South Africa’s Immigration Act allows foreign nationals to apply for permanent residency of South Africa.
While the wait for PR is long, it is worth it. For starters, PR allows for greater flexibility and security. It also creates the opportunity for immediate family members to apply for permanent residency.
Before we elaborate on the benefits of PR, let’s answer some of your most common questions about this South African residency status.
What does permanent residency mean?
To become a resident of South Africa, you can apply for temporary residency and permanent residency.
While temporary residency is only valid for up to five years and renewable, depending on the type of visa, permanent residency is valid indefinitely.
As a permanent resident of South Africa, you’ll enjoy most of the rights South African citizens are entitled to. You’re allowed to freely work, study, or run a business in South Africa.
However, South African permanent residents are not allowed to vote or hold a South African passport. You are allowed to have a South African ID book, though.
How can I get South African PR?
Each of South Africa’s visa categories has unique permanent residency requirements. The visa you hold will determine the criteria you have to meet:
1. Permanent residency through work
- Critical skills work visa: You can apply for permanent residency if your occupation is on the critical skills list, and you can demonstrate more than five years or more of relevant, post-graduate experience in your critical skills occupation. You could’ve gained this experience abroad or in South Africa. Furthermore, you must have secured employment in South Africa, you must hold a relevant tertiary qualification, and you must be registered with the relevant South African professional body if applicable.
- Five years of continuous work: You are eligible to apply for permanent residency if you have held a general work visa or critical skills work visa, or a combination of both, continuously for more than five years. You must also have secured an offer of permanent employment in South Africa.
Permanent residency through owning a business
You are eligible to apply for permanent residency as a business visa holder once your business has been operational for at least six months. You must be able to demonstrate that the business has met certain operational milestones and is making a profit.
3. Permanent residency through a South African partner
- Marriage: You are eligible to apply for permanent residency if you have been married to a South African citizen or permanent resident for at least five years. It is required that you are in a civil marriage union.
- Life Partnership: You are eligible to apply for permanent residency if you have been in a long-term, committed relationship with a South African citizen or permanent resident for at least five years. You must provide suitable evidence of the relationship showing joint cohabitation and shared financial responsibilities.
4. Permanent residency as a family member of a South African
First-kin family members of South Africans can apply for permanent residency. The South African Immigration Act recognises parents and children as first-kin relatives. Second-kin family members – siblings, grandparents, and grandchildren – are only eligible for temporary residency.
5. Permanent residency as a retiree
You must demonstrate a monthly retirement income of ZAR37,000 or more for the duration of your visa to apply for temporary residence. To apply for permanent residency, you must show a life-long, irrevocable retirement income of at least ZAR37,000 per month.
6. Permanent residency using your net worth
You can apply for permanent residency through the financially independent permit if you can demonstrate a personal net worth of ZAR12 million or more. You’ll pay a once-off fee of ZAR120,000 to Home Affairs if your application is approved.
What documents do I need to apply for permanent residency of South Africa?
The permanent residency category under which you apply will determine the documentation to submit with your application. It is best to consult with one of our immigration consultants for advice and guidance.
How long does Home Affairs take to process permanent residency applications?
The Department of Home Affairs takes anywhere from three to five years to process permanent residency applications.
Given this timeline, our recommendation is to start with a temporary residency application submitted abroad. Home Affairs takes 8 to 12 weeks to process applications submitted at overseas South African embassies.
Once you have your visa, you can travel to and enter South Africa, and apply for permanent residency provided you meet the criteria.
Can I lose my permanent residency status?
While permanent residency does not expire and remains valid indefinitely, you must not stay outside of South Africa for more than three years at a time. Home Affairs may withdraw your status if you leave South Africa for three years or longer.
What are the benefits of South African permanent residency?
As mentioned, permanent residency offers several benefits for PR holders. Being able to work, study, and run a business without restrictions is only the start.
Your life in South Africa is also more secure due to your PR being valid indefinitely. Furthermore, the admin and costs associated with visa renewals are a thing of the past.
Your PR status also gives employers peace of mind. They know that your stay in South Africa is not dependent on a visa. There is always a chance that a visa application or renewal get rejected.
Employers also look at PR holders more favourably during the job application process. Some work visas have responsibilities for employers to deliver on. That is not the case for permanent residents, because employers can treat PR holders the same as citizens.
Finally, as already explained, your immediate family member can also apply for permanent residency based on their relationship with you.
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Our team looks forward to assisting with your immigration.