Permanent Residence Permit for South Africa
What is a permanent resident permit in relation to South Africa?
South African law provides for two kinds of visa categories temporary and permanent. A temporary status is called a visa and a permanent residence dispensation is called a permit.
Why would someone need permanent residence?
For a foreigner who intends to come and reside in South Africa on an indefinite permanent basis, they are well advised to apply for a permanent residence permit. To do so they need a long-term temporary residence visa.
A foreigner on a short-term tourist visa cannot apply for permanent residence in South Africa.
Am I ready to apply for a permanent residence permit?
According to the Immigration Act, there are 11 specific permanent residence permit categories that an applicant can fall under. Some of these categories which fall under section 26 of the Act are referred to as “direct residency”, and others which fall under section 27 of the Act are referred to as “residency under other grounds”.
- You are eligible to apply for permanent residence if have been in possession of work visas for at least the past five consecutive years, with a permanent job offer secured in South Africa. A minimum of five years work permits need to have been endorsed in a passport. Intra-Company Transfer work visas are excluded and are not considered for this purpose.
- You are eligible to apply for permanent residence If you have been espoused (by marriage or life-partnership) to a South African citizen or permanent resident for at least five years.
- You qualify to apply for permanent residence if you are the child, under the age of 21, of a citizen or permanent resident.
- You qualify to apply for permanent residence if you are the child of any age of a citizen.
- You are eligible to apply for permanent residence if you hold a critical skills work visa, as per Critical Skills List published in the Government Gazette, AND you have accrued at least five years of post-qualification experience (not necessarily related to the critical skills).
- You may be eligible to apply for permanent residence on the basis of your intended investment in an existing South African business or if you intend to establish and invest in South African business. This investment should be no less than R5 million, or a lesser amount as agreed by the DHA should the business enterprise fall within one of the prescribed National Interest sectors of the South African economy.
- You may be eligible to apply for permanent residence on the basis that you have held refugee status in South Africa for at least the past five years. For this purpose you will require obtaining a certification from the Refugee Standing Committee confirming that you will remain a refugee indefinitely.
- You may be eligible to apply for permanent residence on the basis of your receipt of pensions or irrevocable annuities for the rest of your life.
- You are eligible to apply for permanent residence on the basis that you can demonstrate your net worth to be equivalent to no less than R12 million AND undertake to pay to the DHA a non-refundable once off fee of R120,000.00 upon the approval of your application.
Watch Permanent Residence Permit Q&A’s with Gary Eisenberg
How do you apply for a permanent residence permit in South Africa?
Once a foreigner is in South Africa on a long-term temporary residence visa enabling him or her to apply, he or she will be eligible to apply for permanent residence in a category they comply with.
Short-term and long-term visitor visa holders are not eligible to apply for permanent residence from within South Africa unless exceptional circumstances as regulated apply. Spousal-based visitor visa holders may however apply for permanent residence.
The submission category of a permanent residence permit application may, in some cases, also determine the type of long-term visa the foreigner must hold to comply with the permanent residence application’s specific requirements.
Applications for permanent residence made in terms of sec 26(a) of the Immigration Act for instance, require the foreign applicant to be in possession of a work category visa at the time of submission.
Applications made in terms of sec 27(b) of the Act require the foreign applicant to be in possession of a critical skills work visa. No minimum period of work in South Africa is required to comply with this category of permanent residence.
If I studied in South Africa can I apply for permanent residence in South Africa?
Having studied in South Africa alone does not make a foreigner eligible to apply for permanent residence in South Africa.
Foreign graduates of South African tertiary institutions who graduate in the area of critical skills are eligible to apply for permanent residence with no delay in terms of sec 27(b) of the Immigration Act. The Minister of Home Affairs has granted these students a special waiver in April 2016.
If you were born in South Africa of foreign parents and if your birth was registered with the Department of Home Affairs, upon turning 18 years of age if you have lived in South Africa since your birth, you may be eligible to apply for South African citizenship by naturalization.
I am married to a South African can I apply for permanent residence?
Only the spouse, by marriage or life-partnership, of at least 5 years of a South African citizen or permanent resident is eligible to apply for permanent residence on the basis of the spousal relationship.
My children are South African citizens can I apply for permanent residence?
The relative within the first step of kinship of a South African citizen or permanent resident is eligible to apply for permanent residence in terms of sec 27(g) of the Immigration Act. The first step of kinship includes parents and children.
The South African relative needs to satisfy the Department of Home Affairs that he or she can financially support the foreign relative in South Africa. Minor dependant children cannot give financial assurance to their parents and for this reason this category of permanent residence applications is restricted to the parent of a minor child.
Can my accompanying family apply for permanent residence with me at the same time?
Yes, as long as the applications of the whole family are submitted at the same time then the immediate accompanying family of foreigners applying for permanent residence may apply together.
Should the applications not be submitted at the same time, the accompanying family will need to wait for the successful outcome of the main applicant’s permanent residence application to be in a position to apply for permanent residence as his or her immediate family.
The foreign spouse of a permanent resident applicant is only eligible to apply for permanent residence having been espoused for at least 5 years.
The foreign spouse of a critically skilled individual applying for permanent residence in terms of sec 27(b) of the Immigration Act does not need to have been espoused for 5 years to apply for permanent residence.
The foreign spouse of an applicant who submits an application for permanent residence on the basis of a business in terms of sec 27(c) of the Act does not need to have been espoused for a period of five years.
Can I apply for permanent residence if I was v-listed?
Permanent residence may be issued, subject to the prescribed requirements, to a person of “good and sound character”. Police Clearance Certificates from any country a foreigner has resided above the age of 18 are required for the purpose of all permanent residence applications.
In terms of section 30(1) of the Act, a foreigner who is declared an undesirable person does “not qualify for a port of entry visa, visa, admission into the Republic or a permanent residence permit”. An undesirability needs to be uplifted to enable a foreigner to obtain permanent residence. A pending application for permanent residence may be rejected on the basis of the foreigner being an undesirable person.
In terms of Section 29(1) of the Act: “…prohibited persons …do not qualify for a port of entry visa, admission into the Republic, a visa or a permanent residence permit”. A prohibited person cannot be granted permanent residence. Only upon the successful upliftment of a prohibition a foreigner is eligible to apply and/or obtain permanent residence.
Can I lose permanent residence in South Africa?
Each permanent residence permit certificate is issued, based on category of submission, with specific conditions which are endorsed on the certificate. Permanent residence permit holders are advised to read carefully the conditions and when necessary to seek professional advice.
- A permanent residence permit issued to the spouse of a South African citizen or permanent resident shall lapse if at any time within two years from the issuing of that permanent residence permit the good faith spousal relationship no longer subsists, save for the case of death. As per section 26(b) of the Immigration Act.
- A permanent residence permit issued to the child under the age of 21 of a citizen or permanent resident “shall lapse if such foreigner does not submit an application for its confirmation within two years of his or her having turned 18 years of age. As per section 26(c) of the Immigration Act.
- A permanent residence permit issued on the basis of a business shall lapse if the holder fails to prove within two years of the issuance of the permanent residence permit and three years thereafter, to the satisfaction of the Director-General, that the prescribed financial contribution to be part of the intended book value is still invested. As per section 27(c) of the Immigration Act.
All permanent residence permit holders are required not to be absent from the Republic for more than 3 consecutive years to maintain their status valid.