The South African Department of Home Affairs (DHA) is the relevant department of state mainly responsible for the implementation, control and management of the policy and legislation relating to persons who wish to work in South Africa or settle permanently.
The day-to-day administration of all aspects of these policies is carried out by the various regional and district offices, which are located in most cities and towns of South Africa. There are various categories of temporary work permits and permanent residence permits, such as those listed below.
Temporary residence permit
The Immigration Act No. 13 of 2002, as amended by The Immigration Act No.19 of 2004 has affected the following permit rules:
- General work permit
May be issued to an applicant, in possession of a written and time specific work offer, in line with his/her skills and qualifications.
- Exceptional skills permit
May be granted to “an individual of exceptional skills or qualifications” to whom an offer of employment for a specific duration has been made and where certain requirements have been complied with.
- Intra-company transfer permit
May be issued to a foreign national who is employed abroad by a company which also operates a branch/subsidiary or affiliate business in South Africa. The applicant must, by virtue of his/her employment, be required to conduct work in South Africa, for a period not exceeding two years.
- Corporate permit
Applications can be made by a prospective employer together with supporting documentation substantiating the need to employ a certain number of employees for a particular occupation over a specific period of time. This type of permit caters predominantly for the mining, agricultural and forestry industries which employ the bulk of the migrant labour employed in South Africa.
- Quota permit
The issuing of this permit is based on the published quota list of scarce skills and can be obtained through a South African foreign mission before entering the country. Applicants also need to meet the proper qualification and experience requirements. Quota permits may be applied for from any Department of Home Affairs office.
- Business permit
Foreigners who are contemplating investing in the South African economy by establishing a business or by investing in an existing business in the country must apply for a business permit. This process entails establishing a presence in South Africa through employing, training and building capacity for at least five South African citizens or permanent residents. It also involves a minimum investment of R2.5 million (share capital investment) as well as being a perceived benefit to the South African economy. A chartered accountant must certify that the applicant is able to meet the Department of Home Affairs’ capitalization requirements.
- Medical treatment permit
Covers medical treatment at a private or public hospital or health facility, or any other bona fide treatment institution.
- Relatives permit
May be issued to a foreign national who is a member of the immediate family within two degrees of kinship to a South African citizen or permanent resident, provided that the South African citizen or permanent resident provides the ‘prescribed’ financial assurances.
- Exchange permit
This category of temporary residence permit is designed to cover persons participating in programmes of cultural, economic, or social exchange organised by an organ of state or a public higher educational institution, in conjunction with an organ of a foreign state.
- Study permit
Applicants wishing to study in South Africa require confirmed admission to the tertiary institution on the basis that their admittance does not prejudice a South African student. The length of the study permit will be determined by the duration of the course.
- Retired person’s permit
A retired person may apply for temporary residence in this category, provided that he or she can prove that he or she has the right to a pension, or irrevocable retirement annuity with a minimum value of R20 000 per month, or a prescribed financial net worth of R7.5 million.
Permanent residence permits
- Direct residence
This applies to a foreign national who has been the holder of a work permit (includes a corporate permit) for a period of five years and has received an offer of permanent employment or is the spouse of a South African citizen or permanent resident.
- Permanent offer of employment
The applicant must have received a permanent offer of employment. The applicant’s occupation and work permit must comply with the quota list published in the Government Gazette. The prospective employer must submit a certification by a chartered accountant stating that the job description exists and is intended to be filled by the foreign national applicant.
- Extraordinary skills or qualifications
This encompasses a foreign national who has demonstrated to the Department of Home Affairs extraordinary skills or
qualifications not available in South Africa.
- Business category (establishing a business in South Africa)
This applies to a foreign national who intends to establish or invest in an established business in South Africa. A chartered accountant must certify that the applicant is able to meet the Department of Home Affairs’ capitalisation requirements.
- Relative category
May be issued to a foreign national who is a member of the immediate family of a South African citizen or permanent resident within the first degree of kinship i.e. a father, mother, child and this will include a biological or judicially adopted child or adoptive parents and step parents. The South African citizen or permanent resident must provide the ‘prescribed’ financial assurances.
- Retired person’s permits
A retired person may apply for permanent residence provided that he or she can prove that he or she has the right to a pension, or irrevocable retirement annuity with a minimum value of R20 000 per month, or a prescribed financial net worth of R7.5 million.
- Spousal category
A foreigner must be married to or be a life partner of a South African spouse for an excess of five years before applying for permanent residence.
- Child of a South African or permanent resident
A South African or permanent resident may apply for permanent residence of a child under 21 years of age. However, such a permit will lapse if the child does not submit an application to the Department within two years of his/her 21st birthday for confirmation of his/her residential status.