Mauritius reconnects to South Africa

The Covid-19 travel ban imposed by Mauritius on the Republic of South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia was lifted on 7 January, enabling commercial passenger flights to Mauritius from these countries can resume.

“We are very pleased that South Africans can once again travel to Mauritius. The Covid-19 has placed significant pressure on all nations to do the right thing and we thank South Africans and the South African travel industry for their patience in this regard,” said Arvind Bundhun, Director of the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA).

Travellers are requested to contact airlines and tour operators to confirm the availability of flights, as well as the necessary Covid-19 protocols to follow. Full details of the Mauritian Covid-19 entry requirements and safety protocols are online:

“The lift of this travel ban is most welcome given that a substantial amount of the tourism, business and investment coming into Mauritius stems from Southern Africa,” said Nico van Zyl, Managing Director of Sovereign Trust (Mauritius). “We look forward to seeing our associates and clients from these countries return to Mauritius in the not-too-distant future. No doubt this will bring much needed revenue back to Mauritius during these very challenging times.”

The timing of the reopening is particularly good news because Mauritius has just been removed from both the European Commission ‘blacklist’ of list of high-risk third countries and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) list of ‘Jurisdictions under Increased Monitoring’, having strengthened the effectiveness of its Anti-Money Laundering / Counter Terrorist Financing (AML/CFT) regime sufficiently for both organisations to consider that previously identified strategic deficiencies have been rectified.

This bodes well for those interested in moving from South Africa to Mauritius. Last year, Mauritius reduced the minimum investment for a foreign investor to obtain an occupation permit from USD100,000 (ZAR1.7 million) to USD50,000 (ZAR867,000). This length of this permit was also extended from three to ten years. The spouses of occupation permit holders no longer require a separate permit to invest or work in Mauritius and successful applicants can also bring their dependent parents and children to live with them in Mauritius.

“There is a dynamic and growing community of expatriate South Africans on the island. The changes to the requirements for the various permits and acquisition of land are clear incentives to make it more attractive to prospective investors, talented individuals and expatriates wishing to base themselves in Mauritius,” says Coreen van der Merwe, Director of Sovereign Trust (South Africa). “We expect to see more South Africans streaming to the island to live and work.”

At a roundtable lunch hosted by Sovereign Trust (South Africa) in Cape Town as part of a high-level mission by the Mauritian Economic Development Board (EDB) last November, Mauritian Finance Minister Mahen Kumar Seeruttun said: “Now that we have satisfied all the necessary compliance standards, it is time to reposition Mauritius as a reputable jurisdiction to do business. Mauritius has a lot to offer businesses and the community in South Africa.”

Mauritius is just a four-hour flight from Johannesburg and Seeruttun highlighted the island’s political stability, its strong and well-regulated banking system, its hybrid Anglo-French legal system and pool of highly trained professionals, and its excellent technological infrastructure, which enabled professionals to continue to work from home while the entire country was in lockdown.

“Overnight we shifted from work in office to home,” said Seeruttun. “This is something we want to showcase to South Africans relocating to Mauritius. Our infrastructure ensures things can be done swiftly and easily. We are ranked 13th worldwide for ‘ease of doing business’ by the World Bank and are first in this region. And we want to keep improving on that. Then of course there is the tropical island lifestyle. Mauritius is a safe place, and you can enjoy a good time.”

With the current political and economic climate contributing to some of the highest levels of uncertainty seen for decades, many South Africans are considering emigration. But leaving South Africa can be a massive and costly undertaking, involving asset disposals, wealth transfers, exit taxes, complex residency applications, new registrations, employment, accommodation and schools – and there’s always the risk that you or your family won’t settle well in the country you’re immigrating to.

The Mauritius Premium Visa provides a way for those who are considering emigration to experience what it would be like to live outside South Africa without having to go through the ‘full’ process. Created in response to the Covid-19 pandemic when the traditional tourism sector on the island was effectively closed due to travel and quarantine restrictions, it allows international visitors and their families to stay in Mauritius for up to 12 months to work remotely, retire or simply enjoy a longer holiday.

The Premium Visa is valid for a period of one year and is renewable. A Premium Visa is required by those who intend to stay in Mauritius for a period exceeding 180 days in a calendar year. For those staying for less than 180 days, a tourist visa can be granted on arrival to Mauritius. Foreign nationals staying in Mauritius under a tourist visa can apply for a Premium Visa during their stay in Mauritius.

Applications for the Premium Visa are open to those currently in Mauritius on short-stay visas and those based internationally who wish to relocate to Mauritius for the long term. Applying for a Premium Visa is a simple online process. An application will be processed within 48 hours and the e-visa will be issued via email. The Premium Visa is issued free of charge and there is no processing fee.

The Premium Visa is particularly beneficial because specific provision has been made in the Mauritius Income Tax Act to enable holders to effectively pay little to no personal income tax once Mauritian tax residency is obtained. Regardless of how much income is earned through remote work, only the portion that is remitted back to Mauritius will be taxable in Mauritius.

A Premium Visa holder will become a Mauritian tax resident after spending 183 days in Mauritius. Any income accumulated before Mauritius tax residency is established that has been taxed in its country of source can be remitted tax free to Mauritius, while funds accumulated in a foreign account can be expended free of tax in Mauritius provided it is spent via a foreign debit or credit card. If the funds remitted to Mauritius remain within the tax exemption limits – between USD8,000 and USD16,000 depending on the number of dependents – no tax will be due in Mauritius or elsewhere.

“I felt it was time to start talking to the business community in South Africa about relocating to Mauritius,” said Seeruttun. “I wanted to reconnect and share what we have on offer.”

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