‘Critical skills’ graduates can apply for SA permanent residency!

UPDATE: With the release of the 2022 critical skills list, Home Affairs also withdrew the Ministerial Waiver (2016) that granted PR to graduates from South African tertiary institutions in a critical skills areas as described in this article. You’ll have to follow the usual visa application process to gain South African residency.

Are you a foreign national studying in South Africa? Keen to live in South Africa permanently after completing your studies?

You stand a good chance of doing so if you’re studying in a critical skills area.

The Department of Home Affairs allows students in critical skills areas to apply for permanent residency immediately after completing their studies.

The requirements

1. Your qualification must be in a critical skills area

There are 12 areas of education on South Africa’s critical skills list. These areas cover industries where South Africa doesn’t have enough local talent to fill the available jobs.

The areas most migrants apply under are ICT, Engineering, Health Professions and Related Clinical Sciences, and Life and Earth Sciences. Some of the occupations under these areas are as follows:

  • Solutions Architects
  • Integrated Developers
  • Chemical Engineers
  • Civil Engineers
  • Mining Engineers
  • Nurses
  • Veterinarians
  • Public Health Physicians
  • Biological Scientists
  • Aquatic Scientists
  • Engineering Geologists

You can view the latest critical skills list here, and read our article on the 2021 draft critical skills list here.

2. You must have studied in South Africa

To be eligible for PR as a ‘critical skills’ graduate, you must have studied and gained your degree in South Africa at a recognised South African learning institution.

Applying for your critical skills work visa

1. You don’t have to apply for professional body registrations

The Department of Home Affairs has waived the need for eligible students to submit a certificate from a Professional Body, Council or Board recognised by SAQA. Getting these certificates often takes up to a year! You’ll thus have a massive advantage over other critical skills applicants.

You will, however, still have to meet all the other requirements. For example, submitting police clearance certificates and undergoing medical tests.

2. You don’t have to have five years of work experience to apply for PR

Critical skills work visa applicants must have five years of relevant work experience to apply for permanent residency. The good news is that the DHA has waived this requirement for graduates in critical skills areas.

The great thing about permanent residency is that you enjoy most of the rights and privileges South Africans do. These include changing employers freely, which isn’t possible as a temporary resident without lodging a brand-new visa application.

Do you want to stay in South Africa while applying for your PR? In that case, you must continue to hold a valid temporary visa until you get a positive outcome on your application.

3. Quick turnaround time (compared to other permanent residency applications)

While most PR applicants wait well over three years to get an outcome on their applications, we’ve seen ‘critical skills’ graduates getting outcomes in six months to a year. We hope this is a trend that continues!

4. Your family can join you in South Africa

Spouses, life partners, and dependent children can apply for permanent residency at the same time as the main applicant.

It’s important to note that permanent residency applications for family members take 2 to 3 years to reach an outcome. Sometimes even longer!

However, once PR is issued, your family members will have the same rights as other PR holders. That means your spouse or life partner will be free to work, study or set up a business in South Africa.

Can you apply for PR if you aren’t qualifying in a ‘critical skills’ career?

Unfortunately, the answer is ‘no’. You’ll have to investigate other visa options to continue your stay in South Africa. These visas would make the most sense for a foreign national graduate:

1. General work visa:

This visa allows foreign nationals to work in South Africa. The South African employer must prove that they couldn’t find a suitable South African to fill the role. The company must also prove that it advertised the position. You’ll qualify for PR after five years of continuous employment on your general work visa.

2. Spousal or life partner visa:

You can apply for a spousal or life partner visa if your spouse or life partner is South African. You’ll be able to apply for permanent residency if you’ve been married or in a relationship for 5 years or longer. If not, you can apply for temporary residency subject to your marriage or relationship being at least two years long.

3. Relatives visa:

You can apply for PR under the relatives’ category if you’re the parent, spouse, life partner, or child of a South African citizen or permanent resident.

4. Business visa:

You can apply for a business visa to set up and run a business in South Africa. You must invest at least R5 million, and you must employ at least 60% South Africans. You’ll be able to apply for permanent residency after two years, provided you meet the criteria.

Want to find out if you qualify to apply for South African PR as a graduate?

If you’re not familiar with the South African critical skills list, let one of our consultants check whether or not the degree you’re studying for meets the criteria.

If your assessment shows that you’re eligible for PR, our consultants will your options and the way forward.

You can reach us at +27 (0) 21 424 2460. But why not save your airtime and get us to call you? It’s as easy as asking for a call back on our website.