Retiring in South Africa: A Guide for Americans

A Guide to US Retirement in South Africa
Retiring from the United States to South Africa: A Complete Guide


Are you an American considering retiring in South Africa? Known for its stunning landscapes, wildlife, and vibrant cities, South Africa become an attractive retirement destination for Americans in recent years. In this article, we discuss your options for retirement, and alternatives to the Retirement Visa.

Retirement Visa Requirements

One of the main routes for retirees to settle in South Africa is through a retirement visa. The good news is that there’s currently no age requirement to apply for this visa.

However, you must meet one essential requirement: having a pension or a passive income of 37,000 South African Rand per month, which is approximately $1,900 USD. This income can come from various sources, such as dividends, rental income, interest, or other forms of passive income, but it cannot be a salary.

If you’ve maintained this level of income consistently for the last three months, you can apply for a retirement visa. The visa is typically for the main applicant, but your spouse and children can be included in your application.

Spouses don’t need to be married but must demonstrate a proven relationship of at least two years. Importantly, the 37,000 Rand income requirement is for the main applicant only; additional family members do not need to meet this income threshold.

Activities Allowed on a Retirement Visa

While you can enjoy a relaxed retired lifestyle in South Africa, it’s important to note that retirement visa holders are not allowed to work for South African companies or pursue formal education.

The visa is specifically designed for retirees to enjoy their retirement years in the country. Exceptions may be made for rare work-related tasks, such as board members attending monthly meetings.

Future Age Requirement Considerations

Although there is currently no age requirement for a retirement visa, there have been discussions about introducing one in the future. While the specifics are unknown, it’s anticipated that an age limit might be set at around 57 or 58 years and older.

Therefore, if you’re planning to retire in South Africa and are below this age threshold, it’s advisable to consider the retirement visa sooner rather than later.

Savings-Based Retirement Visa Option for Americans

For Americans, there’s an interesting exception regarding income requirements. Unlike many other countries, South African embassies in the United States allow applicants to use savings as an alternative to meeting the monthly income requirement.

If you have 37,000 Rand per month (the required amount) multiplied by 12 months, multiplied by four years saved in your account, (meaning 1.776 million Rand (about 96,000 USD)) you can also apply for a retirement visa in the United States. However, you cannot extend this lump sum savings-based visa in South Africa. Therefore, you’ll need to restructure your finances, such as renting out property to generate the necessary income while living in South Africa.

Application Process

You’ll need to submit your application at the South African Embassy responsible for your state of residence in the United States. Processing times for retirement visas typically range from 8 to 12 weeks, but it’s worth noting that South African embassies in the U.S. have shown impressively quick processing times, as short as five days in some cases.

Government Fees

The government fees associated with a retirement visa are 425 South African Rand, which is approximately $22 USD. These fees are relatively affordable compared to many other countries.

Permanent Residency Based on Retirement

You can apply for Permanent Residency based on your retirement once you have arrived in South Africa. You need to again show your monthly passive income, you can not do this based on savings. It is very important to ensure that you always have a valid temporary residence in South Africa while awaiting your Permanent Residency based on your retirement status.

Permanent Residency Based on Financial Independence

If you have a substantial net worth and want a more permanent option for residing in South Africa, you can explore permanent residency based on financial independence. This route allows you to apply directly for permanent residency without the need for temporary residence visas.

The requirement for this option is an individual net worth of 12 million South Africa Rand, roughly $620,000 USD. This net worth can be in the form of properties, cash, investment portfolios, or other assets, but it must be in your name and valuated accordingly.

Family members, such as spouses and children under the age of 21, can be included in your permanent residency application, and they do not need to demonstrate a net worth. However, your spouse and you must be in a permanent relationship or married for at least five years when applying for permanent residency.

Processing Time and Fees for Permanent Residency

It’s important to note that the processing time for permanent residency based on financial independence is significantly longer, often ranging from two to three years or even longer in some cases. However, some applicants have successfully expedited the process through legal action against Home Affairs for excessive processing times.

Once permanent residency is granted, a succession fee of 120,000 South African Rand (approximately $6,200 USD) is payable to the South African Embassy.

Choosing the Right Option for You

Deciding between a retirement visa and permanent residency based on financial independence depends on your unique circumstances and goals. If you’re eager to start your retirement in South Africa and meet the income requirements, the retirement visa offers a quicker path. On the other hand, if you’re planning for a future move or desire more long-term flexibility, permanent residency based on financial independence might be the better choice.


The retirement visa and permanent residency options provide retirees with different pathways to achieve their dream of living in this stunning nation. To begin your journey towards retirement in South Africa, consider reaching out for guidance and assistance in choosing the right option for you and navigating the application process.

Written by Simon Carletti, PR and Creative Supervisor

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