Most South Africans tend to do the whole London thing at some point, and it remains a strong attraction for qualified accountants, as opportunities are abound in various industries ,with most people ending up working in finance and banking. For those of us who aren’t lucky enough to have a UK/ EU passport, this option has become more difficult, as the UK has discontinued their Highly skilled migrant permit category and the 2 year working holiday visa also doesn’t exist anymore. Therefore you would need to be sponsored by an employer, who in turn needs to apply for a sponsorship license and vie for the limited number of permits (20,700 Tier 2 General skilled worker permits for year up to Apr 2013) allocated annually. It is therefore not such an easy option anymore.
If you are however lucky enough to secure a sponsorship or hold the right passport, then London has many great opportunities for CA’s in various exciting industries, i.e. media & entertainment (see Handle recruitment link below), technology, finance etc.
Apart from the UK, CA’s end up all over Europe, depending on your language skills, passport, professional connections etc, but the other locations most worth considering are:
- Netherlands and Belgium:
If you are Afrikaans speaking, then these countries are definitely an option. The Dutch and Flemish languages are quite similar to Afrikaans and there are great opportunities in these vibrant and culture rich countries. I have South African CA friends living in Amsterdam who are loving it (we will be featuring them in futureblender interviews in the near future). If Amsterdam appeals mainly due to its infamous coffee shops (:)) be aware the rules are changing and they won’t be around much longer. As with other EU countries you would need to be sponsored by an employer if you are a SA citizen.
The French (near Geneva) and German (near Zurich) language barrier is a relative challenge, but there are opportunities where this is not a deal breaker. Quality of life is extremely high but so is the cost of living. The banking and finance industry is most prevalent (with UBS and Credit Suisse based here, as well as numerous other private banks) but there are opportunities in other industries as well. We will be featuring an interview with another South African CA living in Zurich soon (see futureblender interviews) to give you an insight view into life in this beautiful country. You would need to be sponsored by an employer if you are a SA citizen, and immigration regulations are quite strict -see links below for more info.
Malta is perhaps more an offshore destination, but we feature it here as it is part of the EU. The Maltese islands lie in the mediterranean just of the coast of Sicily, and is a country with a burgeoning finance industry that is currently offering many opportunities for qualified accountants, mainly in the offshore fund & banking industry. The island is one of the most densely populated countries in the world which is worth keeping in mind, but will offer a unique cultural and professional experience (with good travel links to Europe). As with other EU countries you would need to be sponsored by an employer if you are a SA citizen.
Luxembourg is a small landlocked country in western Europe, bordered by Belgium, France, and Germany. It is ranked the second richest country in the world, it is the world’s second largest investment fund center (after the United States), the most important private banking center in the Eurozone and Europe’s leading center for reinsurance companies. Moreover, the Luxembourg government has tried to attract internet start-ups. Skype and Amazon are two of the many internet companies that have shifted their regional headquarters here. There are therefore good opportunities here, and although perhaps not the most exciting place to live in Europe (in terms of culture and vibe), its a great place to get superb overseas experience whilst having Europe on your doorstep. As with other EU countries you would need to be sponsored by an employer if you are a SA citizen.
The typical go-to destination for accountant’s in the Middle East is Dubai in the UAE. Pre-financial crisis it was a really popular destination with seemingly unstoppable growth and development, particularly in construction and real estate, but there has been a real downturn since 2008 with many horror stories of people being laid off and leaving their cars at the airport as they flee the country to escape their mounting debts.
There are signs that things are again starting to pick up in the job market as the economy is stabilising, although things are not where they were a few years ago. Culturally Dubai is quite cosmopolitan, but the Middle Eastern and islamic influence is ingrained in the culture and is another factor to consider when looking at this region. The heat is also intense especially during June – September and can be stifling at times. All foreign workers require a residence visa and ‘labour card’ that needs to be sponsored by an employer.
Not your typical exciting overseas location for CA’s looking for an adventure, but still a big economic growth area with good opportunities for the right candidates. As China’s focus turns to Africa, there is a lot of foreign investment with resulting need for specialised skills, especially in the mining and oil & gas industry. Countries like Nigeria and Ghana offer good opportunities. A good way to gain useful experience in Africa in a supported environment is through a South African firm with African operations. Our advice for CA’s who would love to work in Africa is therefore to find employment with a local company and internally pursue placements to African offices.
We would love to get your feedback on living and working in the EMEA countries. Do you have a different view to offer or have worked in other countries not listed above? Share your input with futureblender!