The real cost of moving to the UK from South Africa

While the COVID-19 pandemic has put a hold on many South Africans’ plans to move abroad, repatriations are expected to continue as global travel restrictions continue to be eased.

Owing to concerns over crime and general prospects for their careers, many skilled South Africans have made or are planning to permanently relocate to other countries.

The most popular destination for South African emigrants is the United Kingdom, which already had an estimated 246,000 South Africans as of 2019.

South Africa ranks eighth on the list of countries from which most people emigrated to live in the UK.

Using figures from Indeed, PayScale, and Glassdoor, MyBroadband recently compared the salaries of various IT-related jobs in South Africa with the remuneration can be expected for the same job in the UK.

The average salaries for 10 popular IT jobs in South Africa and the UK are listed below.

IT Salary Comparison
Job South Africa United Kingdom
Computer Support Specialist R174,500 £21,268 (R455,440)
Web Developer R194,817 £25,528 (R546,666)
Database Administrator R203,277 £30,053 (R643,566)
System Administrator R232,483 £25,471 (R545,445)
Information Security Analyst R299,073 £33,275 (R712,563)
Software Engineer R367,988 £37,041 (R793,209)
DevOps Engineer R403,376 £41,865 (R896,512)
Data Engineer R450,025 £39,988 (R856,317)
IT Manager R500,685 £40,116 (R859,058)
Senior Solutions Architect R965,437 £72,405 (R1,550,506)

While the higher gross salaries in the UK show many IT professionals may benefit from leaving the country, there are substantial costs and complex application processes involved with relocation which also need to be considered.

Move Up is an immigration agency which specialises in handling visa applications on behalf of South Africans looking to move to the country.

MyBroadband spoke to Director Ryan Rennison about everything South Africans should carefully consider when moving to the UK from a cost perspective.

Rennison noted that finance, tech, and healthcare professionals were some of the most sought after workers in the UK.

“Teaching and trade workers also seem to settle easily in UK employment market,” he added.

Visas

Rennison estimated that a family of four should expect to pay between R260,000 and R360,000 on visa fees alone.

“This excludes the costs of screening and meeting additional time-consuming requirements,” Rennison said.

There are several types of Visas which may be applied for under certain criteria.

Move Up handles applications on behalf of its customers, and charges the following:

  • Ancestral Visa – R57,963
  • Tier 2 General – R84,533
  • Entrepreneur Visa – R84,428
  • Tier 1 Innovator – R80,111
  • UK Settlement Visa – R71,231

These prices include agency fees, UK government fees, and National Health Service fees and courier costs.

Proof of Savings and TB Tests

In addition to the costs of the visas, you will have to be able to show a certain amount of savings in your bank account.

“The amount varies depending on which visa you are granted, but usually ranges from R30,000 to R1.7 million,” Move Up stated.

Furthermore, applicants seeking a visa which allows for staying more than six months in the UK must provide a TB test with their visa application.

At specified test centres, this typically costs approximately R1,800 per adult and half that for children 11 years old or younger.  

Flights

When your visa affairs are in order, you will be able to board a plane to head to the UK.

Prices of flights can fluctuate greatly, with one way to save being to book non-peak flights in low-season periods as long beforehand as possible.

Normally, a one-way economy class ticket from Cape Town to London (with a stopover in Dubai) would run at approximately R5,500 per person, Move Up explained.

However, within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, airline ticket prices are substantially more expensive.

“Repatriation flights are understandably higher. Economy flights are going for R17,000 per person for one-way flights,” Rennison warned.

This would amount to R68,000 for a family of four.

Living expenses

The above costs are of course only for getting to the UK in the first place, and living expenses will have to be factored into the equation as well.

Move Up provided the typical budget for a household of two people with a dog living in Newbury, West Berkshire, around 100km from the London city centre.

Below is a breakdown of their monthly living expenses, which amount to a total of £2,266.13 or R48,602.

Typical monthly expenses
Item Pound cost Rand cost (at R21.46)
Rent £1,200 R25,730
EE Phone – Contract £43 R922
EE Phone – Pay as You Go £10 R214
EE Fibre – Internet £30 R643
Fuel (2 tanks) £120 R2,573
TV Licence £30.90 R663
Other travel (public transport) £100 R2,144
Utilities: Gas £26 R558
Utilities: Electricity £30 R643
Utilities: Water £17 R365
Council Tax £175.23 R3,756
Basic Groceries £250 R5,359
Car insurance £72 R1,543
Nails at salon £35 R750
Banking fees £0 R0
Pet Insurance £27 R580
Miscellaneous £100 R2,144
Total £2,266.13 R48,602

Often-overlooked costs

Rennison noted there were several other costs related to moving that weren’t always taken into account.

“Three of the biggest costs that South Africans often neglect to consider is the cost of shipping household possessions, pet transfers, and the expected daycare costs for preschoolers.”

Moving furniture and household goods varies depending on the size of the container needed to transport all of your possessions.

For example, a medium-size cube from Seven Seas costs approximately R12,000 on the South African side and £250 on the UK end, Move Up noted.

Taking a pet along with you can be very expensive.

While it’s best to get a few quotes to compare, taking your dog or cat can cost up to R26,000,” Move Up said.

School fees

In the UK, state schooling is funded by taxes and is free for British citizens and foreigners legally living in the country.

Pre-schooling childcare can be expensive, however, as shown in the estimated costs below:

  • Registered childminder  – £113 to £159 per week
  • Day nursery – £127 to £174 per week
  • Part-time nanny  – £250 to £400 per week
  • Au pair – Room and boarding plus £70 to £85 per week

“Often couples opt for one partner to remain at home rather than work to only fund the daycare costs,”  Rennison explained.

Buying a car

Fortunately, cars are substantially cheaper in relation to overall expenses when compared with South Africa.

Move Up said you can expect to buy a used vehicle for a few hundred pounds, or a newer SUV at around £13,000 (R279,000) in the UK.

Now read: These SOE executives earn much higher salaries than President Cyril Ramaphosa

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The real cost of moving to the UK from South Africa