Moving to another country - especially one so far from family and friends - is a big decision and being prepared will help the process be much smoother and stress-free. Your biggest concern after you've made the decision to emigrate will be securing a South Africa visa for you and your family.
To move permanently to South Africa and to get a visa, you will need to fall into one of the applicable groupings that the South African government has determined.
This should not be considered emigration advice, and visa information can change. For professional advice and the most up-to-date information, suggest you contact a qualified migration specialist for more information or the South Africa Department of Home Affairs.
Obtaining your visa
Unless you have a valid long-term visa, you should not travel to South Africa before approval has been granted by the South African authorities. There have been reports of delays getting approval so you should apply as early as possible to avoid disruptions to your travel plans. The Department of Home Affairs will inform you whether your application has been successful.
Temporary residence permits
- Business permits
Foreigners who are contemplating investing in the South African economy by establishing a business or investing in an existing business must apply for a business permit. As an applicant, you will be required to make a financial capital contribution, which can be reduced for certain industries or business types.
- Work permits
Work permits are issued only to foreigners where South African citizens with the relevant skills are not available for the job. These permits are open-ended and applications must be made at any regional office of the South African Department of Home Affairs or nearest South African embassy, mission or consulate abroad.
- General work permits
General work permits are valid for the duration of the contract of employment.
- Exceptional skills work permits
Exceptional skills work permits are only valid for three years.
- Intra-company transfer work permits
Multi-national companies may transfer an existing employee from a foreign branch of a company to a branch in South Africa. These employees must apply for intra-company transfer work permits. Intra-company transfer work permits are valid for two years and cannot be renewed or extended.
- Corporate permits
A corporate permit allows a corporate entity such as a mine group, farmer, etc. to employ a pre-determined number of skilled/semi-skilled/unskilled workers. There is no fixed validity period for such permits, as the validity period is determined by the corporation upon application.
Temporary residence permits
- Study permits
Study permits are valid for the duration of the course for which they are issued, alternatively 36 months for school and 24 months for other institutions.
- Exchange Permits
Exchange permits may be issued to foreigners under the age of 25 who wish to participate in cultural, economic or social exchange programmes administered by the State or a public higher educational institution in conjunction with a foreign state. The validity period of an exchange permit depends on the length of the programme for which it is issued and usually does not exceed 12 months. Exchange permits can not be renewed or extended.
- Retired person permits
Retired persons’ permits may be issued to persons who wish to retire in South Africa, provided that you can comply with certain financial regulations.
- Family permits
As an immediate family member of a South African citizen or permanent resident you may be issued a relative's permit once the financial means as contemplated in the Immigration Act, 2002 (Act No. 13 of 2002) have been complied with. Relative’s permits are valid for a minimum period of 24 months and may be extended.
- Medical treatment permits
Medical Treatment permits are valid for six months only.
Permanent residency (immigration)
In terms of granting Permanent Residency Permits, emphasis is placed on immigrants who are in a position to make a meaningful contribution to broadening the economic base of South Africa.
In order to make an application for a permanent residency permit, applicants must first submit representation to the Minister of Home Affairs motivating why he or she should be declared not to be a prohibited person or an undesirable person.
- Direct residence permits
This category of permit is applicable to foreigners who have been residing in South Africa on the basis of their work permits for a minimum period of five years, their spouses and also to dependents of South African citizens/permanent residence permit holders.
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