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What You Need to Know When You’re Moving to Cape Town

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  • Pascal Tremblay

    Fortunately, I received lots of supportive tips from other InterNations members before moving to Cape Town.

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Relocating to Cape Town

As the city was the first permanent European settlement in southern Africa (and a flourishing seaport), there were more than enough reasons for moving to Cape Town, even shortly after its founding in 1652. Today, a steady stream of people, both from South Africa and abroad, follow the call of the city. Owing to the city’s beautiful location between the Table Mountain and the northern end of the Cape Peninsula, expats with a soft spot for picturesque landscapes and surroundings are definitely in for a treat.

The Suburbs of Cape Town

Before coming to Cape Town, you should get acquainted with an important word, as you will be hearing it a lot: suburbs. In contrast to most other large cities around the world, the latter is not a term for smaller communities surrounding the actual city, but rather an all-inclusive name for Cape Town’s neighborhoods.

The city’s wealth of neighborhoods can easily overwhelm expat newcomers moving to Cape Town. The easiest way to avoid getting lost in an endless sea of neighborhood names is sticking to the common division of eight larger general parts of town:

  • City Bowl
  • Northern Suburbs
  • Atlantic Seaboard
  • Southern Suburbs
  • South Peninsula
  • Cape Flats
  • Helderberg
  • West Coast

Expats can be found in most suburbs. There are some, however, that are less than safe for anyone, regardless of origin or ethnicity. Generally, you should probably avoid living in — or venturing into — the areas surrounding most of the eastern part of the N2 highway. Upscale neighborhoods can be found, for example, in the City Bowl or the Southern Suburbs.

Gated Communities: Helping You to Feel Safe

The many accounts of crime in the city (we have further dwelled on this issue in our article on living in Cape Town) have caused a steady demand for gated communities among many well-to-do Capetonians and foreigners. These communities usually come with a fence or wall, security personnel, and sometimes surveillance equipment. Opinions on whether all this is necessary to feel safe for people moving to Cape Town vary, but if your concerns get the best of you, this option might offer some relief.

Getting Help from Real Estate Agents

It is highly advisable that you hire a real estate agent when first moving to Cape Town. Not only will they obviously speed up the process of finding a home considerably, but oftentimes they have years of experience dealing with the needs and wishes of expats. Most importantly, however, they can help you choose a suitable, safe suburb. The last thing you want to deal with is realizing that the street that seemed fine in daylight turns into something completely different by night.

Reputable real estate agents abound in Cape Town; a simple internet search will provide you with lots and lots of contacts. If there already is a suburb or neighborhood you took a shine to, make sure to pick an agent specialized in that area.

Expats in Cape Town: Visas and Residency

Visitor’s Visas for Cape Town

Although it is obviously designed first and foremost for tourists, a visitor’s visa is the first, and by far easiest, option for anyone who would like to get a first impression of Cape Town before actually relocating there. As the South African government has long realized the country’s attractiveness for visitors from all over the globe, many nationalities are exempt from the need for a visitor’s visa. The full list is fairly long, and chances are that your home country may be on it. Please keep in mind, however, that citizens from some of the listed countries are only exempt if they hold a diplomatic, official, or service passport.

Temporary Residency Permits

As you are surely aware of, a visitor’s visa is no basis for settlement or legally taking up employment. This is true for virtually every country, and South Africa makes no exception in this regard. For the abovementioned purposes, you have a fairly large variety of temporary residence permits to choose from. For further details and in order to apply, simply contact the South African representation in your home country. A complete list of missions around the world can be found on the website of the Department of International Relations & Cooperation.

In total, there are 12 different temporary residence permits, designed to meet the needs of people from different walks of life. Depending on your age, occupation, or the purpose and duration of your stay, there might be a permit just for you. However, only five of the categories are tailored towards expats:

  • Business Permit: Cape Town is a city that actively promotes entrepreneurship and helps its residents with opening up their own businesses. If this is an idea that speaks to you, the business permit is the one you want. Prepare wisely, as you are expected to present a detailed business plan, invest over 2.5 million ZAR, and hire at least five citizens or permanent residents of Cape Town. You also have to register with the South African Revenue Service and the respective board or council of your trade.
  • General Work Permit: The name says it all. This permit category is open to any interested parties, as long as they can meet the many conditions. Apart from a signed work contract, translated and verified credentials, and documentation on the purpose and duration of your stay, you need to prove that no South African candidate was fit for the position you are going to fill.
  • Critical Skills Work Permit: Brain drain is a serious problem in Cape Town. If you possess special knowledge or skills which are rare locally, you can apply for one of these permits. Proof of your skills must be provided in form of letters from former employers or testimonials from acknowledged and respected academic or cultural bodies in Cape Town.
  • Intra-Company Transfer: As the name suggests, this is a permit designed for employees of foreign companies who are transferred to a Cape Town-based affiliate or subsidiary. Provide your original work contract and confirmation of your future occupation in Cape Town from both parties.

The General Requirements for Your Permit

Apart from the specific requirements mentioned above, all residency permits share these common requirements. Submit them with your application.

  • at least two blank passport pages. The document has to be valid for at least a month after your intended date of return from Cape Town
  • application form DHA-1738
  • medical report BI-811
  • radiological report BI-806
  • birth certificate
  • police clearance certificate
  • proof of your financial means, preferably by submitting bank statements
  • round-trip ticket or deposit covering the cost of your return ticket

Connect with like-minded expatriates

Discover our welcoming community of expats! You’ll find many ways to network, socialize, and make new friends. Attend online and in-person events that bring global minds together.

Happy Africa Day Everyone! Come Let's Celebrate Africa with our fellow expats over dinner and drinks on Thursday the 23rd of May 2024 from 6pm. At The Sanctuary restaurant - 45 Kloof Street situated
Apr 30, 2024, 6:00 PM
32 attendees
We look forward to seeing you all for our April social event – Tuesday 30th April 2024 from 6 pm - Late at La Boheme Wine Bar and Bistro. Please see the attached 3-page poster for details as to what
Mar 28, 2024, 5:00 PM
54 attendees
We look forward to seeing you all for our March social event - Thursday 28th March 2024 from 6 pm - 9pm at Sunsquare. Do come through and enjoy a glass of wine or beer, re-connect with old friends
Nov 24, 2023, 5:00 PM
68 attendees
Let's celebrate the end of 2023 with drinks at this trendy inner-city venue. Catch up with old friends and make new connections. Enjoy drinks and snacks. Find out about our InterNations Cape Town and

See all upcoming events for expats in Cape Town

Our Global Partners

  • Pascal Tremblay

    Fortunately, I received lots of supportive tips from other InterNations members before moving to Cape Town.

  • Nora Godfrey

    Here in Cape Town, InterNations consists of a great crowd of expats. Not just anyone can join the site, and I am happy about that.

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