South Africa Immigration

South Africa Immigration
South Africa Immigration

Considering South Africa Immigration? Below are some useful facts, tips and hints about South Africa Immigration. We tell you about the different types of permits and visas you may be eligible for along with some frequently asked questions and answers.

Please note that every effort is made to keep up to date the below South African Immigration information. Immigration legislation and requirements are however changed constantly by the South African Department of Home Affairs. Therefore advice should always be sought from one of Immigration Client Managers.

Background to South African Immigration requirements

South Africa, as do many other countries, bases its South Africa Immigration regulations on 2 principles:

1. The protection of the South African economy, including jobs for South Africans, as well as the community at large.

2. The advancement of the South African economy by the creation of employment opportunities.

Whilst South Africa immigration laws make ample provision for skilled workers, it should be noted that it does have a high unemployment rate. Therefore unskilled workers would generally not meet the South Africa Immigration criteria.

On the other hand there is a need to attract foreign investment and businesses to these shores and this is mirrored in the fairly liberal business visa legislation.

Retirees, contrary to most countries, are also catered for in the South Africa Immigration rules. Whilst many countries do not wish to ‘burden’ themselves with this sector of immigrants South Africa is very aware of the benefits they bring to the economy.

Who could qualify under the South Africa Immigration rules?

Work visa

Whilst South Africa has a high unemployment rate this prevails mainly in the unskilled worker sector. There remains a skill shortage in the skilled and management areas as well as specific professions. There is therefore a definite need to offer immigration rules that allow South African companies to compete globally for talent as well as entice new entrants to South Africa. Bearing this in mind there are a number of workers visa that are available and these include:

Corporate visa – for companies with a need to hire a number of foreign staff due to the lack of supply in the South Africa labour market. This visa provides a type of blanket permission. In addition securing a corporate visa allows for quicker processing and costs savings on the subsequent individual workers visa.

General work visa – not all employers have a need for recruiting a large number of staff from abroad. In addition and not all employees from abroad meet the South Africa Immigration criteria of quota or exceptional skills. Under the South Africa immigration rules the general work visa allows those who do not possess either to still apply for a workers visa. The essence of this visa is that the employer has tried to recruit locally but to no avail, so has had to look to the hiring of foreign staff.

Intra company transfer – often used by companies commencing operations in South Africa or those with key positions to fill with experienced staff. Intra company transfers allow for the transfer of a staff member from the companies operations abroad to the South African entity.

Business people and entrepreneurs

South Africa Immigration offers two routes for the business person and foreign company:

1. For those wishing to set up or invest in and work within the business South Africa makes provision for a business permit. Key here is the business sector, the investment amount and the employment opportunities the business will create

2. For companies opening up branches in South Africa no visa is required and the business entity can be owned by foreign national or businesses. However staff being recruited from abroad will require the necessary work visa.


Retirees have two routes open to them in order to gain residency to South Africa under the immigration rules. The first and most common is the retired persons visa. This visa is based mainly on the ability of the retiree to financially support themselves in terms of their annual income. The second route is capital based and is called the Financially independent permit – as opposed to the retired persons visa this is based on the amount f net worth a person has.


South Africa immigration allows for relatives in the following categories:

1. Spousal or life partner – whereby the applicant is married or in a permanent relationship with a South African citizen or permanent residency holder.

2. First kin relationship – such as parent or child may apply for permanent residency based on this relationships

3. Second kin relationships – as an example brother sister


South Africa has some excellent educational facilities with a large number of foreign students. Students who meet the qualifying criteria can apply for study visa.

How to apply

Applications can be made in person however most people opt to use a professional company to guide them through the rules of South Africa Immigration and the submission and follow up process.

If you do decide to partner with an immigration company be sure they are either South African Immigration lawyers or South African immigration practitioners.

Also beware of internet sites that ‘partner’ up with one of these two categories, these sites are run by marketers who are looking to make a commission and offer no service themselves. Simply look at the name of the company on the site and the name of the company who will process your visa to ascertain whether you dealing with a middle man or the actual company themselves.

Most visa applications that mean a change of status or are new applications will have to be submitted abroad.

What are the types of residency you can apply for

South Africa immigration offers two types of residency:

1. Temporary residency – this is for a set amount of time and does not entitle the immigrant to stay permanently7 in South Africa. An example of this is a general work visa which is normally issued for 2 -4 years. That said most temporary residency visa allows for a permanent application to be made after a certain number of years. In the case of a general work visa 5 years uninterrupted on a temporary work visa.

2. Permanent residency – sometimes referred to as direct residency. This is where the applicant can apply straight away for permanent residency that will entitle them to stay on a permanent basis in South Africa. Examples of this include retired persons visa, spousal or life partner visa (where the relationship is 5 years old) and independent financial persons permit.

Can spouses or partner of visa holders work

The short answer is no. South Africa Immigration rules focus on the applicant themselves rather than the family unit. The repercussion of this is that dependants (partners of children) will need to make applications as well.

How long does the process take

The South Africa Immigration process is not as long as some countries but temporary residency applicants should allows 3 – 4 months and permanent residency applications can take up to two years (or even longer in some circumstances).

How do you start the process

Intergate offer a free and non obligatory initial consultation, in fact you pay us nothing until you decide to make an application. Simply use the links below to start you Immigration South Africa process.

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.

You can take our free one minute assessment here or request a call back for more information. Or simply call us at +27 (0)21 424 2460.

Alternatively you can fill out the below online enquiry form to contact us.


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