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Tech Career Insights: Thinking about leaving South Africa for work? Here's what you should know
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Thinking about leaving South Africa for work? Here's what you should know

16 October 2023, by Khayelihle Mkhwanazi

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Looking for your next career move is a challenging process, but it’s a great opportunity to network with current and even future prospects. The last thing you want to do is lose a connection you’ve developed with an employer because you get cold feet when you realise you haven’t thought about key relocation factors.

Relocating to a foreign country for work will require huge effort, and it can be confusing to understand everything you need to do to ensure it goes as smoothly as possible. Here’s what you need to do before applying for opportunities that’ll mean you’ll need to relocate.

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OfferZen works with hundreds of software engineers relocating internationally for work from South Africa. We’ve found that developers underestimate the admin and costs involved in relocating, and often end up wasting time in interview processes. Any delays in acquiring the necessary documentation or making the decision with your family could mean you lose out on an exciting opportunity.

Understand your job search priorities

A job search can be an incredibly stressful process, especially if you’re considering your opportunities abroad. Completing multiple technical assessments while trying to evaluate the opportunities you’re engaging with will feel overwhelming if you’re unsure of the top decision-making factors or priorities in your job search, that is what you’re prioritising for in your next job.

Before you connect with potential employers, take some time to understand what you need from your next role for it to be a successful career move for you.

It’ll be helpful to know what you’re looking for during your interviews so you can communicate this to the hiring manager, as well as spend more time on more suitable opportunities.

It becomes even more important for your sanity in the job search to understand your decision-making factors when you’re looking for international opportunities since it will require a lot more research from your side.

Do your research to understand the current market

Understanding a foreign market will require a lot of research. Try to find reputable resources on what developers with similar skills are being paid in the foreign country. Job search marketplaces, like OfferZen, will have trustworthy insights you can start to compare yourself against.

Have a look at OfferZen’s salary index page for insights into the Dutch and German markets.

If it’s possible, network and chat with people who have relocated to the country you’re looking into. If it’s difficult to find relevant people for these insights, consider attending events or joining communities, which you could find on Meetup.

If you sign up to OfferZen, you’re assigned a Talent Advisor that can advise you on multiple markets.

Calculate your cost of living in a new country

Understanding your monthly expenses in a city you’ve never been to can be tricky, but it’s the first step in setting a salary benchmark that will set you up for success in your relocation.

First, try narrowing down your search to specific cities in the countries you’re looking in.

Use a tool like Numbeo to determine your cost of living in different cities and compare them to your current city of residence.

Start estimating tax and other mandatory expenses

Don’t forget to account for what tax you’ll need to pay in a country as this will heavily influence your take-home pay. Play around with tax calculators online to get an estimate of your tax expenses. Here are some calculators to start you off for:

Besides income tax, you will likely be liable for social security contributions, and perhaps some kind of healthcare insurance. Consider all of these kinds of expenses when determining what to benchmark as a salary expectation.

Know what you’re entitled to in a job offer

Different countries will have different laws around mandatory benefits and contract regulations. For example; in the Netherlands employees receive a holiday bonus (vakantiegeld) which should be outlined in the contract. However, for an opportunity to relocate to Germany, you won’t need to include this in a contract as it is not part of German law.

Look at government-official websites to fully understand what you will be entitled to in an employment contract specific to the country you’re looking to relocate to.

You can also pull on your network for advice, but you may find conflicting information and will need to confirm via an official website anyways. If you’re still unsure, reach out to a relevant consulate in your country of residence for more information.

Understand your motivation for moving to your country of choice

Focusing your search on one or two specific countries will make the research process a lot easier, and it’ll help you in motivating why you’re interested in those countries to future employers.

Your motivation is an important factor hiring managers will evaluate in the interview process. Communicating your motive for wanting to relocate to a specific country will help convey that you’re looking for a long-term commitment:

Relocating developers internationally is costly for employers, and so they want to make sure they’re doing it for those that’ll remain in the company for a long time.

Make it as personal as possible, and do some research to determine why a certain country is an attractive option for you. It could be the reason they connect with you on marketplaces like OfferZen. It can also be raised in your first interview as the research you’ve already done could impress the hiring manager.

When deciding on a location, include your dependents in the conversation. If you’re moving with your family, it’ll be important for them to be on board from the start and understand what relocating will mean for them personally.

You don’t want to only start thinking about what work your partner can find or what school your child will need to attend when you receive an offer. Rather do this research with them before you make the decision to search for relocation opportunities.

Determine the admin involved in relocating

Apply for the visa you’ll require

Every country has different laws around work permits and visas. Look at official government websites for this information and understand what visa you’ll require for the different countries you’re interested in before connecting with employers.

For opportunities in the Netherlands, you’ll need to interview with companies registered with the Dutch immigration offices (IND) if you’re looking for sponsorship for an HSM Visa. Connecting with employers that aren’t registered will likely be a time waster for both you and the company, which is why it’s important to understand your requirements before you begin interviewing.

Be upfront about your requirements with employers. It may mean you don’t continue the interview process, but it will allow you time to focus on more relevant opportunities.

Prepare a budget for the move

Booking your flights is just the beginning of the expenses you’ll need to address. Besides finding accommodation in the new country, it may also cost you to leave your current accommodation. It’ll cost you to set up bank, tax and phone accounts when you land, as well as to sign up for medical insurance. If you have dependents, you’ll need to consider what expenses they’ll incur in relocating.

Communicating your relocation expense needs early on in an interview process will help both you and the employer determine if it’s the right fit.

Don’t be afraid to ask what support a company can offer for your relocation.

If a hiring manager confirms they cannot support you, the opportunity won’t be the best fit for your next career move and it’s best to conclude the interviews now. You’ll save yourself time to focus on employers that will be able to support you.

If they can support you, you already know the opportunity suits your relocation needs which will assist you when you evaluate job offers at the end of your job search.

Questions you can use to evaluate a relocation opportunity

Below are some questions you can ask hiring managers to evaluate relocation opportunities.

How to determine if a company will address your motivations for wanting to relocate:

  • Can you tell me more about the company’s history of relocating employees?
  • What kind of support does the company offer for relocating employees, such as housing, visa processing, and other logistics?
  • How does the company ensure a smooth transition for employees relocating to a new country, especially in terms of adjusting to cultural differences and work expectations?

Figuring out if a company can meet your job search priorities:

  • Can you explain how taxes and other deductions may impact my take-home pay, and are there any unique tax rulings or benefits that I should be aware of as a foreign employee?
  • What kind of benefits does the company offer to support employees relocating to [country], such as housing allowances or language training, and how are these benefits factored into overall compensation packages?

Ensuring the contract will suit your needs:

  • Can you provide me with a breakdown of the compensation package, including base salary, bonuses and any other benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans or stock options?
  • What type of employment contract would I be signing, and what is the duration of the contract?
  • What does this kind of contract mean for my permanent residency or citizenship?
  • Are there any mandatory benefits or employment laws that I should be aware of, such as vacation time or sick leave policies, and how do they compare to other companies in the industry?
  • How does the company approach work-life balance, and what kind of flexibility is offered in terms of working hours or remote work arrangements?

Here are some downloadable guides including useful insights if you’re considering relocating to:


Khaya Mkhwanazi is a Talent Advisor at OfferZen with extensive experience in supporting multiple software engineers to navigate their job search. When she’s not helping developers succeed in their job search, she can be found playing The Sims, reading epic adventure and romance novels or near large bodies of water.

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