Emigration expert JP Breytenbach says that the reasons given by white families for leaving South Africa to move to the UK have changed over the past decade.
Breytenbach, who runs an immigration consultancy in South Africa and the UK, spoke to BizNews about South Africans living abroad and their motivations for leaving, and attitudes about their homeland.
According to the expert, there are “easily” 1 million South African-born people currently living in the UK – though movement into the country has seen a big shift in numbers and demographics.
Notably, due to stricter emigration rules applied by the European Union, it’s more difficult for South Africans to get working holiday visas, which are needed for companies to test workers before deciding to sponsor them for a longer-term stay.
These changes mean that only the higher net-worth individuals can really afford to go through the motions of taking up residency in the country – and these typically end up being white families.
According to Breytenbach, the most cited reason for making the move in the early 90s used to be safety concerns – worries over crime and violence in the country. While that is still one of the reasons, the expert said that the primary reason has now shifted to economic uncertainty and future stability.
Bretenbach’s insight matches the most cited reasons given to research group New World Wealth from high net worth individuals who have emigrated, who pointed to financial concerns above all else as motivation for leaving.
“There’s more and more a sense of ‘I might be okay, and my wife might be okay, but what about our children? What about our grandchildren’,” Breytenbach told BizNews.
Breytenbach warned that the ongoing talks of the “Brexit” – the threat of Britain leaving the European Union – could potentially make future emigration more difficult. He said if any South Africans were considering making a permanent move, now would be the best time to do it, as the next 12 or 18 months would bring a lot of uncertainty.
He noted, however, that between 25% and 30% of his clients go to the UK with no intention of setting up permanent residency.
You can listen to and read the full interview on BizNews.