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South African Immigration Law and Visa Application

South Africa has emerged as a favoured destination for immigrants, attributed to several factors including its robust economy, cultural diversity, and flourishing tourism industry. As a consequence of its popularity, the South African government has established a comprehensive set of immigration laws to regulate the entry and residency of individuals in the country.

At the core of South Africa's immigration framework lies the Immigration Act of 2002, which delineates the prerequisites for obtaining various visas, work permits, and permanent residence permits. This legislation also defines the different visa and permit categories available and outlines the application procedures.

Immigration law in South Africa

Types of South African Visas

Diverse Categories of South African Visas:

  • Tourist visas
  • Business visas
  • Work visas
  • Student visas
  • Retirement visas
  • Medical Treatment visa

The requirements for obtaining each visa type differ, necessitating applicants to fulfil specific criteria based on the visa category they are applying for, a few of which are discussed below.

South African Work Visa

For those seeking employment opportunities in the country, South African work visas serve as the most commonly pursued option.  Prospective applicants must secure a job offer from a South African employer.  

The employer is then required to apply for a certificate from the Department of Labour, prior to the visa application, confirming among other things that:

The applicant’s qualifications or skills, and work experience are in line with the job for which they are being appointed,


That a proof of qualification, evaluated by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), was submitted with the application for the certificate.

South African Student Visa

Student visas represent another popular choice for individuals aiming to immigrate to South Africa for educational pursuits.

Aspiring students must first secure acceptance from a recognized educational institution in the country and provide proof of sufficient financial resources to support their studies and stay in South Africa.

Additionally, a prospective student is required to provide proof of medical cover for the period of study, to be renewed annually.

Permanent Residence Permits

Immigrants who have been residing in South Africa for a minimum of five (5) years on the basis of their work visa or who are the dependants or spouse of a permanent resident or South African citizen may apply for permanent residence permits.

Furthermore, some immigrants may qualify for permanent residence of other grounds.  These grounds include but are not limited to: having exceptional skills or qualifications, intending to establish a business in South Africa, or by being financially independent.

Refugees and Asylum Seekers

The South African government also extends protective measures for refugees and asylum seekers.

Asylum seekers are those who have applied for refugee status in South Africa and are provided with temporary protection during the processing of their asylum applications.  This is done first, through the issuing of an Asylum Transit permit, allowing the person to report to a Refugee Reception Office to apply for asylum. 

Once there, an Asylum Seeker’s permit may be issued which provides the applicant with the right to temporarily, work, study, and reside in South Africa. 

Once the application is approved the asylum seeker is considered a refugee and they are issued with a permit allowing them to reside in South Africa for 2 years, as well as to work or study during this period.  This permit may be extended upon application through a letter by the refugee, and following a review by a refugee Status determination officer.

Bailey Haynes Inc. – Immigration attorneys South Africa

At Bailey Haynes Incorporated, our team of qualified immigration lawyers can assist individuals interested in immigrating to South Africa.

Our attorneys offer guidance on understanding the country's immigration laws and facilitate the application process for the appropriate visa or permit.

Contact us for expert legal services.


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