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General remarks about immigration to South Africa :
Published on: 23/08/2006 | Written by Steve Paul

Immigration Policy For South Africa

Supplied By the Department Of Home Affairs, Pretoria South Africa.

1. General Remarks about immigration to South Africa.

1.1 The republic of South Africa can accommodate only a certain number of immigrants. There are valid reasons for this. In the first instance South Africa has a vast reserve of unskilled and semi-skilled workers who are entitled to employment opportunities and to an economically viable lifestyle for themselves and their families. For this reason no one in the unskilled and semi-skilled categories will normally be accepted as an immigrant worker in South Africa.
1.2 Because of the considerable need for the creation of job opportunities for South African workers, as well as for their training and development, it will be understood and appreciated that the RSA cannot afford to grant permits for immigration to the country permanently and to investing their assets, skills, knowledge and experience for the benefit of themselves and the people of South Africa.

2. What are the basic immigration requirements / principles?

2.1 The present immigration policy places emphasis on the broadening of the economic base of South Africa by concentrating especially on the obtaining of those immigrants who are in a position to render a meaningful contribution in this regard.
2.2 The South African immigration policy is embodied in the aliens control act, 1991 (Act # 96 of 1999), which prescribes certain requirements, which are to be meet by an applicant who wishes to immigrate to South Africa.
The Requirements are:

The applicant must be of good character.
He or she must be a desirable inhabitant
He / She must not be likely to be harmful to the welfare of the republic of South Africa, and most important;
He / She must not follow an occupation in which there are already a sufficient number of persons available to meet the requirements of the country.

3. Who Considers immigration applicants and how are they considered.

3.1 The Consideration of immigration applicants is a matter assigned to the various regional committees of the immigrant's selection board, an autonomous statutory body appointed by the minister of home affairs. Theses committees consider each application on its merits and on an individual basis, as provided for in the policy and the aliens control act, 1991. Immigration applicants are considered by the relative committee in the province where the perspective immigrant will be settling
3.2 The board is the only body in South Africa empowered by law to confer or withhold the right to permanent residence
3.3 In particular, the committee take cognisance of the legal provision, that places an obligation to ensure that only those applicants are approved where the applicants will follow occupations for which a proven demand exists in the R.S.A. The overriding consideration should always be the protection of the inherit rights of South African citizens or permanent residence to employment opportunities which may exist in the country.
3.4 The ongoing unfavorable position in South Africa regarding large-scale unemployment and the downturn in the economy, together with an increasing demand for socio-economic services and facilities make it all the more essential that a policy of careful selection with due regard to the existing stringent requirements should be pursued.

4. What is the role of the department of home affairs in the immigration department?

4.1 Officials in the department of home affairs are, in terms of section 24(8) of the aliens control act, 1991, only responsible for administrative functions in so far as immigration applicants are concerned. The administrative functions include, interalia, that officials of the department of home affairs will accept the complete immigration application and relative tariff, conduct the prescribed interview, process the application by requesting outstanding documentation and interdepartmental reports, submit the application to the relative immigrants selection committee, convey the decision etc.

5. In terms of which legislation are immigration applicants considered?

5.1 The aliens control act, 1991 (Act 96 of 1991), and in particular section 25 thereof.

6. Where does one apply for an immigration permit?

6.1 Regulation 14(2) promulgated under the act states that an application for an immigration permit must be made in the country or territory of which the applicant validly holds a passport, or in which he or she normally lives and to which he or she returns regularly after any period of temporary absence. Applications are to be submitted at South African missions abroad. Prospective immigrants must also keep in mind 23(A) of the aliens control act, which states: " No alien shall enter or sojourn in the republic with a view to permanent residence there in, unless he or she is in possession of an immigration permit issued to him or her in terms of section 25 "
6.2 The following categories of prospective immigrants may apply in South Africa
(a.) Officially married spouses and dependant children of South African citizens or permanent residence.
(b.) Destitute, aged or infirm persons who, with the departments permission, are sponsored for immigration purposes by there immediate family members who are permanently and lawfully residing in South Africa.
(c.) Persons who have been exempted from the requirement to hold temporary residence permits.
6.3 Prospective immigrants in (a.) & (b.) above must be residing legally in South Africa on valid temporary residence permits if they wish to apply in the republic. Applications may be submitted at the persons nearest regional or district office of the department of home affairs. In this regard please also refer to paragraph 14.

7. May someone else apply on behalf of the prospective immigrant?

7.1 Regulation 18 stipulates, inter alia, that no person shall apply on behalf of immigration or temporary residence permit as contemplated in section 25 or 26 of the act unless the application is accompanied by a written power of attorney. The prescribed form BI-29E can be obtained from the nearest office of the department. Any person other that an attorney who is making or intends making it his or her business to apply on behalf of any alien for an immigration or temporary residence permit referred to in section 25 or 26 of the act, shall not continue or commence such business unless he or she is registered with the department as an agent in terms of this regulation. No persons shall be registered unless he or she is a South African citizen. Even though a person may be appointed to apply on behalf of a prospective immigrant, the latter still has to undergo a compulsory interview. More about this in paragraph 13

8. What does it cost to apply? When must one pay? What does the department of home affairs do with the money?

8.1 An administrative fee of R12, 173 ($1623.00) is payable in respect of a formal application for (an) immigration permit (permits), per individual or per family. The fee is not refundable irrespective whether an application is approved or not.
8.2 The fee is payable upon submission of the immigration application. The R.S.A. amounts are applicable when service in rendered within the R.S.A, whilst the foreign tariff (If not in US dollars, then the corresponding amount in the local currency) is applicable for services rendered outside the republic by South African missions.
8.3 The fees represent administrative costs involved with the processing of immigrations. Prescribing fees is international practice and in line with government policy with regard to self-compensation and user charges for services rendered. The South African cabinet approved the introduction of immigration fees during 1995.
8.4 The money is paid over to the department of finance on a regular basis and forms part of state income. Home affairs therefore does not directly benefit from the tariffs paid by perspective immigrants.

9. How long does it normally take to process immigration applications?

9.1 Provided that the application is straight forward, has been correctly filled out and all the supporting documents are attached, the department will aim to process application within six (6) to twelve (12) Months. Problematic applications may take up to eighteen (18) Months to be processed.

10. Which immigration categories are there and what are the requirements?

10.1 Workers.
  • Applications normally fall within the age group of 18 to 51
  • He / She must be in possession of a permanent offer of employment made by a South African registered company.
  • The position offered must be commensurate with an applicants qualifications and experience.
  • The perspective employer must motivate why the position offered cannot be filled by south African citizens / residence or why such cannot be trained to fill the position.
  • The perspective employer must also submit proof of such as post clippings of advertisements (and a receipt to confirm that this has been done), placed over a period of at least one month in national newspapers, that the post offered to the applicant has been advertised and that no suitable south African applied, unless it is obvious that a south African would be unsuitable for the post, example a key managerial post in a south African branch of an international firm.
  • Professionally qualified persons must register with the appropriate South African bodies.
  • Person's on temporary work permits applying for immigration permits; inside the republic must submit proof of a satisfactory work record whilst having been employed in the republic. The administrative immigration application fee of R12, 173 ($1623) is payable.
  • May apply in South Africa if in possession of a valid work permit issued in terms of section 26 (#1)(B) of the act.
10.2 Family Reunion Scheme.
  • A person must be economically active but unable to submit a permanent offer of employment or qualify as a worker in his / her own right.
  • Family members (restricted to parents, brothers and sisters) must be South African Citizens or permanent residents holders.
  • Family members undertaking to assist the applicant(s) may not have conditionally approved immigration permits, or may only undertake once they have complied with the conditions.
  • Family members in the republic must undertake on form BI-1609 to assist they applicant and his/her family financially, if necessary, for as long as they may be in the republic or until the breadwinner of the sponsored family is economically active, which ever may be earlier.
  • Offers of employment, which may be accepted under this category, are in occupations not normally acceptable such as counter workers, shop assistants and clerks/sales workers, i.e. persons that would not qualify to be granted immigration permits under the worker category.
  • An administrative immigration application fee of R12 173 ($1 623) is payable.
  • Must apply abroad.
  • Before immigration application under this category will be accepted, a preliminary investigation takes place to ascertain whether the relative person in fact qualifies to be considered in the family reunion category.
10.3 Spouses and dependant children.
  • This category applies to cases were the spouse is a South African citizen or permanent resident of the RSA who can submit proof that he or she is legally married and that he or she has sufficient means to maintain his or her spouse and, if applicable, any dependant children in South Africa.
  • Prospective immigrants married to South African citizens or permanent residence are firstly considered in their own right, especially professional qualified persons. Only if the persons do not meet the criteria applicable to other immigration categories, will he or she be considered as a spouse.
  • The administrative immigration application fee of R12, 173 ($1623) is not payable.
  • May apply in the RSA if in possession of a valid permit issued in terms of Section 28(1) of the act. Refer to paragraph 6.2 & 6.3 please.
10.4 Sponsored Persons
  • A person who is destitute, aged or an infirm blood member of the family, may be sponsored by a person permanently and lawfully resident in the republic, provided such a person is financially able to support the prospective immigrant.
  • She / He must be physically unable to fend for themselves, to such extent that it is imperative for his / her survival that a family member takes him / her as a dependant.
  • The person to be sponsored may not have any dependants, which will need sponsorship too.
  • The administrative immigration fee of R12, 173 ($1623) in not payable.
  • May apply abroad or in South Africa, if in possession of a valid section 26(1) permit.
  • Sponsorship is only applicable to those who need to be sponsored and cared for by the sponsor as provided in the act. Those persons who are financially self-supporting must apply in their own right, e.g. as retired persons, and are liable to pay the prescribed fee.
  • Before an immigration application under this category will be accepted, a preliminary investigation takes place to ascertain whether the relative person in fact qualifies to be sponsored.
10.4 Retired Persons
  • Persons in their own right qualify to immigrate to South Africa as retired persons, must submit documentary proof of their financial assets readily transferable to the RSA.
  • The extent of the amount thus transferable and / or the assurance of a continued income of sufficient extent from abroad are among the factors taken into account.
  • An administrative immigration fee of R12, 173 ($1623) is payable.
  • Must apply abroad.
10.5 Fianc(e)'s
  • Persons who are engaged to South African citizens or permanent residents can be divided into two groups viz. Those who are considered to be acceptable in their own right and those who are not acceptable in their own right and whose applications may be considered by the committees of the immigrants' selection board on submission of a marriage certificate.ŽØ An administrative immigration application fee of R12 173 ($1623) is payable, if the person is not officially married to a South African citizen or permanent resident.
  • Fiancées must apply abroad.
10.6 Financially Independent Person
    To qualify under this category, successful applicants must:
  • Transfer a guideline amount of not less than R1, 500,000 to the republic of which R700, 000 must be invested in the south African economy for a period of three years, either as a deposit with a financial institution or by any other means such as the acquisition of immovable property. After three years of being granted an immigration permit the immigrants must show proof that this requirement has been complied with, failing which their immigration may be withdrawn.
  • Refrain from engaging in employment or establishing own businesses without the approval of the department of home affairs.
  • Notify the department of home affairs of any change of address during the three-year period.
  • The administrative immigration application fee of R12, 173 ($1623) is payable.
  • Must apply abroad.
10.7 Own Business
    Persons who wish to establish own business in the republic will, in addition to providing sufficient funds for their maintenance and that of their families, be required to:
  • Transfer such minimum amounts as may be determined by the committees of the immigrants selection board, with or without consultation of other bodies or instances, as being sufficient to establishing such businesses, taking due consideration of their nature and extent; and
  • Submit to the department of home affairs the following documentation after twelve months of establishment of the business or after the immigration permit has been issued:
    i. Audited financial statements in order for the viability of the business to be assured;
    ii. Documentary evidence that, since the establishment of the business or since the immigration permit has been issued, at least two South African citizens or permanent residents excluding family members, have been appointed and are still in service; and
    iii. Documentary evidence that the amounts, as determined by the above-mentioned board, have been utilised for the intended purpose.
  • The administrative immigration application tariff of R12, 173 ($1623) is payable.
  • Unless the prospective immigrant holds a valid work permit to conduct the said business, the application must be submitted abroad.
10.8 Own Business in partnership or co-operation
  • Those who intend to enter into business with one or more persons or to continue with an established business (Such as a proprietary limited or limited company as well as closed corporations or partnerships), must after twelve months from their entry into such ventures or after the immigration permit has been issued, submit evidence that their involvement resulted in a substantial contribution towards the south African economy or the full-time employment of at least two South African citizens or permanent residents of the republic, excluding family members.
  • The administrative immigration application tariff of R12, 173 ($1623) is payable.
  • Unless the prospective immigrant holds a valid work permit to continue the said business, the application must be submitted abroad.


11. May one chose the preferred immigration category?

It is important to note that applicants do not place themselves in specific immigration categories. This is an administrative function which is preformed by officials of the department of home affairs, taking due cognisance of a prospective immigrant's background and other relevant information.

12. May one apply as an individual person if one's family / spouse does / do not want to immigrate?

12.1 No immigration applications are considered on the basis of a family unit. Divorced or legally separated persons applying will have to submit, inter alia, proof of the divorce decree or legal separation, stating the conditions thereof.
12.2 Regional commities of the immigrant's selection board will not consider an application from separated or estranges couples, as opposed to legal separations, until such time as proof of a final divorce or reconciliation has been submitted. However, in cases where a couple has been estranged for longer than five (5) years, exceptions may be made, should the partner who is not applying for permanent residence, submit a sworn affidavit / solemn declaration confirming the duration of the estrangement, indicating that he / she is aware of the application, has no objection to the other party settling in the Republic and is satisfied with the arrangements made in regard to his / her and /or the children's maintenance. Furthermore, should a spouse who remains abroad at any stage decide to join the spouse already in the Republic, the application will, for immigration permit purposes, be considered on its own merits. Applicants must acknowledge this fact in writing.

13. Must one attend an interview before one's application will be accepted? Where & When?

13.1 Yes! Prospective immigrants are subjected to a personal interview conducted by an official of the department of home affairs (Any regional or District Office) or the department of foreign affairs (South African Mission abroad), depending on where the immigration application has to be submitted. The interview takes place once the prospective immigrant has completed all prescribed documentation.

14. May a prohibited person apply for an immigration permit in South Africa?

14.1 No. An alien residing on a permit issued in terms of section 41 of the aliens control act, i.e. a temporary permit issued to a prohibited person, may not apply for an immigration permit from within South Africa, apply for an immigration permit from his / her country of origin and await the outcome abroad.

15. Are there special arrangements in place with regard to nationals of the people's republic of china?

15.1 It is to be pointed out that any national of the People's Republic of China who wishes to proceed to South Africa for the purpose of business negotiations, feasibility studies or to establish a business or take up employment with a South African company which has been financed, or partly financed, with foreign capital emanating from Mainland China, should in the first instance approach the Chinese Ministry of Trade & Economics Cooperation (MOFTEC). Only after the approval of the ministry has been obtained and the relevant applications have lodged with the South African Embassy in Beijing, will the committees of the immigrant's selection on of the applicants to the country.

16. Who Issues the immigration permit?

16.1 Immigration permits are issued by officers at regional offices of the department of Home Affairs. To expedite the finalisation of the process, the regional / district office where the application was processed, will in applicable cases inform the relative South African Mission abroad that the application has been approved and that the permit(s) will soon follow per diplomatic bag.

17. If one's immigration application has been approved, when must one enter the republic of South Africa? What happens if one cannot enter timeously? What will it cost to have the validity period of permit extended?

17.1 Once an immigration permit has been granted, permanent residence status must be taken up within six months with the intention to settle permanently in South Africa. If any extension of this period is applied for, due cognisance will be taken of the reasons for such request. If the approved immigrant did not enter the Republic of South Africa within the prescribed period with the intention to settle permanently, the immigration permit will lapse in terms of section 25(7) and 25(8) of the aliens control act, 1991 (Act No 96 of 1991) and may be withdrawn.
17.2 The validity period of permits is not extended in excess of six (6) months. If a person is unable to arrive in the Republic within the extended period, He / she must again apply for further extension before the expiry of the new date validity. A fee of R930.90 ($124) is payable for every extension of the validity period of the permit.

18. Are reasons provided if the application is rejected? Does one have the opportunity to appeal?

18.1 Yes to both questions. Reasons for rejection are provided in writing when the decision is conveyed. The person is informed about his / her right to appeal, the time frame within which it must be done and the procedures to be followed in terms of regulation 15 under the act.

19. Do foreigners married to South African citizens or permanently residents enjoy special privileges or rights?

19.1 No. Each immigration application is considered on its merits and the fact that a prospective immigrant is married to a South African citizen does not automatically guarantee residence status and does not render one immune to South African immigration laws.

20. What happens if one has to settle in another country after one obtained an immigration permit?

20.1 Should a person who obtained permanent residence leave South Africa for a period of five years or longer, he / she will lose his / her right to permanent residence. However, if such a person has to leave the country for whatever reason, he / she is advised to correspond with the department of Home Affairs in order to explain the situation. The department can then determine what effect the period of absence from the country will have on the person's permanent residence status.
20.2 If the person works for a South African registered company and the company sends him / her abroad, it will not influence her or his permanent residence status ion the RSA.
20.3 If the applicant is working on a contact basis and he / she will spend more that (5) five years abroad, the department must timeously be notified.
20.4 If the applicant is married to a South African citizen or a permanent resident, he / she is married to a South African citizen (Section 31(1)) of the aliens control act, 1991 (Act 96 of 1991).

21. What happens if one changes one's occupation after an immigration permit has been obtained?

21.1 The minister may withdraw an immigration permit, if the holder of such permit changes his / her occupation within a period of (3) three years after the permit has been issued, without the necessary consent. Applications for the change of occupation are subject to the payment of the amount of R7 560 ($1008)

22. Can an immigration permit be withdrawn?

Yes. The minister may withdraw an immigration permit in terms of section 25 and by notice in writing order the holder of such permit to leave the Republic within a period stated in that notice if:
a) The application for such a permit contains incorrect information; or
b) The holder of such a permit or his / her agent has furnished incorrect information in connection with that application or any application for the extension of the validity of such permit; or
c) The said holder fails to comply with a condition imposed under section 25(3); or
d) The said holder, within a period of three years from the date of issue of the permit, without the consent of the ministers engages in the Republic in any occupation other than the occupation stated in the permit to be his / her occupation; or
e) The said holder obtained the permit on the basis of a marriage entered into less than two years prior to the date of issue of the permit, and such marriage is judicially annulled or terminated within two years subsequent to the said date, unless the minister is satisfied that such marriage was not contracted for the purpose of evading any provision of this act; or
f) It appears to the satisfaction of the minister that the said holder did not enter the Republic for the purpose of permanent residence therein, and upon expiration of the period mentioned in the said notice, the permit shall become null and void.

23. Important Note

23.1 Please note that changes relative to policy matters / legislation / regulations may eventuate at any time subsequent to the above data. It is the responsibility of the reader of this documentation to make sure at all times that the information contained in it is still relevant.
23.2 It is therefore suggested that enquiries be made at regular intervals to the nearest office of the department in the R.S.A, South African Missions abroad or directly to the Director-General:
Home Affairs (Attention sub directorate: permanent residence)
Private Bag X 114
Pretoria
0001

Alternatively, the department of home affairs web site may be visited at:

http://www.home-affairs.gov.za/index.asp


Department Of Home Affairs
Pretoria
April 2001



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