Black Pen Immigration

How to Apply for Permanent Residence in South Africa

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Black Pen Immigration and Recruitment

How to Apply for Permanent Residence in South Africa

Everything you need to know about permanent residence permit application, including info on work and business visa requirements.

Last Update 8 March 2018

If you’re planning to make sunny South Africa home for the long haul, then you may want to consider obtaining a You don’t necessarily need a previous visa to apply, and the freedom and rights you’re entitled to as a permanent residence holder far outweigh those granted to temporary residence holders.

That said, as those who’ve applied for permits in the past will know, lodging an application can be about as pleasant as a high-speed car crash. The South African Department of Home Affairs (DHA) is notorious for being disorganised and often accused of being corrupt. Plus, as the body passed immigration regulation changes with serious repercussions for foreigners in 2014 for the first time in a decade, applicants may find themselves more confused than ever before.

“From my own experience, I know how exhausting the process of a visa application can be," says Nora Dawud, founder and CEO of Black Pen Immigration, a qualified lawyer studied in Germany and South Africa, who swapped her hometown of Tübingen, Germany, for Cape Town.

Black Pen Immigration tries to remove the irritation and anxiety that comes with submission. Black Pen is well versed in navigating the Department of Home Affair’s web of legislation and visa requirements. 

The German Consulate General in Cape Town lists Black Pen Immigration as the recommended immigration company in South Africa. Furthermore Black Pen Immigration is a member of The German Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Southern Africa.

To mitigate the high-stress levels that often come with applying for permanent residence permits, like work permits, in South Africa, we’ve askedBlack Pen Immigration to provide answers to some of the most frequently asked queries about the application. Remember though, if after taking in the information below you’re still feeling confused, contact Black Pen directly.


1. How has permanent residency application been affected by the 2014 immigration regulation revisions?

The 2014 immigration regulation changes affect everything from the fees associated with application process to the process itself. To learn more, have a look at our article about the immigration revisions. Otherwise, be aware that all information below reflects the changes.

2. What are the different types of permanent residence permits in South Africa?

In total there are seven different types of permanent residence permits in South Africa:

Relatives Permanent Residence Permit South Africa: if you’re a biological relative of a South African citizen or a foreigner with a South African permanent residence permit, then you qualify to apply for this type of permit. Children who are legally adopted also qualify.

Spousal/Life Partner Permanent Residence Permit South Africa: if you’re married to or in a permanent relationship with a South African citizen or a foreigner with a South African permanent residence permit, then you qualify to apply for this permit. This category applies to both same-sex couples and those in heterosexual relationships. If applying for a permit in this category, it’s necessary to prove that you’ve been married or cohabitating for a minimum of five years.

Five Years Continuous Work Permanent Residence Permit South Africa: if you can prove that you’ve worked continuously in South Africa for five years under a specific type of work visa and have permanent employment, then you should qualify to apply for this type of permanent residence permit.   

Critical Skills Permanent Residence Permit South Africa: if you already hold a critical skills temporary work visa, can prove you have five years of experience in your field and have a permanent job offer in South Africa, you can apply for this type of permit.

Business Permanent Residence Permit South Africa: if you already have a business temporary residence visa, can prove that 60% of your workforce is made up of South Africans or permanent residents, have invested the prescribed amount (R5 million) into the book value of the business and have met the compliance requirements (i.e. registered with SARS, UIF, etc), then you may qualify to apply for this permit. Do note: you’ll also need to get the Department of Trade and Industry to give the go-ahead that your business is in the national interest of South Africa.

Retirement Permanent Residence Permit South Africa: if you are planning to retire or chill out in South Africa and can prove that you receive a life-long monthly income equivalent to R37,000 a month from pensions, retirement annuities or property rentals, then you qualify to apply for this permit. Note there is no age minimum attached to this permit.  

Financially Independent Permanent Residence Permit South Africa: if you have the equivalent of R12 million worth of global net assets, then you qualify to apply for this permit. Though, this right comes at a pretty penny: the fee is R120,000.

3. Can I apply for a permanent residence permit without ever having had a temporary residency visa in South Africa?

Yes, with the exception of business permits, five years continuous work permits and critical skills permits. Many people choose to file both temporary residence visa and permanent residence permit applications simultaneously (note: you need to file two separate applications). People do this because temporary residence visas take a shorter time to process.

4. What are the basic documents I need to apply for permanent residence in South Africa? 

  • Two passport photographs
  • A medical certificate that’s no older than six months
  • A radiological certificate that’s no older than six months
  • Police clearances that are no older than six months from all countries in which you’ve lived for more than 12 months
  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate, if applicable
  • Death certificate, if you’re widowed
  • Divorce certificate, if applicable
  • Eligibility documents (vary depending on permit category)

5. If I have a criminal record could I still qualify to become a South African permanent resident?

Unless you’ve been convicted of a serious crime, like murder, rape or drug trafficking, then, generally, you still qualify to become a South African permanent resident. For instance, the South African Department of Home Affairs often does not consider traffic offenses or drunken driving charges reason to deem you an undesirable person. Note though that any offense that renders the applicant “not of good and sound character” like the act demands, recorded on your police clearance, means you should seek advice from an immigration consultant.

6. If I have tuberculosis (TB) do I qualify for South African permanent residency?

No. TB is considered an infectious disease and deems you a prohibited and undesirable person. You are not eligible to apply.

7. Where can I apply for a permanent residency permit and what is the processing time?

You can apply for a permanent residency permit in your country of origin, residence or in South Africa. If you apply in your country of origin or residence, you must do so at a South African embassy or consulate; processing time is around 18 to 24 months. If you apply in South Africa, you must do so at a Visa Application Centre (VAC). These bodies are run and managed by the company Visa Facilitation Services (VFS); do not apply at a Department of Home Affairs office. In-country processing time is between 18 and 24 months. 

8. If I’ve applied for a permanent residence permit, but have not received an outcome on my application, can I legally remain in South Africa?

No. In this case, you can only legally remain in South Africa if you hold a valid temporary residence or work visa. If you do not hold a valid visa while you are waiting on the outcome of your permanent residence permit application, you will be deemed an undesirable person. This means you can’t collect your permanent residence permit even if it is approved and that if you leave the country, you will be banned from entering again according to a time period corresponding to how long you’ve overstayed your visa. To avoid this, it’s recommended to apply for a temporary residence or work visa renewal while waiting on the outcome of your permanent residency permit application.

9. Can I work on a spousal/life partner permanent residency permit?

Yes. As a spousal/life partner permanent resident, you can take up employment or start your own business, just as any South African-born citizen may.

10. For how long is the permanent residency in South Africa valid?

Forever. You’ll never need to renew it. Though, in order to maintain your permanent residence permit, you need to be present in South Africa at least once in every three years. If you fail to uphold this requirement, then you’ll have to lodge an entirely new permanent residence permit application.  For some categories there are also other special conditions you must fill to maintain your status – these are stamped into your certificate so you know what’s expected of you.

11. If I’ve lost my permanent residency certificate, how can I get a new one?

You’ll need to lodge a Proof of Residence application. This application just requires that you fill out a simple form, but it still claims the same turnaround time (see question 7) as a standard permanent residence permit application.

12. Do I have to give up my passport when I become a permanent resident in South Africa?


13. Do I have to stay in South Africa once I become a permanent resident?

No. You have complete freedom of movement. In fact, you can even live abroad for some time. You only need to be present in South Africa once in every three years to maintain your status.

14. Can I buy a house as a permanent resident? Bring over a dog? Import a car?

The answer to all of these questions is yes. Though, each comes with its own separate process. Consult a professional for more information.

15. Is it too difficult to apply for a permanent residence permit on my own, without the help of an immigration professional?

It’s certainly not as difficult as moving mountains, but nonetheless, it’s a process that comes with frustrating waiting times and a certain degree of confusion. For this reason, it’s easier to employ an immigration professional to carry the burden of application.

16. What are the benefits of using an immigration consultancy, like Black Pen Immigration?

The obvious benefit of using an immigration consultant is that you avoid the long queues and frustrating interpersonal interactions that come with submitting an application and following up on its outcome. More technically, by using an immigration consultant you also get the peace of mind of knowing that your application is in the hands of someone up to date on all immigration legislation, including the 2014 changes. Immigration consultants know relocation procedures back to front, and will also be able to give you information about which permanent residence category is best to apply under given your circumstances.

To get in touch with a consultant about your work permit or permanent residence query visit their website: 


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