It’s a permit that grants permanent residence – and thus offers you the flexibility to work, study, retire or start a business in South Africa without limitations.
Understanding the South African Financially Independent Permit
The Financially Independent Permit is designed to attract high-net-worth individuals to South Africa.
Successful applicants can live in South Africa freely and enjoy the same rights as South African citizens with two exceptions – the right to hold a South African passport and to vote in South African elections.
Let’s look at the details:
The eligibility criteria
The Financially Independent Permit’s requirements are simple when compared to other South African visas. Apart from the usual visa applications criteria, like up-to-date police clearance certificates, it only has one main requirement:
You must have a personal net worth of at least ZAR12 million
To apply for a Financially Independent Permit, you must demonstrate a personal net worth of ZAR12 million or more.
At today’s exchange rate, that’s USD 620,470.92 or GBP 498,270. If you’re European, it’s EUR 574,12.64.
Unlike similar visa categories from around the globe, you don’t have to invest in South Africa or buy property to secure residence. You don’t even have to transfer money to a South African bank account.
All you’re required to do is prove that your net worth is ZAR 12 million or more. You may provide evidence through a wide variety of assets, including but not limited to the following:
- Commercial or residential property
- Art, jewellery, and vehicles
Please note that upon approval of your permanent residence application, you must pay a once-off fee of ZAR 120,000 to the Department of Home Affairs.
The validity period of the Financially Independent Permit
As mentioned, the Financially Independent Permit grants permanent residence (PR) to applicants, which means your residence status is valid indefinitely.
You don’t have to renew your permit.
However, to keep your PR status, you must not remain outside South Africa for more than three years at a time.
The advantages of the Financially Independent Permit
The Financially Independent Permit offers you freedom and flexibility in all aspects of life:
1. Greater job flexibility
When you’re a Financially Independent Permit holder, nothing restricts you from doing the work you want to do.
- You can work in any occupation for any employer
- You can freely move between employers
- You can work part-time, full-time or freelance
South African work visa holders, on the other hand, are subject to plenty of restrictions. Let’s look at the Critical Skills Work Visa for comparison:
|CRITICAL SKILLS WORK VISA||FINANCIALLY INDEPENDENT PERMIT|
|Your occupation must be on the critical skills list.||You can work in any occupation.|
|You must have a job offer.||You don’t need a job offer to apply for a Financially Independent Permit if you intend to work in South Africa.|
|You must have SAQA certification of your qualifications.||You don’t need SAQA certification.|
|You must register with the relevant professional body.||You don’t need professional body registration.|
|You can only work for the employer on your visa, and you must apply for a change of conditions if you want to move employers.||You can work for any employer and move freely between employers.|
2. Greater opportunities for entrepreneurship and business ventures
Business visa holders must meet strict criteria to set up businesses in South Africa.
That is not the case for Financially Independent Permit holders. As a Financially Independent Permit holder, you can set up, own or co-own any type of business and as many as you like.
There are no limitations!
|BUSINESS VISA||FINANCIALLY INDEPENDENT PERMIT|
|You must invest a minimum of ZAR5 million in your business.||You don’t have to meet any investment requirements to start your business.|
|You must submit a comprehensive business plan to prove that your business is in South Africa’s interest.||You don’t need a business plan to apply for a Financially Independent Permit if you intend to run a business in South Africa.|
|You must employ 60% South Africans.||You don’t have to meet staff requirements apart from B-BBEE criteria.|
|You must do a ‘confirmation of business’ within two years of receiving PR and again three years after the first confirmation.||You don't do a ‘confirmation of business’ as a Financially Independent PR holder.|
|The South African Department of Trade & Industry (DTI) must approve your business and issue a Letter of Recommendation before you can apply for your visa.||Youdon’t need approval from the DTI or any other government body to start your business.|
3. Easier to retire to South Africa
Retired visa applicants must meet strict monthly retirement income requirements for the duration of their residence visa.
With a Financially Independent Permit, you don’t have to. You only need to prove your net worth, which makes it easier to retire to South Africa for high-net worth individuals.
Another advantage the Financially Independent Permit has over the retired visa is that it allows you to work or run a business in South Africa.
You’re not allowed to take up either of these activities as a retired visa holder, as you’re considered a retiree and, as such, are only allowed to reside in South Africa.
|RETIRED VISA||FINANCIALLY INDEPENDENT PERMIT|
|You must receive a minimum retirement income of ZAR 37,000 per month OR ZAR 40,000 per month if your spouse or life partner accompanies you.||You don’t have to prove a retirement income – only that you have a personal net worth of ZAR 12 million.|
|You must earn a life-long retirement income of at least ZAR 37,000 if you apply for PR.||You don’t have to prove a life-long retirement income – only that you have a personal net worth of ZAR 12 million.|
|You can only reside in South Africa.||You can work, study, or run a business in South Africa.|
4. Greater study flexibility
As a Financially Independent Permit holder, you can study any type of course and choose to study full-time, part-time or enrol for a short course.
|STUDY VISA||FINANCIALLY INDEPENDENT PERMIT|
|You must have a letter of acceptance to a course of study with a formally registered education institution.||You can work, study, or run a business in South Africa.|
|You must have a South African medical aid insurance.||You don’t have to prove a life-long retirement income – only that you have a personal net worth of ZAR 12 million.|
|You don’t have a path to PR.||You get PR immediately.|
That’s not the end of the opportunities the Financially Independent Permit offers!
There’s one more:
Permanent residence for family members
Your immediate family members can also apply for PR based on your residency status, meaning the following relatives:
- Spouse or life partner
Your family members can submit their application with yours or once you have your permanent residence permit.
There is one potential challenge
The wait for Financially Independent Permits is long. It’s taking the Department of Home Affairs an average of five years to finalise permanent residence applications.
The Financially Independent Permit might thus not be the best solution for you if you’re in a hurry to start your life in South Africa.
But if you want to work or run a business without restrictions or want to make it easier to retire to South Africa, the Financially Independent Permit is worth considering.
South Africa’s Financially Independent Permit offers freedom and flexibility to eligible foreign nationals.
Permit holders are allowed to freely work, study, and run businesses in South Africa. Permit holders can also spend their retirement years in South Africa without any limitations on their ability to work, study or pursue entrepreneurial activities.
When comparing the Financially Independent Permit to other visa options, it becomes clear that it also has far fewer strict application requirements resulting in a streamlined application process.
In summary, the Financially Independent Permit is a fantastic alternative for eligible foreign nationals seeking an immigration pathway that requires less of them while offering more opportunities.