Immigration to South Africa – what you need to know


Where most South African immigrants originate from:

There are currently around 2.2 – 2.5 million foreigners living in South Africa, making up just over 4% of the population.

Black Africans make up around 80% of the population in South Africa. The heritage and ethnicity comprise a variety of languages and cultures, for instance Zulu, Xhosa, Tsonga, Ndebele and Venda. Most immigrants from the African continent move to South Africa from Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

Whites make up approximately 9% of the South African population. The Afrikaans people descend from the Dutch, the English-speaking white South Africans descend mostly from the UK, and most white foreigners living in South Africa are composed of the British (making up most white foreigners by far), the Germans, the Dutch, French and a variety of other European and to a lesser extent North American areas. Quite a few immigrants also move to South Africa from Asian countries such as China, India and Pakistan.

Immigration to South Africa from other parts of the world (i.e. Russia, USA, Australia, South America) make up a relatively small part of the total immigrants.


What to consider for a South African immigration process:

In the context of any person's relocation to South Africa the successful application for the relevant residence visa or permit is critical. Securing this visa or permit is the main pre-requisite for the person's personal and professional start in the country.

With this in mind it is strongly advisable to make use of a reputable immigration service provider employing qualified South African Immigration Practitioners. In choosing the visa or permit category and in preparing the application there are numerous pitfalls that can cause delays and may even jeopardize the application.


Main visa categories for a South African immigration:

  • Extended Visit - A foreigner wishing to stay in South Africa for a period of up to 3 months or longer via an extension of the visitor’s visa...
  • Work Visa – For persons wishing to seek or take up employment in South Africa
  • Business Visa (Start-up or Investment in existing Business) - The business visa is issued to foreigners who wish to establish a new business in the country, or to invest in or take over an existing business.
  • Retirement Visa - Retired persons visas are issued to foreigners of all ages who are able to submit proof of sufficient financial means available to them for their retirement in South Africa.
  • Studies, Education – For persons wishing to attend school, university or other institutions of learning in South Africa.
  • Relative & Partner Visa - Family relation (spouse, life partner or other) to South African citizen or permanent resident.
  • Permanent Residence Permit - The permanent residence permit allows its holder maximum flexibility with regards to entry and exit as well as maximum duration of stay.
  • Citizenship - There are three general grounds for the granting of South African citizenship: Birth, descent and naturalisation.

South African Immigration Consultants and how to choose:

As pointed out above, the successful application for the relevant residence visa or permit is critical in the context of any person's planned relocation to South Africa, this being the main pre-requisite for the person's personal and professional start in the country.

Numerous pitfalls may cause delays and may even jeopardize the application as a whole. This is why immigrants to South Africa regularly make use of qualified South African immigration consultants.

You should be very aware though that unprofessional and even fraudulent services are offered within the industry. Before deciding on a specific immigration consultant, it will make a lot of sense to ask the following questions:

  • How many years has the immigration consultancy been in business?
  • Are there qualified South African Immigration Practitioners within the consultancy and is the firm part of the FIPSA forum in South Africa?
  • What is the success rate of the South African immigration consultants in terms of visa and permit applications?
  • How have past experiences of the clients been?

The prerequisite for a serious and professional consulting environment is that applications are prepared diligently and comprehensively, that relevant authorities are dealt with in the most professional manner and that applicable legislation as well as relevant amendments to it are thoroughly understood and applied in order to ensure the final success of each application process.


Current status of South African immigration services, conclusion:

While the current immigration policy of the Department of Home Affairs is often viewed as not always immigration-friendly, there are many processes that are managed in a satisfactory manner, within acceptable timeframes and with the necessary attention to detail. A lot can however still be done to manage immigration to South Africa far better, and the Department should make sure that processes for persons qualifying in the various categories are supported on a broader scale and not hindered as on many previous occasions. The Department of Home Affairs must sustainably work together with the other authorities in supporting foreign investment and with it South African immigration where it is legal and where it adheres to all existing requirements.

In conclusion we are optimistic that with the current government looking more strictly into exisiting policies and political handling, South African immigration services and processes will be managed and executed more professionally, more efficiently and more transparently by the state in the years to come.