The latest white paper on international migration for South Africa

white paper on international migration south africaThe Department of Home Affairs released the latest white paper on international migration for South Africa in July. As is usual with white papers, it offers recommendation on policy and strategic interventions for future immigration legislation.

Seeing as the white paper is a massive 82 pages from start to finish, we though we’d summarise the contents for you.

We hope this summary will also put your mind at ease, as misinformation around immigration legislation tend to spread quickly.

If you have questions about anything you read, please do not hesitate to contact us. We’ll be more than happy to clarify things for you.

What is the white paper?

A white paper offers recommendation on policy and strategic interventions. The white paper will provide a policy framework that will lead a comprehensive review of immigration legislation.

Policy that merely requires administrative action will be implemented immediately. Significant changes will only be made once legislation has been amended.

The process of amending the legislation has commenced and is due to conclude in March 2019 when it will be submitted to Parliament for public consultation and approval.

What is the white paper saying?

The paper has highlighted that the current legislation is outdated, and that there are significant policy gaps.

South Africa is in dire need of a robust, progressive vision in terms of well managed international migration while taking into consideration nation building, social cohesion, inclusive economic growth and national security.

South Africa has not implemented adequate policies, strategies, capacities or institutions yet for attracting and retaining those with the neccesary skillls and resources.

The white paper is looking at a more global, intergrated, intelligence-based approach rather than the current mechanical application of rules and policy.

In short, the recommendation is for a more modern, strategic approach to managing risk and achieving South Africa’s economic goals while South Africa and Africa develop its own market’s industries and skills base.

Some key changes that were proposed:

Delinking of residency and citizenship:

  • The process of being granted residency and permanent residence will be delinked.
  • The focus is moving away from the number of years spent in South Africa as the route to citizenship.
  • A citizenship advisory panel will consider citizenship applications before making a recommendation to the Minister of Home Affairs.
  • Being granted citizenship will require an executive decision by the Minsiter of Home Affairs.
  • Value-add factors such as the applicant’s skillls, investment amounts and beneficial contribution to South Africa will be considered.

Replacement of permanent residence permit with long-term residence visa:

  • The permanent residence permit will be replaced by a long term residence visa.
  • This move is to dispel the view that immigrants have a constitutional right to progress towards citizenship due to years spent in South Africa.
  • The long term residence visa will be reviewable and not contribute towards citizenship.
  • This visa may be extended to holders of relatives, business and critical skills visas as well as those students graduating in critical skills occupations.
  • A points-based system will be used to determine who will qualify for a short or long term visa.

Management of international migrants with skills and capital:

Even though South Africa has policies in place aimed at granting visas to those with skills that can’t be easily obtained in South Africa or substancial amounts of capital, South Africa has not been able to adequately attract and retain skills or investment capital in South Africa.

The main objective is to introduce a simple and predictable immigration process that will contribute to the growth of the economy as well as attract and retain migrants with the skills and capital to invest in South Africa.

Points-based system:

  • A points- based system will be introduced and linked to those with skills, investment and business interests.
  • The points-based system may be combined with skills lists or quotas.
  • Factors that will be considered will be:
    • Qualifications.
    • Work experience.
    • Age.
    • Investment amount.
    • Type of business.
    • Ability and willingness to transfer skills.
  • A points-based system is transparent and can change to accommodate changing situations and needs.

Long-term residence visa (family orientated):

  • This will be applicable to those with needed skills and those with investment and business interests.
  • It is proposed that this visa is fast tracked, which will enable the immediate family member/s to apply together with the main applicant.
  • First-kin family members will also be able to work and study through this visa.
  • This will be a long term visa which will allow easier access to citizenship.

Residence visas for foreign students:

  • Retaining foreign students with needed skills after graduation is key and needs to be promoted.
  • We are currently trying to attract skills to South Africa when we are losing those graduating from our universities.

Management of international migration in the African context:

  • The aim is to become more Africa-centred in terms on policy.
  • This will entail becoming more aligned with SADC and the AU.
  • There will be more focus on ease of obtaining work visas and visa free travel.


  • It is clear that the intention is to be more progressive and Africa centric.
  • The message is clear that the DHA are looking to move further away from colonial and apartheid immigration policies.
  • Clear focus is on attracting and retaining skills and investment of those who have the attributes to benefit South Africa.
  • Only time will tell how this all will be implemented through legislation.

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