Retirement overseas – desirable destinations to enjoy your golden years

On January 24, 2014 / by Michaela / Leave a comment

retirement south africa

Retirement can be the best time in your life to relocate. After having worked all your life you can afford to go on a well-deserved, permanent holiday.

As an established immigration agency, we have been helping clients obtain retirement permits for South Africa for over a decade.

Retiring overseas is becoming more and more trendy. South Africa ranks amongst the top five retirement destinations for obvious reasons that include climate, lifestyle, proximity to Europe, and a favourable exchange rate. For this blog post we analysed four potential global relocation choices for pensioners. Some of these countries literally roll out the red carpet for retirees, offering specialised retirement visas, tax and other incentives, as well as favourable exchange rates.

Retirement in Central America


According to International Living’s 2014 Retirement Index, Panama ranks number one on the retirement paradise list. This beautiful country boasts two oceans, mountains, a tropical climate, and a first world lifestyle at a fraction of the cost. It also offers the best infrastructure and medical facilities in Central America. What makes Panama unique is the government’s pensioner attraction program, the Pensionado Program. Prove that you have a monthly retirement income of at least €700 , and you will receive a retirement permit that will allow unending munching on fresh tropical fruit, and soaking up the sun. Having a retirement permit will also enable you to make use of various discounts, including 50% off movie tickets and public transport, and huge discounts on medical bills. Panama’s proximity to North America makes it an incredibly popular destination for a retiring US citizen. You will never be plagued by boredom in Panama with attractions like jazz clubs, art exhibitions, and English-language theatre performances.


English-speaking Belize also offers incentives to attract retirees and their savings to the country. In Belize a so called qualified retired person may apply for a QRP visa, and obtain immediate permanent residency. Even if a retiree is only in Belize for two weeks of a year, they can still benefit from their pensioner status. Requirements for the “green card” are that you or your spouse are 45 years or older, and have an available monthly income of €1477.43. You are not permitted to be an employee, but you can run your own business. Belize is also a popular retirement country due to the tax exemptions offered to pensioners. A QRP is exempt from all taxes, including income tax, capital gains tax, estate tax, and import tax on household goods (up to $15,000), automobiles, boats, even aeroplanes. Belize makes every effort to welcome pensioners within its borders, and gives them reasons to stay.

Retirement in Asia


Unlike Central American countries, Asia does not offer specialised visas for expat pensioners, which makes full-time retirement in Asia difficult. Malaysia, however, is an exception. Malaysia makes it remarkably easy for people of all ages to stay in the country for a maximum of 10 years. The Second Home Program (MM2H) offers tax and other incentives. The tax incentives include exemption from paying tax on overseas income, such as an overseas pension fund, or rental income from property that is owned overseas. Another incentive is that your relatives may relocate with you. The MM2H permit allows part-time employment or business ownership. The only requirement to qualify for this permit is an income of approximately R2363.89 per month.

Retirement in Africa

South Africa

When you visit South Africa you are welcomed by sparkling eyes and big smiles. South Africans are known for their hospitality, willingness to chat, and friendly “plan-making” culture to include everyone in social events. It is thus easy to make friends, and people of all ages socialise together happily. Cape Town, with its exquisite vineyards, botanical gardens and pristine beaches, also has some of the best medical facilities in the world. After all, the first heart transplant was successfully performed in Cape Town. There are many secure and vibrant retirement estates that accommodate a trendy crowd of expat retirees. In these estates the elderly really enjoy their golden years through a close proximity to nature and sharing their lives with like-minded neighbours (who quickly become friends).

South African retirement permits are issued to foreign nationals of all ages, provided they have a monthly income of at least €1300. These funds can be from a pension fund, annuities, or rental income, butthey have to be from abroad. An alternative way to obtain the retirement permit is proving the existence of an investment of €818260. If you apply for a retirement permit with your partner, you need to remember that you each have to prove funds individually. Once a retirement permit has been granted, the retiree may stay in South Africa indefinitely.

South African law assumes that a retired person with a steady overseas income will not seek employment. A work permit endorsement can be applied for, however, as long as there is an employment contract, and no South African citizen can be found for the position. There are no further requirements to work, study or start a business in South Africa once the retiree has a permanent residency permit for South Africa.

Retirement does not have to be the end; it can be the beginning of new experiences in new places with new people. We at Initiate Immigration have successfully assisted clients to apply for retirement visas for South Africa since 2006. If you have any questions about retiring to South Africa, please contact our experienced immigration practitioners.

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Michaela heads up the marketing department for Initiate Holdings. An expat herself she understands the unique challenges immigrants are facing in South Africa.

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