Updated: May 22
Why South Africans Are Flocking to Mauritius
Video by: MG CREATIVE
The number of South Africans arriving in Mauritius looking for a new permanent home has increased exponentially over the last year and shows no sign of slowing down. A number of sources suggest that applications for residency using the government 'one year visa' are currently in the thousands.
With me living in the West of the island, which seems to be the most popular of destinations for South Africans due to the fact that the mountains that hug the coastline in that region, bear a great resemblance to South Africa itself, I have gained a number of friends who have shared their opinions on what they have left SA and why they chose Mauritius.
Here is what I understand to be true.
FIRST OF ALL - IT'S GEOGRAPHY
Every South African I know that has settled here in Mauritius has family and/or business interests back in SA and with Mauritius, only being the maximum of a four-hour flight back makes Mauritius as a location very attractive.
South Africans have the benefit of being outside SA’s monetary area for exchange control and tax purposes. South Africa's lack of economic growth, the devastation of state capture, and recent talks of using people’s hard-earned pensions to bail out badly managed state-owned enterprises are making South Africans look for safe-havens, such as Mauritius, where their assets will be protected.
Mauritius may still be a developing country compared to the UK, Australia or New Zealand but it offers sound infrastructure, free public education to its residents, and reliable private and public healthcare facilities.
One thing I have learned over the years of getting to know South Africans now living in Mauritius is that they are born thick-skinned!
I think the unrest during the summer of 2021 resulting in widespread violence and looting brought home to me just why so many South Africans were looking for a safe place to live and bring up their families. I recently had a BBQ around a friend's house, or I should say "braai" and we were sat outside in the early evening and our conversation lead to me asking what the biggest difference between here and SA. The reply was "we could be doing exactly the same thing in both Countries and both have great, views and scenery around us, but the difference here is that the children can come and go through the garden gate as often as they like, play on the street in or the park down the road. In SA, the gate would be locked, there would be razor wire sounding the house and I would still need eyes in the back of my head and that wouldn't deter people coming into my property." What he was explaining, was that the threat of violence against you and your family was there every day and in every moment and had become the norm for South Africa to be on their guard. The recent unrest which escalated so quickly and dramatically had been the tipping point for many, saying "enough is enough".
ABILITY TO STAY IN MAURITIUS
The Occupation Permit (OP) is a combined work and residence permit which allows foreign nationals to work and reside in Mauritius under the following 3 specific categories (Investor, Professional & Self-Employed).
Investor: To further open the Mauritian market to investors and foreign expertise and with a view to long-term stability, the government offers a 10-year Occupation Permit as a value investing incentive through different means of investment.
Professional: A professional should earn a monthly basic salary of at least MUR 60,000. As for professionals in the ICT Sector, the monthly basic salary should be at least MUR 30,000.
Self-employed: The Self-Employed Occupation Permit is ideal for a freelancer wishing to relocate to a tropical jurisdiction with reliable telecommunication networks. Beyond the possibility to pursue an active lifestyle, it also provides the opportunity to provide professional services to both local and international clients.
Retired non-citizen: Retiring in Mauritius may be your best choice if you are aged 50 or above. With just USD 1500 monthly, you can benefit from a 10-year Residence Permit and live in a peaceful environment.
The Residence Permit further offers you the possibility to apply for a 20-year Permanent Residence Permit after 3 consecutive years.
Mauritius, one of the most beautiful islands in the world, has introduced a Premium Travel Visa, valid for a period of one year, and renewable.
To qualify for the Premium Visa, interested visitors should produce proof of their long stay plans and sufficient travel and health insurance for the initial period of stay while meeting the following criteria:
the applicants should not enter the Mauritius Labour market;
the main place of business and source of income and profits should be outside Mauritius;
documentary evidence to support the application such as the purpose of visit, accommodation etc.; and
other basic immigration requirements.
People seeking residency on a long-term basis will have to invest a minimum of $375,000. This can be done through the purchase of property under a scheme approved by the Economic Development Board, or through investment into “qualifying activities”, also approved by the board.
If all of this sounds a little confusing or a little bit too much for you, I would suggest speaking to someone that has not only gone through the same process themselves but assists other South Africans in doing the same. To this end, I would recommend speaking with Candice Thompson of BTG Mauritius who can hold your hand through the whole process.
Here are some of the questions that Candice answers on a regular basis
How easy is it to switch between permits?
It’s relatively easy to switch between permits. This will require a new application with the Economic Development Board, as well as payment of the full application fee for both the main applicant and the dependents. In certain cases, depending on the permit you are applying for, you may be required to bring a new investment amount into Mauritius. However, you won’t be required to redo your medical tests if your current permit was valid at the time of switching.
How often are permit applications rejected?
In our experience, we have been successful with all permit applications to date. As long as you meet the criteria of the relevant permit, have a solid business plan (only applicable to Investor and Self-employed Permits), and are able to provide the required documents, we can’t see any reason why your application would be rejected. However, please bear in mind that the final decision lies with the Joint Committee which looks at each application on a case-by-case basis.
In the case of an application being rejected, the applicant may submit an appeal for reconsideration within 30 days from the date of the rejection. However, only one appeal may be made.
If I start off on a Premium Visa, will I be able to switch to a longer permit?
Yes, absolutely. Many people like to start on a Premium Visa to get a feel for the island and see if they would like to make a more permanent move. If you are happy here, which is generally the case, you then easily switch to the long-term permit that best suits your situation. This will require a full application with the Economic Development Board, medical tests, and an appointment at the EDB.
There are also many people who move to Mauritius on a Premium Visa while they are waiting for unabridged birth or police clearance certificates, or for the incorporation of their company.
When do I need to finalise my dependent permit applications?
Dependent permits can only be applied for after the main applicant has received his or her permit. If you are planning a short trip to Mauritius to finalise your permit application, then we generally recommend rather applying for your dependent permits when you relocate for good. Dependent permits need to be collected by the main applicant in person and take about two weeks. In addition, you can add dependents onto your permit at any later stage should you require it.
What is the general timeline of the permit application process?
The initial online permit application can take anywhere from 8 to 23 days working days for an applicant to receive his or her Approval in Principle. After Approval in Principle is received, the applicant has 90 days to come to Mauritius and finalise the application. This requires a series of basic medical tests, some extra documentation, and a visit to the Economic Development Board for your original documents to be verified. The main applicant should receive his or her permit on the day of the appointment, should all the paperwork be in order.
South Africans need to show that they have no intention of returning to SA.
The South African Revenue Service (SARS) will apply both the physical presence test as well as the ordinarily resident test to determine the tax status of individuals who are living and working abroad.
People who have obtained long-term residency in Mauritius will have peace of mind that they are well on their way to not being tax residents of South Africa. Especially where they have formalized their status with SARS and SARB by using the Financial Emigration process.
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