD countries, it is 21.7% on average.

Business opportunities. Legal residents can establish a local or international company, invest in new industries or markets, and take advantage of favourable business regulations. Some residency programs, such as the EB-5 visa to the US, are created with entrepreneurs in mind.

“Plan B” and a secure environment. Most countries with residency-by-investment routes, including the UAE and Caribbean states, offer a stable political and economic environment and lower violent crime rates than South Africa. European countries provide an additional layer of human rights protection.

You can move to the country of your second legal residence even if the borders are closed.

Lifestyle benefits. Many countries in Europe, the Caribbean, and the Middle East offer a high quality of life with excellent healthcare, education, and cultural opportunities. It can be attractive for high-net-worth individuals looking for a more relaxed lifestyle or to provide better opportunities for their families.

You can compare the particular benefits of different countries and find the best one for your case. In this article, we picked investment migration programs with the simplest and fastest terms, sorting them from the most affordable to the most expensive.

Best countries to move to from South Africa

  1. Portugal

Portugal offers the D7 Visa Program for non-EU citizens, which grants a 2-year residence permit, renewable for another 3 years. After 5 years of residency, you can apply for citizenship.

To apply for the Portugal D7 Visa remotely from South Africa, you must have a passive income of at least €760 per month and provide proof of accommodation in the country.

Processing time is 8—10 months, with an application fee of €90 and a residence permit costing approximately €160.

  1. Italy

Italy offers the Golden Visa Program, which provides a residence permit with a pathway to citizenship in 10 years. Qualifying investments start at €250,000 and can be made by investing in government bonds, innovative startups, corporate bonds, or philanthropic donations.

The processing time for the Italy Golden Visa is 3 to 6 months, and there are no application fees.

  1. Greece

Greece offers the Golden Visa Program, which allows you to obtain a residence permit that leads to naturalization in 7 years. To qualify, you must invest either €250,000+ in property-related projects, €400,000+ in bonds or shares, or choose the €400,000+ bank deposit option.

The processing time for the Greece Golden Visa is typically around 6 months, with the approximate total expenditure per applicant starting at €277,450.

  1. Cyprus

Cyprus has a Permanent Residence by Investment Program that requires a threshold investment of €300,000+. There are four investment options: residential real estate, commercial real estate, shares of a local company, or units of the Cyprus Collective Investment Organization. As a prime applicant, you must earn at least €50,000 annually.

The Program has a short processing time of approximately 3 months; additional fees are around 20% of the transaction value. You are eligible for citizenship after 5 years of permanent residence in Cyprus.

  1. United Arab Emirates (UAE)

The UAE offers long-term residency through investment in Freehold Zone properties. By investing AED 750,000+ (≈$204,000), you can obtain a 2-year residency visa. The investment requirement for a 10-year Golden Visa is AED 2,000,000+ (≈$545,000).

Both visas are renewable and provide permanent residency. The processing time for UAE investment residency visas is usually 2 months. The country also offers visas for business owners, freelancers transferred employers, and talented individuals visas.

  1. St Kitts and Nevis

St Kitts and Nevis Citizenship by Investment Program provides a Caribbean passport with visa-free entry to 156 countries, including the Schengen Area.

The Program offers three options:

  1. Donating $125,000+ to the Sustainable Growth Fund (after June 30, 2023, this threshold becomes $150,000+).
  2. Investing $175,000+ in a Public Good project.
  3. Investing $200,000+ in a real estate project.

Additional fees bring the minimum estimated expense to $158,000. The process can be completed remotely within 2 to 6 months.

  1. Grenada

Grenada’s Citizenship by Investment Program allows you to obtain a Caribbean passport for visa-free travel to the Schengen Area, the UK, and China.

You can choose between contributing $150,000+ to the National Transformation Fund or investing $220,000+ in a government-approved real estate project.

The processing time for the Grenada Citizenship by Investment Program is 4 to 6 months, with total expenses starting at $227,080 for one applicant, including the fees.

  1. Malta

Although there is no direct path to a Malta passport, you can pursue Malta Citizenship by Naturalisation for Exceptional Services. The Program employs a 4-tier Due Diligence process for investors and their families.

To get a residence permit in Malta, you must fulfil the following mandatory requirements:

  1. Contribute €600,000+ to the National Development and Social Fund.
  2. Donate €10,000+ to a Non-Government Organisation.
  3. Pay €12,000+ per month for renting a property for 1 or 3 years, or buy a property for €700,000.

The residence permit duration depends on the investment amount: 3 years for a total investment of €600,000+ or 1 year for €750,000+.

After the residence permit ends, you can apply for Malta citizenship. To do so, you must sign another lease for 5 years and pay a monthly rent of €16,000+ or hold a property valued at €750,000+ for 5 years.

  1. Spain

The Spain Golden Visa provides a temporary residency permit with a chance to get citizenship in 10 years.

To get the visa, you must choose an option:

  1. Invest €500,000+ in real estate.
  2. Transfer €1,000,000+ to a Spanish bank account or invest this amount in funds or company shares.
  3. Invest €2,000,000 in government bonds.
  4. Invest any sufficient sum in a business.

The processing time is usually 5 months. With all additional fees, an estimated minimum cost for a single applicant is €559,500.

  1. USA 

The United States EB-5 Visa Program offers foreign investors the opportunity to obtain permanent residency, known as the Green Card, for themselves and their families.

To be eligible, you must choose to invest:

  1. $800,000+ in a so-called Targeted Employment Area commercial enterprise project;
  2. $1,050,000+ in a project outside Targeted Employment Areas.

You must create 10 or more jobs for US workers in both cases.

The approximate cost required to immigrate to the US from South Africa is made up of the investment amount and additional expenses, including:

  • Administration fee — approximately $70,000;
  • Business plan cost — roughly $3,000 to $10,000;
  • I-526E petition fee — $3,675;
  • I-485 Conditional Green Card fee — $1,225+;
  • I-829 petition and biometrics fee — $3,835;
  • Registration fee — $1,000;
  • Health insurance — $560+.

After fulfilling the requirements, you will receive a Conditional Green Card within approximately 6 months, allowing you to live and work in the US for 2 years. Subsequently, you can obtain a full-fledged Green Card. After 5 years, you can apply for US citizenship.

How to apply for an immigration program remotely

The safest way is to work with a licensed consulting company. Experts will provide you with a personalized solution and help you navigate the complexities of the application process. In some instances, such as in Caribbean countries, this is the only legal way to obtain investment citizenship.

Immigrant Invest, a licensed agent for EU and Caribbean government programs, will:

  • recommend appropriate investment migration programs based on your goals and means;
  • run a preliminary Due Diligence that reduces your risk of being denied citizenship or residency down to 1%;
  • Support you throughout the citizenship or residency application process, including filing and submitting forms, finding a property, obtaining tax numbers, opening bank accounts, and renewing your status.

Key takeaways

  1. Portugal has an affordable path to immigration — from €760 per month.
  2. Italy, Spain, and Cyprus offer comparably fast processing times for an EU residency — 3 to 6 months.
  3. Portugal, Cyprus, and Greece have the shortest timeline to EU citizenship — 5 to 7 years.
  4. Grenada and St Kitts and Nevis offer an extraordinary value for money — a passport for $125,000+ in 2 to 6 months, with visa-free access to the Schengen Area and the UK.
  5. The US allows families to relocate immediately in exchange for business investment — from $800,000.
  6. To join an immigration program remotely, contact the experts at Immigrant Invest.


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