South Africa Permanent Residence

How long can a South African permanent resident be out of the country?
South Africa is located at the southern tip of Africa and is known for its stunning scenery, diverse cultures, and rich history. It’s a popular destination for immigrants for several reasons:

  • Beautiful Landscapes: South Africa boasts dramatic coastlines, sprawling mountains, and lush national parks, offering opportunities for adventure and outdoor living.
  • Cultural Mosaic: South Africa is a rainbow nation, a melting pot of cultures, languages, and traditions. This diversity creates a vibrant and welcoming atmosphere.
  • Economic Opportunities: South Africa has the largest economy in Africa, offering a variety of job prospects in various sectors.

The South African government also has programs in place to attract skilled immigrants, making it a relatively easy process to settle and work there.

What Is Permanent Residence In South Africa

Permanent residency is a legal status granted by South Africa to a foreign national. It allows the resident to live in South Africa permanently, with some exceptions compared to full citizenship. 

South African immigration law distinguishes between two main categories for foreigners seeking to stay in the country: temporary and permanent residence.

Temporary Residence: This category is obtained through a visa, which allows a foreign national to stay in South Africa for a limited period and may have restrictions on work.

Permanent Residence: This is achieved through a permit, known as a permanent residence permit. It grants a foreign national the right to live permanently in South Africa, with more freedom to work and reside compared to a visa.

Here are some advantages of permanent residency:

Live and Work Freely: Permanent residents typically have the right to live and work in the country without restrictions on location or job type. This offers stability and freedom compared to temporary residence visas.

Path to Citizenship: Permanent residency is often a stepping stone to citizenship. After meeting residency requirements, permanent residents can apply to become full citizens with all the associated rights, including voting.

Security and Stability: Permanent residency provides peace of mind. You don’t have to worry about renewing visas or facing limitations on your stay. It allows you to build a life in the country.

Additional Benefits: Permanent residents may also be entitled to benefits like social security, public education for their children, and owning property. (Benefits may vary by country)

Who Qualifies For A Permanent Residence Permit In South Africa?

The South African Immigration Act outlines two main sections for permanent residence permits:

  • Direct Residency (Section 26)
  • Residency on Other Grounds (Section 27)

Direct Residency (Section26)

This category applies to individuals who have resided in South Africa for a specific period under certain temporary visa types.

Direct Residency Sub-Categories

Eligibility Criteria

Section 26(A) – General Work Permit

With a permanent job offer and five consecutive years holding endorsed work visas (excluding Intra-Company Transfer visas), you qualify for South African permanent residency through “Direct Residency”.

Section 26(B) – Spouse Married For A Minimum Of Five Years

You qualify for permanent residence if you have been married or in a life-partnership for 5 years to a South African citizen or permanent resident.

Section 26(C) – Dependent Of A South African Citizen Or Permanent Residence Holder Under The Age Of 18 Years (Minor)

You can apply for permanent residency if you are the child, under the age of 21, of a South African citizen or permanent resident.

Section 26(D) – Dependent Of A South African Citizen Over 21 Years

If you’re the child of a South African citizen, you qualify for permanent residency. 

Residency On Other Grounds (Section 27)

Residency on Other Grounds Sub-Category

Eligibility Criteria

Section 27(B) – Applicants With Critical Skills

Critical Skills Visa: You currently hold a critical skills work visa, as listed in the most recent Critical Skills List published by the South African government in the Government Gazette.

Verified Work Experience: You have a minimum of five years of verifiable post-qualification professional experience in your field. This experience must be demonstrably relevant to the critical skill listed on your visa.

Section 27(C) – Business

Investing in an Existing Business: You plan to invest a substantial amount (at least R5 million) in an already established South African business.

Establishing a New Business: You intend to set up a new business in South Africa and invest a minimum of R5 million (or a potentially lower amount approved by the Department of Home Affairs – DHA) in this venture.

Important Note: The DHA may consider a lesser investment amount if your business falls within a designated “National Interest Sector” deemed crucial for the South African economy. These sectors are listed in official government publications.

Section 27(D) – Refugee

Refugee Status: You must have held a recognized refugee status in South Africa for a minimum of five continuous years.

Indefinite Refugee Status Confirmation: To solidify your application, you’ll need to obtain official documentation from the Refugee Status Committee (RSC) confirming your indefinite refugee status in South Africa. This document verifies your ongoing need for refuge.

Section 27(E) – Applicant Who Have Retired

Pension or Annuity Income: You receive a pension or an irrevocable annuity that guarantees income for the rest of your life. This demonstrates your financial independence and ability to support yourself in South Africa, whilst retired.

Section 27(F) – Financial Independent Applicant

Net Worth and Application Fee: You can demonstrate a net worth of at least ZAR12 million and are prepared to pay a non-refundable application fee of ZAR120,000 to the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) upon approval.

Ineligibility For Permanent Residence

You will be ineligible (considered a prohibited person) for permanent residency in South Africa if you meet any of the following criteria:

  • Serious Health Conditions: You have a contagious disease as determined by the Department of Health, which could pose a public health risk. Examples include cholera, yellow fever, or any other diseases listed by the department.
  • Criminal Record or Charges: You have:
  • A warrant for your arrest.
  • A conviction for serious crimes like genocide, torture, drug trafficking, money laundering, kidnapping, terrorism, or murder, either in South Africa or a country with diplomatic relations with South Africa.
  • Hateful or Violent Affiliations: You are a member or supporter of an organization that promotes racial hatred, or social violence, or uses crime or terrorism to achieve its goals.
  • Previous Deportation: You were previously deported from South Africa and haven’t gone through the proper rehabilitation process set by the Department of Home Affairs.

In addition to the reasons mentioned previously, you may also be ineligible (considered a prohibited or undesirable person) if:

  • Financial Dependence: You are likely to become a burden on the public welfare system (a public charge).
  • Ministerial Discretion: The Minister of Home Affairs, after consulting with the Immigration Advisory Board, deems you undesirable to reside in South Africa.
  • Mental Incapacity: You have been legally declared incompetent by a court.
  • Financial Irresponsibility: You are an unrehabilitated insolvent, meaning you have not fulfilled your financial obligations after bankruptcy.
  • Outstanding Legal Issues: You are a fugitive from justice, meaning you are wanted by law enforcement.
  • Serious Criminal Past: You have a criminal conviction without the option of a fine for an offence that would also be a crime in South Africa (excluding minor offences).

Important Note: Before applying for a permanent residency permit, you’ll need to submit a representation to the Minister of Home Affairs explaining why you shouldn’t be classified as prohibited or undesirable. This provides an opportunity to address any concerns they may have about your eligibility.

You can be considered rehabilitated and eligible to apply for permanent residency by meeting one of these criteria:

  • Commitment to Law: You submit a sworn affidavit or solemn declaration formally stating your commitment to following South African immigration laws.
  • Positive Record: The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has no reason to believe you’ll violate these laws again based on your behaviour since the deportation.
  • Time Away: You haven’t been present in South Africa for at least four years.
  • Financial Compensation: Alternatively, you can be rehabilitated by paying a R50,000 forfeiture to the state. This amount might be reduced to R2,000 if you previously covered your deportation costs and related expenses.

The Permanent Residence Application Process

The permanent residency application process.

Here’s a breakdown with some additional details:

  1. Prepare Documents: This is a crucial step. Gather all the necessary documents as per your specific permanent residency category. You can find the detailed document checklists on the VFS website or consult an immigration specialist.
  2. Compile Application: Once you have all the documents, carefully complete the permanent residency application form DHA-947 application form, ensuring accuracy and completeness.
  3. Schedule Online Appointment with VFS: VFS Global is a service provider contracted by the South African government to manage visa applications. Schedule an appointment through their online portal to submit your application in person.
  4. Submit Application and Biometrics: On your appointment date, visit the VFS centre with your completed application, supporting documents, and any applicable fees. You’ll also undergo biometric capturing, which typically involves fingerprints and a photograph.
  5. Visa Process: The DHA will process your application. This may involve background checks, verifications, and communication with you if they require additional information. Processing timelines can vary depending on your category and current workload.
  6. Collect Outcome from VFS: VFS will notify you once the DHA decides on your application. You can then collect your passport and any related documents from the VFS centre.

Additional Tips:

  • Make copies of all documents you submit.
  • Keep detailed records of your application submission and communication with the DHA or VFS.
  • Consider seeking professional guidance from an immigration lawyer or consultant who can assist you with the process and ensure compliance with all requirements.

What Are The Requirements For Permanent Residency?

It’s important to remember that the specific requirements will vary depending on the category under which you’re applying for permanent residency. South Africa offers various categories, each with its own set of criteria and documentation needs.

Important Note: You must ensure you renew your current temporary visa while you wait for the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) to process your permanent residency application.

General Required Documents


VFS Appointment Letter

You must download your VFS appointment letter after you have secured your appointment.

DHA-947 Form

You must complete the DHA-947 Form online and download when completed.

Valid Passport

Each applicant must submit a valid original passport. Ensure all passports are current and meet validity requirements.

Passport Photographs: Every applicant over the age of one must provide a recent passport-sized photograph. Here are the specific photo specifications:

  • Type: Full-face, passport-style photograph
  • Content: Clearly show the applicant’s full face without sunglasses or headwear (religious attire permitted if typically worn).
  • Labeling: Write the applicant’s name on the back of each photograph.
  • Quality: Photographs must be recent, high-quality, and not machine-generated or instant prints.

Marriage Certificate / Notarial Contract

Spouses applying for permanent residency together must present a marriage certificate, or if unavailable, alternative proof of a legitimate spousal relationship.

Divorce Decree/ Death Certificate

In the case of a previous marriage, a divorce decree (for dissolution) or a death certificate (for deceased spouse) must be included to prove current marital status.

Proof of Financial Support

Applicants must provide recent bank statements (no more than 7 days old at submission) covering 3 months to demonstrate financial support for each other.

Parental Consent

For dependent children accompanying or joining the applicant, proof of parental responsibilities and rights (or written consent via affidavit from the other parent/guardian) is required.

Birth Certificates or Birth Record Extract

Applicants must provide an unabridged birth certificate or an extract from their birth record.

Deed Poll

Applicants who have legally changed their name, surname, or sex must include a deed poll document in their application.

Police Clearance Certificate

Applicants must submit original police clearance certificates, no older than six months, from every country they resided in for over a year after turning 18 in the last 5 years

Medical Report

All applicants require a medical report no older than six months when submitting a permanent residency application. Medical reports must be signed by a registered medical practitioner, including practice number, address and contact details.

Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate

A yellow fever vaccination certificate is only required if the applicant has traveled/plans to travel from/through a yellow fever area, except for direct transit or applications submitted within South Africa.

Please note that radiological reports are no longer required in South Africa. South African embassies might still require this so it’s best to find out if they require the radiological report.

How Much Does It Cost To Get Permanent Residence In South Africa?

Understanding the associated expenses (fees, charges) is crucial before embarking on your permanent residency journey. This will help you determine the cost-effectiveness of each pathway and choose the one that best aligns with your qualifications and budget.

Permanent Residence Category

DHA Visa Fee

VFS Service Fee

Section 26(A) – General Work Permit

ZAR 1520.00

ZAR 1550.00

Section 26(B) – Spouse Married For A Minimum Of Five Years

No Fee

ZAR 1550.00

Section 26(C) – Dependent Of A South African Citizen Or Permanent Residence Holder Under The Age Of 18 Years (Minor)

No Fee

ZAR 1550.00

Section 26(D) – Dependent Of A South African Citizen Over 21 Years

ZAR 1520.00

ZAR 1550.00

Section 27(B) – Applicants With Critical Skills 

ZAR 1520.00

ZAR 1550.00

Section 27(C) – Business

ZAR 1520.00

ZAR 1550.00

Section 27(D) – Refugee

No Fee

ZAR 1550.00

Section 27(E) – Applicant Who Has Retired

ZAR 1520.00

ZAR 1550.00

Section 27(F) – Financial Independent Applicant

ZAR 1520.00

ZAR 1550.00

Can My Family Members Apply For Permanent Residency Together With Me?

Applying for Permanent Residency Together as a Family:

South Africa allows immediate family members of foreigners applying for permanent residency to submit their applications concurrently under certain conditions:

  • Simultaneous Applications: If your family qualifies, you can include their applications with yours during your initial submission. This streamlines the process for everyone.

Exceptions and Considerations:

  • Sequential Applications: In some instances, family members might need to apply separately. This could occur if they don’t qualify as dependents in your chosen category or if your initial application isn’t submitted simultaneously. In such cases, their applications would be dependent on the successful outcome of yours.

Spousal Eligibility:

The eligibility for a spouse to apply for permanent residency alongside you varies depending on your application category:

  • Minimum Marriage Requirement (General): For most categories, your spouse must have been married to you for at least five years before being eligible for a simultaneous permanent residency application.
  • Exemptions: There are exceptions to the five-year marriage requirement. For instance, the spouse of a critically skilled individual applying under Section 27(b) of the Immigration Act or the spouse of someone applying based on a business investment under Section 27(c) can apply concurrently regardless of the marriage duration.

How Long Does It Take For Permanent Residency To Be Approved In South Africa?

The South African Department of Home Affairs (DHA) officially states a processing timeframe of 8 to 12 months for permanent residency applications. However, it’s important to be aware that there can be significant backlogs. In reality, foreign nationals have sometimes experienced waiting times of 3 to 7 years.

Here’s a breakdown:

  • Official Waiting Period: 8-12 months (according to the DHA)
  • Potential Delays: Backlogs can cause applications to take much longer, up to 3-7 years in some cases.

Recommendation: If you’re considering applying for permanent residency in South Africa, be prepared for the possibility of a lengthy processing time. It’s wise to consult with an immigration specialist who can advise you on the current processing timelines and any potential strategies to expedite your application.

How Long Is A South African PR Valid For?

A South African Permanent Residency permit itself doesn’t technically have an expiry date. However, to maintain your permanent resident status, there is a residency requirement you need to fulfil, as outlined by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA).

How Long Can A Permanent Resident Stay Out Of South Africa?

There is a requirement for physical presence to maintain your permanent resident status. Here’s the key point to remember:

  • Absence Limitation: Permanent residents cannot stay outside of South Africa for a continuous period exceeding three years.

Can Permanent Residency Be Revoked In South Africa?

South African permanent residence permits are issued under specific categories, and each permit comes with its conditions that are clearly stated on the certificate. Permanent residents are strongly advised to:

  • Review Permit Conditions Carefully: Thoroughly read and understand the conditions attached to your permanent residency permit. This will help you avoid unintentional breaches that could jeopardize your status.
  • Seek Professional Guidance (if needed): Don’t hesitate to consult with an immigration consultant if you have any questions or concerns regarding the conditions of your permit.

Here are some specific examples of how permanent residency can be revoked:

  • Loss of Spousal Relationship: A permanent residency permit granted to the spouse of a South African citizen or permanent resident can be revoked if the marriage ends within two years of the permit being issued (unless due to death). This is based on Section 26(b) of the Immigration Act.
  • Failure to Apply for Confirmation (Minors): A child under 21 who receives permanent residency as the dependent of a citizen or permanent resident may lose that status if they don’t apply to confirm their residency within two years of turning 18. This is according to Section 26(c) of the Immigration Act.
  • Business Investment Failure: A permanent residency permit granted based on a business investment can be revoked if the holder fails to demonstrate, within specific timelines, that the required financial contribution remains invested in the business. These timelines are two years after the permit is issued and three years thereafter. This falls under Section 27(c) of the Immigration Act.

When Can I Apply For Citizenship?

Eligibility for South African Citizenship:

To be eligible to apply for South African citizenship, a permanent resident must meet the following criteria:

Established Residency: The applicant must have held permanent resident status and resided in South Africa for a minimum of five years after acquiring it.

Minimal Absence: Throughout the five years preceding the citizenship application, the applicant’s absences from South Africa must not exceed 90 days per year. This demonstrates a commitment to residing in the country.

Is VFS Accepting Permanent Residence Applications?

Yes, VFS Global is currently accepting permanent residence applications in South Africa on behalf of the Department of Home Affairs (DHA).


Why was this content created?

The content created about permanent residence permits for South Africa is to be a helpful and informative guide for people wishing to permanently reside here. The content on the page aims to be a valuable resource for foreign nationals wanting to apply for the permit.

How Was This Content Created?

The content was created through Charl Vollmer’s years of knowledge and expertise which he gained through assisting various foreign nationals applying for the visa. 

Information was cited from the following sources:

  1. Department of Home Affairs
  2. VFS Global

About Charl

Charl Vollmer

Charl Vollmer has 12 years of experience helping people immigrate to South Africa. I am passionate about helping people and making their dreams a reality. Charl constantly stays up to date with South African Immigration rules and regulations.  To contact Charl, visit our contact page. View our content integrity guidelines to how content is created.