The objective of many immigrants to South Africa is to secure permanent residency. Permanent Residency means the person (immigrant) is allowed to reside indefinitely within South Africa although he or she is not a citizen.
Please note that currently applications for permanent residency are taking between 12 and 36 months. This means that even in cases where permanent residency can be applied for straight away, often due to the time frame of the planned move, there will still be a requirement for temporary residency to be applied for as well.
Applying for permanent residency
There are two ways to apply for permanent residency in South Africa.
- Either immediately, or
- On the basis you have held temporary residency, in most cases for a certain period of time.
Also please note that permanent residency is not available through certain visa categories.
Visa and permit categories can you apply for permanent residency directly through
Financially Independent Permit – typically used where the applicant has a net worth of ZAR 12 million and is unable to show sufficient allowable income to apply for a retired person visa. Applying for permanent residency as a financially independent person does mean incurring a much larger Department of Home Affairs fee – currently ZAR 120,000.
Retired person visa – For retirees the peace of mind of knowing they can stay indefinitely in South Africa may be very important. You can apply for a retired person visa both for temporary residency and permanent residency. The crucial factor between the two is that applicants for permanent residency cannot utilise capital in proving there ability to financially support themselves, only income. The income must take the form of a guaranteed lifelong income and must be at least ZAR 37,000 per month per applicant.
Relatives visa – Relatives visa can be applied for both as first kin (parent child and vice versa as well as second kin (grandchildren and grandparents, brothers and sisters). Importantly only first kin relationships may apply for permanent residency. Holders of a relatives visa, temporary, gained through a second kin relationship can never apply for permanent residency purely on the basis of this visa nor time held.
Partner visa – although this can be classified as a type of relatives visa for the purposes of immigration it is split into 1. Spousal visa and 2. Life partner visa. In either case where the relationship is 5 years old permanent residency can be applied for immediately. Sufficient proof must be provided within the permanent residency application to demonstrate the relationship is 5 years old. More burden of proof is required for a life partner application as there is obviously no marriage certificate. Also please note these categories apply to both same sex and heterosexual relationships.
Where the relationship is not 5 years old temporary residency must be obtained until the time criteria is met.
Permit categories you can apply for permanent residency after holding temporary residency
Business Visa – In order to apply for permanent residency an applicant must first be in possession of temporary residency. There is no set time period for this and applications can be made for permanent residency immediately upon receipt of the temporary a business visa.
Work visa – South Africa offers a number of different work visa and the rules for making permanent residency applications differ according to the type of temporary work visa you hold. The work visa you can apply for permanent residency under (after meeting the criteria) are:
General work permit, Corporate workers permit, Quota work permit, Exceptional work permit – these must be hold for 5 years before a permanent residency application can be made. Please note the 5 years must be consecutive. For example if you were to hold a temporary work visa for 3 years, leave South Africa for 1 year and then return on another temporary work visa the 5 year clock would start again. You can however change employer and your 5 year clock will continue to run as long as you have a valid employment offer prior to leaving the position you currently hold a temporary work visa for.
Permit categories you cannot apply for permanent residency under
Study visa – a study visa is issued as a temporary visa only. It is issued normally for the duration of the students study period. It is not possible for permanent residency to be applied for under this type of visa under any circumstances.
Intra company transfer work visa – a type of work visa whereby your employer based abroad has transferred you to work in its South African subsidiary or branch. This is viewed as a temporary appointment. As examples, when a business is in start up mode or a transfer of skills is needed.
As such it may only ever be applied for as a temporary visa and the time period it is held for will not count towards the 5 years, as do some of the other work visa types.
For a holder of an intra company visa to apply for permanent residency, as a worker, they would need to apply for a different type of work visa where permanent residency may be applied for, and fulfil the requirement of holding a work visa for 5 years. Otherwise they would need to look at a different visa category. For example if they were to enter into a permanent relationship with a South African citizen or permanent resident.
Help in assessing your eligibility for permanent residency
If you are looking to assess whether you qualify for permanent residency, either as a new applicant or current holder of temporary residency, please use the links below to contact one of our Senior Immigration Consultants.
You consultation is free of charge and carries no obligation.
Getting help with your visa or permit application
We welcome the opportunity to consult with you as to your eligibility for a visa /permit and answer any questions you may have with no obligation.
Alternatively you can fill out the below online enquiry form to contact us.