Immigrating to South Africa
Considering immigrating to and settling in South Africa? Here's information on immigration categories, requirements and application procedures, and the answers to some frequently asked questions.
Note: This information is meant to serve as a guide only. Requirements for
immigration to South Africa are subject to change, and
each application is treated as an individual case. Always make enquiries before
travelling to South Africa.
To immigrate and live in South Africa, you need a permanent residence permit. This permit grants the holder all the rights, privileges, duties and obligations of a citizen, except for those which are explicitly ascribed to citizenship.
Where can I make enquiries about immigration?
- See the Department of Home Affairs' information on permanent residence permits by category.
- If you are in South Africa, find your nearest Department of Home Affairs office.
- Find out where to apply in your own country from this list of South African offices abroad or refer to the box on the right.
- Home Affairs contact centre: +27 11 461 9252 (international callers), 0800 60 11 90 (inside SA), email@example.com
Info and enquiries on the Internet
- South African Government Service information on SA citizenship by naturalisation.
- Download the relevant application forms online.
South Africa's immigration policy is embodied in the Immigration Act (No 13 of 2002), which prescribes the requirements which are to be met by an applicant who wishes to immigrate permanently to South Africa. Read it here.
Who can immigrate to SA?South African immigration law aims to protect the health and security of South Africans, as well as their rights to employment opportunities in the country.
South Africa has a vast reserve of unskilled and semi-skilled workers. Generally, a prospective immigrant to South Africa should not follow an occupation for which there are already sufficient people available to meet the country's needs. Unskilled and semi-skilled workers, in particular, will not usually be accepted as immigrant workers in South Africa.
Conversely, immigrants who are in a position to contribute to the broadening of South Africa's economic base will be welcomed. Applications by skilled workers in occupations for which there is a shortage in the country are encouraged – particularly applications by industrialists and other entrepreneurs who wish to relocate their existing businesses or establish new concerns in South Africa.
Because of the need to create job opportunities for South African workers, prospective immigrants should be seriously committed to investing their assets, skills and experience for the benefit of themselves and the people of South Africa.
All applications for permanent residence are considered individually on merit by an autonomous statutory body, the Immigrants Selection Board.
If you wish to immigrate permanently to South Africa, you should be of "good and sound character" and not follow an occupation in which there are already sufficient people available to meet the country's needs.
Immigration requirements are aimed at individual selection and all applications for permanent residence are considered on merit by an autonomous statutory body, the Immigrants Selection Board.
Immigration categories are divided into two:
- Direct residence (Section 26)
This is issued to foreigners who have been on a work permit for five years and who have received a permanent offer of employment. In general, if a foreigner meets all the requirements, their spouse and children under 21 will likewise qualify for permanent residence.
- Residence on other grounds (Section 27)
This includes foreigners who:
- have been made a job offer within certain conditions;
- possess extraordinary skills or qualifications;
- intend to set up a business in South Africa;
- those who intend to retire here;
- refugees, and
- relatives of a South African citizen.
All immigration applicants older than 21 must submit to a personal interview.
Where do I apply for immigration?In general, you should apply for immigration to South Africa while in your country of residence, and await the outcome of your application before proceeding to South Africa. You should apply at your nearest SA office abroad or see the box on the right.
However, you may apply for immigration while in South Africa – at your nearest Home Affairs provincial office – if:
- You are in the country on a valid work permit; or
- You are married to, or the child of, a South African citizen or permanent resident, and are in South Africa on a valid temporary residence permit; or
- You are being sponsored for immigration purposes by a blood family member who is permanently and lawfully resident in South Africa and are in South Africa on a valid temporary residence permit; or
- You have been exempted from the requirement to hold a temporary residence permit.
How long is my permit valid for?Once you have been granted permanent residence, you need never to apply again. However, you must take up residence in South Africa within a year of being granted permanent residence.
Source: SAinfo reporter and the Department of Home Affairs
Reviewed: 18 February 2013
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