Who can become a resident in South Africa?

South Africa’s immigration requirements are subject to change and each application is treated individually, so the following information should be treated only as a guide.

The best sources of up-to-date information about South African immigration are your nearest South African Consulate, Embassy or High Commission if you are abroad, or your nearest Department of Home Affairs office if you are in South Africa, and the Department of Home Affairs, Sub-directorate: Permanent Residence, Private Bag X114, Pretoria 0001, South Africa (Local hotline: 0800- 601 190, from abroad: +2711- 461 9252).

South African immigration law recognises the need to protect the health, security and employment prospects of South African citizens. The country has a vast supply of unskilled and semi-skilled workers, so that unskilled and semi-skilled workers are rarely accepted as immigrant workers to South Africa.

On the other hand, immigrants who will contribute to South Africa’s economy are welcomed, particularly skilled workers of a type for which there is a shortage in South Africa. Entrepreneurs and industrialists who wish to establish businesses in the country are likely to be welcomed with open arms. In view of the need to create jobs for South Africans, prospective immigrants are recommended to demonstrate a serious commitment to devoting their experience, skills and assets to the betterment of themselves and the people of South Africa.

Applications for residence

Applications for residence are considered individually on merit by an autonomous statutory body, the Immigrants Selection Board, and its basic criteria are that you should be of good character, be a desirable inhabitant, not be likely to be harmful to the welfare of the country and not engage in an occupation which is already sufficiently practised in the country.

If you comply with these criteria, you can proceed to apply for residence, which is generally done in your country of origin, at your nearest South Africa office (Consulate, Embassy or High Commission); and you must wait for the outcome of the application before going to South Africa. You can apply for a residence or an extension of your temporary residence while in South Africa at your nearest Home Affairs office; provided that you fulfil at least one of the following criteria:

  • You are in the country on a valid work permit;
  • You are married to, or the child of, a South African citizen or permanent resident and have a valid temporary residence permit;
  • 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;
  • You have been exempted from the requirement to hold a temporary residence permit.

Temporary Residence Permit

If your visit to South Africa will exceed the 90 days allowed in a visitor's permit, then you will need to apply for a Temporary Residence Permit. Requirements vary depending on the kind of permit you apply for, which can be: Working Permit, Medical Treatment Permit, Relatives Permit, Retired Person Permit, and Student Permit, amongst others.

For more information about a particular permit, visit the Home Affairs Department site ( ).

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