In recent months, we’ve been receiving countless inquiries regarding whether South Africa (SA) offers a Digital Nomad Visa or any other visa solution for freelancers. We have received updates from several large multinational companies in the EU and US clarifying that, as a policy decision, they will allow their workers to work remotely in future. Most require their digital nomads to work in the same or similar time zones as their home employer. Considering that SA is in the same time zone as Europe, I wonder why SA has not already introduced a Digital Nomad or Freelance visa.
I personally suggested that to the Minister of Home Affairs about two years ago following the example of some of the Caribbean islands. Two years later, about 40 countries worldwide have already introduced a digital nomad or freelance visa. Why not South Africa? It would be rather easy to implement and can only benefit SA.
The main benefit is that we will attract skilled foreigners who come here as visitors, fall in love with our country and decide to retire, invest or start a business at a later stage. I’ve advised highly qualified foreigners coming into SA who have been investing here for over 20 years, so I know how the typical story goes. The Digital Nomad Visa would be an ideal path to attract foreigners.
Suggested Requirements for the Digital Nomad Visa:
So, what are the requirements I’d suggest for Digital Nomad Visa in SA? All Digital Nomad Visas have certain similarities:
- Firstly, they require a certain amount of monthly income. Usually, this is either salary income from the employer overseas or savings. For SA, I would suggest a monthly income or savings of around € 2000,00. This would place SA in a similar economic category with Croatia, a country with similar living expenses. For example, Portugal requires € 600,00, Mexico requires $ 1620,00 and Mauritius requires $ 1500,00. The funds will be proven with bank statements, as for any normal Visitor Visa.
- The second common criterion is usually duration. I suggested a maximum duration of one year which would fall in line with best international practices. I further suggest a cooling-off period of at least six months until the applicant could reapply outside SA for the Digital Nomad or Freelance Visa.
- The third criterion would be supporting documentation. I suggest that the foreigner would have to provide health insurance covering his or her full stay, a police clearance certificate from their home country, a medical report and a radiological report as requested for nearly all SA visas. In addition, I believe proof of accommodation would be a useful document.
- A fourth criterion is usually the place of submission, which should be one of the SA missions or even, at a later stage, an e-visa solution.
- Lastly, it is of paramount importance that the digital nomad or freelancer is allowed to bring their family along. Accompanying spouses and minors should be included when considering creating this visa option. Without this stipulation, SA will not be competitive.
It is important to note that if you are a digital nomad staying in SA for more than six months, there may have certain tax implications, referred to as “permanent establishment” (PE). Read this article for more information on tax issues involved in freelancing or remote work as a foreign national.
It would be advisable that this visa be introduced very soon. SA would benefit from it in many ways. It would boost our technology sector, make SA more culturally inclusive and because many digital nomads are generally mid- to high income earners, they’d be spending while they’re living in SA, which would help grow our economy overall. Minister Motsoaledi, we want a Digital Nomad Visa in SA as soon as possible, please!
Disclaimer: I am not a tax expert and therefore not offering tax advice. For more information on tax-related issues for freelancers and digital nomads, please contact a professional taxation representative.
Written by: Andreas Krensel
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