The path to getting South African citizenship

The path to getting South African citizenship
The path to getting South African citizenship

Getting South African citizenship means being a rightful citizen of one of the most beautiful and dynamic countries in the world. It’s no surprise that so many people from across the world are settling in South Africa permanently.

If you want to follow in their footsteps, you’ve come to the right place. The next couple of paragraphs explain how to progress from ‘foreign immigrant’ to ‘South African citizen’.

The 3-step process

In most cases, obtaining citizenship in South Africa is a process involving three steps:

  • Temporary residence
  • Permanent residence
  • Citizenship

One instance where the process is different, is in the case of a financially independent visa. Here, the applicant is automatically granted permanent residency status. This is based on the fact that the applicant has provided sufficient evidence of the fact that they can sustain their lifestyle financially.

The financially independent visa are in few people’s reach, so let’s concentrate on visas that follow the standard process of temporary and permanent residence:

 Spousal and Life Partner visas

If your marriage to or relationship with a South African citizen or permanent resident has been shorter than five years, you may be eligible for a temporary visa.

Once you can prove a marriage or relationship of five years or longer, or if you can prove this fact at the time of wanting to move to South Africa, you can apply for permanent residency.

Relatives visa

Both first kin and second kin of a South African resident are eligible for temporary South African residence, but only first kin relatives can apply for permanent residency.

First kin family members are spouses, life partners, children, and parents.

Retirement visa

The temporary South African retirement visa is valid for four years. Once you have temporary residency, you are welcome to apply for permanent residency.

Permanent residency does come with its own financial requirements though – your must be able to prove a guaranteed life-long income of ZAR37 000 a month.

Like most other governments around the world, the South African government prefers to welcome foreigners who can support themselves financially.

General work visa

General work visas are valid for between two and five years, but never longer than the duration of the employment contract. If you’ve had temporary residency for 5 years, and were employed throughout this time, you could be eligible for permanent South African residency.

Critical skills visa

Temporary critical skills visas are valid for up to five years. Once you’ve been working in the country for five years, you can go ahead and apply for permanent residency.

However, if you have five years of experience in your field at the time that you decide to apply for a visa to South Africa, you can make a permanent application immediately.

Business visa

The temporary business visa is usually valid for two years, but it could be granted for longer periods in certain instances. Once the temporary residency has been obtained, an application for permanent residency can be made.

Please keep in mind that no matter which visa you apply for, certain criteria must be met in order to be eligible for temporary or permanent residency. Being able to meet these criteria already gives the South African government a fair idea of your desirability as a South African citizen. Please have a look at the visa options on our website for more information.

Now that we’ve covered temporary and permanent residency, let’s look at how to take the final steps to getting South African citizenship.

Making your South African status official

By now it should be clear that you must have a permit for permanent residency in your pocket before you can apply for South African citizenship.

In addition to this, you must have had spent five years normally residing in South Africa at the time of your application. One of these years must be the year immediately before submitting your application for citizenship.

Spouses have slightly different requirements, so please just check these with us or the Department of Home Affairs.

Other requirements that are asked of all applicants for South African citizenship are:

  • You must be of good and sound character.
  • You are proficient in one of South Africa’s 11 official languages.
  • You have adequate knowledge of the duties and responsibilities of a South African citizen.

If you can prove all of this and you have stayed in South Africa for the required five years, then you are well on your way to becoming a South African citizen.

Should you have any questions on South African citizenship, or would like to speak to someone about your visa options, please feel free to give us a call. Our Cape Town office is available on +27 (0) 21 424 2460 and our Johannesburg office can be reached at +27 (0)11 234 4275. Our client managers have helped thousands of foreigners make a move to South Africa, so they are sure to be able to help you too.