The process required to immigrate to South Africa starts with determining the right type of residence permit, according to the purpose of the stay.
Our team of lawyers specializing in Immigration Law (Immigration Act No. 13 of 2022) are here to provide complete services to foreign nationals who wish to relocate to South Africa.
Applications are filed from the individual’s country of residence with the South African mission in his town of residence or in the nearest town.
The decision to relocate to South Africa is an important one and many foreign nationals do so when seeking various employment or business options.
Traveling to Cape Town or Pretoria should only take place once the residence permit has been secured. This is the main reason why foreign nationals can benefit from discussing the process with our lawyers who specialize in the steps needed to immigrate to South Africa.
Table of Contents
Types of residence permits
Determining the purpose of the stay is a key step for those who relocate to South Africa. We list the main types of residence categories:
- Employment: a work permit is awarded for those foreign nationals who immigrate to South Africa after having been offered employment;
- Business: starting a company or investing in an already existing is another reason for a prolonged stay;
- Study: foreign nationals accepted for university courses by a South African educational institution; proof of acceptance is required if this is the manner in which you move to South Africa;
- Reunification: if a spouse or another family member is already lawfully living in South Africa, qualifying family members can join him/her.
| Entry visa requirement
(from EU) (YES/NO)
Certain countries are exempt for 30 or 90 day stays
|Entry visa requirement (outside EU) (YES/NO)
|Certain countries are exempt for 30 or 90 day stays|
|Types of visas available
|General Work, Intra-company transfer, Critical Skills, Business, Study, Retired Persons, Relatives, Medical treatment, Treaty, Exchange, Corporate, Crew|
|Time frame for obtaining
work visa (approx.)
|Validity of temporary residence permit||Maximum 5 years for the general work visa or the critical skills work visa
Maximum 4 years for the Intra-company transfer, without renewal
Maximum 6 years or 8 years for the Study visa (depending on the type of study)
Maximum 2 years for the relatives visa
Generally 12 months for the Exchange visa
6 months at a time for the Medical visa
|Temporary residence permit renewal requirements||
Application form, application fee, documents relevant for the continuation of the same temporary residence visa or its change
|Documents for obtaining a residence permit||
Application form, valid passport, proof of financial means, proof of medical cover, fee payment proof, visa-specific documents (employment agreement, study acceptance letter, proof of investment, etc.)
|Time frame for obtaining permanent residence (approx.)||4 months|
|Investor Visa availability (YES/NO)||Yes, the Business Visa|
|Start-up Visa Scheme availability (YES/NO)||No|
|Sponsorship requirement (YES/NO)||No|
|Time frame for obtaining citizenship||5 years from the date of receiving permanent residence|
|Citizenship/Residency by investment scheme availability (YES/NO)||No|
|Taxation of foreign citizens||Residents are subject to taxation on their worldwide income
Non-residents are subject to taxation on the income they derive from South Africa
Personal income tax rates are progressive (18% and up to 45%) and can be subject to change per tax year
|Tax benefits for expats||Tax rebates for taxpayers (subject to conditions)|
The categories of family members accepted for the reunification permit include underage children, spouses, parents, or brothers/sisters.
Our team can give you complete information about the requirements for company formation in South Africa for foreign nationals who wish to obtain residency based on their business activities. Several conditions apply concerning the type of investment (including those for a minimum capital and hiring a minimum number of permanent residents) and for bringing family members.
Retired individuals can also immigrate to South Africa, provided that they can show proof of sufficient means of living in the country.
Documents required for the work visa
All of the types of temporary stay-visas above can be used for stays of more than 90 days and have variable validity periods (in most cases not exceeding 5 years).
While some documents are required for all applications, such as a valid passport, there are others that are visa-specific.
The documents required for a general work visa, critical skills visa (see below), or intra-company transfer visa are the following:
- the employer’s written undertaking for the costs related to the deportation of the applicant if deemed necessary (and his family members, if applicable);
- police clearance certificate;
- valid passport (the employer and the employee must make sure that this document remains valid throughout the entire duration of employment);
- certificate from the Department of Labor confirming that the employer was unable to find a SA citizen or permanent resident for the position (with the same qualifications/skills as those of the applicant);
- proof of the applicant’s sufficient qualifications, skills, and experience for the job offer;
- proof of sufficient remuneration for the said job position (which needs to be in line with the average salary of a permanent resident or citizen with a similar position);
- additional documents, as may be needed for information about the applicant’s qualifications and particulars.
All original documents that are not in one of the official languages are to be translated by a sworn translator.
There are 11 official languages of South Africa, among which are English, Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa, Sepedi, and Tswana.
The general work visa can have a maximum validity period of 5 years.
Please keep in mind that the authorities reserve the right to ask for additional information and documents.
Our South African lawyers specializing in immigration matters can help applicants gather and submit a complete file, so that they may avoid the case in which their application is subject to additional requirements due to an incomplete submission.
Permanent residence in South Africa after a minimum year of continuous and lawful stay in the country (please see below for more details).
Most foreign nationals who obtain a job in South Africa and remain employed for the minimum number of years will apply for permanent residence. However, this may not be an option for international corporate transfer visas.
Certain work residence permits are awarded for skilled migrants, in business fields in which there is a shortage of experts or professionals.
Examples of critical skills include Director (Enterprise, medium organization), Policy and Planning Manager, Corporate General Manager, Research and Development Manager, Chief Information Officer, Physicist, Chemist, Geologist, Geophysicist, Mineralogist, Biotechnologist, Agricultura Scientist, Engineer (Civil and Mechanical), Data Scientist and more.
The examples for the critical skills were taken from the Government Gazette for the year 2022.
The job positions listed above are subject to change. We encourage interested foreign nationals to verify the list of critical skills periodically and make their application accordingly, with our assistance.
The immigration experts at our law firm in South Africa can give you more details about the application process for a critical skills job in the country.
We can also provide investors with information on how they can start the process to immigrate to South Africa based on a business visa, which is also subject to conditions.
Permanent residence in South Africa
Permanent residence in South Africa is granted after 5 years of continuous and lawful stay in the country.
The application is submitted in person and the following accompanying documents are generally requested:
- filled-in application form and proof of application fee payment;
- copy of the birth certificate and biometrics for applicants over the age of 16;
- yellow fever vaccination certificate (only if the person traveled or intends to travel/transit through endemic areas);
- police clearance certificate;
- medical reports (accompanied by radiological reports, with some exceptions);
- the valid visa at the time of the application;
- proof of work visa for a continuous period of 5 years;
- marital status documents or documents attesting to the name change;
- other documents, as needed, for example in the case of dependent children.
Understanding the requirements for the chosen South African residence permit is essential for all applicants. Our team can give you detailed information about temporary residence visas, how to extend the validity of an already issued visa, how to change the visa type if the holder’s particulars change, and how to apply for permanent residency when the time comes.
Citizenship can be applied for once the individual has had a permanent residence permit for 5 years after the date on which he or she acquired the permanent residence permit in the Republic.
A letter of acceptance for dual citizenship from the applicant’s country of origin will be required.
The individual will need to provide proof of language proficiency, attend the Induction to become a citizen, and attend the Naturalization ceremony.
Immigrate to South Africa with the help of our lawyers
Our team is able to provide adequate assistance for relocation from the earliest stages of the process. If you are interested in immigration to South Africa, we can help you with:
- assistance for preparing the documents needed to relocate to South Africa; these are different according to the chosen category of residence permit;
- legal advice on the relocation of companies to South Africa, as well as business legal advice for those interested in obtaining residence based on an investment;
- information on visa or residence permit extensions, as well as assistance for changing the residence permit type, such as in the case of foreign students who wish to remain in the country for work purposes;
- legal counsel and legal representation in all cases involving immigration to South Africa; we can help represent foreign nationals.
If you want to immigrate to South Africa, our team of layers in South Africa can help you start the process.
South Africa in numbers
According to the Migration Policy Institute, South Africa has a population of approximately 2,9 million immigrants. This accounts for less than 5% of its overall population which has estimated at 60 million people.
The distribution of immigrants according to their country of origin was the following in 2020:
- Zimbabwe: 24%;
- Mozambique: 12%;
- Lesotho: 7%;
- Malawi: 3%;
- United Kingdom: 2%;
- Other countries with a 2% percentage of the total immigrants in South Africa: Democratic Republic of Congo, Botswana or Angola.
Our immigration lawyers in South Africa can give you more details if you are from one of these countries.
A brief summary of South Africa’s economic evolution in 2021 is summarized below by our lawyers:
- the economy grew by 4,9% compared to 2020;
- mining and quarrying was the industry to record the most significant growth, of 11,8%;
- the second industry to have the most important growth was agriculture, forestry and fishing, at 8,3%;
- the finance, real estate and business services industries grew by 3,7% in 2021 compared to 2020.
The data was provided by Statistics South Africa.
Foreign nationals interested in knowing more about how to move to South Africa can contact our immigration lawyers in South Africa.
We are a full-service law firm in South Africa assisting businesses and individuals.