Quite often foreigners are struggling with bank accounts getting blocked due to invalid visas. This often happens when visa extensions are taking longer than expected, the original visa has expired and one is waiting for Home Affairs to process the extension.

If anyone is, feel free to contact the author.

This is a complex subject.

SA tends to retain some regulations going back to the apartheid days, where the government controlled everything, especially money flow into and out of SA. I have no idea, and nobody in any commercial bank has any either, why these rules still apply today, as they make very little sense in days of electronic / digital banking, a R10 million off-shore Investment allowance, a R1 million annual travel allowance for South Africans, Bitcoin options, use of foreign credit cards, etc. My suspicion is that it retains jobs at SARB and therefore does not get questioned. A bit like petrol attendants, if you get my drift….

All banks offer non-resident accounts to “new” foreigners i.e. with a valid short-term visa (also a 90 day on visitor visa), except Capitec. Yes, there are fees in SA, it’s just the way it is. Even if you get resident private banking with fancy banks like RMB or Investec, there are monthly cost, which are mostly unknown in Europe.

But non-residents do get a debit card and online banking, which is normally fine. You cannot get a loan or an overdraft on your current or credit card, but you can get up to a 50% home loan. One limitation is that you cannot receive Rands into your account without explanation, just foreign currency. Most branches offer resident banking, as soon as one has a long-term visa , like a work, business or a Section 11(6). Retired visa some times also works, as does spousal (Section18).

But we notice, that the commercial banks more and more often stumble these days, if they cannot add a SA ID number into their system. That tends to block resident banking. Then the issue gets escalated to the branch manager and from their to somebody in head office with mixed results. FICA is a different thing. We all need to verify our residential address from time to time, banks request so every 2 or 3 years typically. This also applies to all SA citizens and PR holders.

If you don’t do it, all accounts get frozen. Forex incoming does not get “frozen”, just does not always gets automatically not credited until you completed a form. Again, this applies to SAC’s and PR’s as well. Freezing of accounts if a visa has expired does still happen, but we find, most banks are quite lenient within reason. So if you show them a VFS submission receipt, mention the 8 week processing time, they can make exception.

Sure, if you hang here for 2 years waiting for a TR appeal, it will be problematic. I think we need to appreciate that there are legal compliance issues. If you do not have a visa, if on paper you are illegal, why should the bank keep your account open? Finally, banks are not obliged to give anybody the account they want. Banks have a commercial interest. They need fees and interest earnings. Now all I wanted to do is explain some basic points.

I am fully aware that in practice these are not consistently applied, there are many different stories and experiences out there. If somebody wants to share his/ her experiences here, I would suggest we should limited them to very recent experiences, best not older than 6 month, as the “system” changes all the time.

Please do not hesitate to contact us for advice regarding immigration & visa, setting up business, property transfer & investment.

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By Dirk Meissner