South African farmers are moving to Canada – and immigration consultants are seeing a ‘massive’ spike in business owners keen to leave

Business Insider SA

Saskatchewan farm
A farm in Saskatchewan, Canada. (iStock)
  • Immigration consultants report a "massive spike" in inquiries from South Africans looking towards mostly Canada and Australia.
  • Canada, with provinces actively courting certain types of immigrants, appears to be particularly popular among farmers and business owners.
  • Older people – with cash – are increasingly following their children overseas.
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South Africans are exploring immigration in what one consultant describes as "dramatic numbers", and another said represented a "massive spike" above the usual level of enquiries.

And farmers and business owners in particular seem to be leaving, selling off assets in South Africa to use the proceeds, and their know-how, to secure entry into Canada and Australia in particular.

At one consultancy the number of such business visas being processed has increased by 15 times.

Customers cite a variety of economic reasons for leaving, immigration consultants say: difficulties in doing business in South Africa or from South Africa when dealing internationally, trouble dealing with the government and in particular getting paid when delivering on government tenders, and a general lack of belief that things will be getting better any time soon.

Also often mentioned are new and evolving policies such as National Health Insurance (NHI) and expropriation without compensation of land.

"People are edgy about the economy," says Nicholas Avramis of Beaver Immigration in Cape Town, who describes a mood among his clients unlike anything he has seen since moving to South Africa in 2015.

A generational effect also seems to be in play. An increasing number of immigrants are following their children abroad, says Robbie Ragless, managing director of New World Immigration, sometimes after sending those children to study abroad 

See also: South Africans are losing hundreds of thousands of rands to immigration fraudsters offering jobs in Canada in ‘the perfect scam’

While the United States and Britain both appear to have lost their appeal due to domestic political troubles, Australia and Canada remain popular. But while Australia sets a high bar to achieve permanent residency as a businessperson – such as requiring a net worth of around R15 million as proof of business talent – Canada can be very accessible for business owners and farmers.

Canadian provinces have some leeway in the kind of immigrants they wish to attract, and its "prairie provinces" – Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba – are currently on "a huge drive to attract farmers", says Ragless.

The easiest entry is for farmers who can show previous success at running commercial agricultural operations and have the equivalent of around R6 million, say from the sale of a farm in South Africa, to invest in primary production somewhere like Alberta.

Just how easy the process is depends on exactly the kind of farmer a province is looking for, says Sean Kupferberg of New World's consultancy division; a province that sees a need to expand livestock farming or mixed-crop planting can prove "very accommodating" to South Africans with proven skills.

In non-agricultural business there is a preference for immigration candidates deemed attractive because they seem capable of setting up a new business – or expanding an existing enterprise – quickly.

In Canada's smaller states in particular, Avramis says, South Africans can get through the door with a good track record, good English skills, a four-year degree, and as little as R3 million to invest.

While Canada is not specifically targeting South Africans, it is active courting of a million new residents makes it a rarity among developed nations. 

See also: Rich, older South African men are buying Plan B passports in Europe in record numbers

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