Visa and emigration in South Africa

With South Africa limiting the number of foreign immigrants it is prepared to admit each year, it is necessary to apply for a visa to reside in South Africa, whether that is initially a Temporary Residence Permit (Business permit, Work permit, Corporate permit, Study permit, Exchange permit, Retired persons’ permit, Relatives permit and Medical treatment permit) or a Permanent Residence Permit.

One of the conditions of entry may be that the skills and expertise taken there by immigrants are shared with the South African people.

To protect those unskilled workers in South Africa, the government will not usually permit unskilled or semi-skilled migrants to enter the country to live.

If you are being transferred abroad with your work, your HR department will almost certainly deal with your visa, but if you are dealing with it yourself, you will have to familiarise yourself with the different types of visas available.

Temporary Residence Permit

Under the South Africa Department of Home Affairs rules, if you want to live temporarily in South Africa, you have a selection of 13 types of visa from which to choose from. Under work permits alone, you would have a choice of four types. That is why is wise to seek expert advice in order to apply for a visa that best suits you.

Anyone looking to establish a business or invest in an existing business must apply for a business permit, and will need to invest a ‘prescribed capital contribution in such business’.

If you want to apply for a work permit visa, you can download the relevant application forms BI-1738, BI-1739, or BI-1740 from

Permanent Residence

To become a permanent resident in South Africa, you have to apply for a permanent residency visa. But you will need to have a temporary residence visa before you can apply to have your status changed.

Your passport must be valid for at least 30 days after your intended stay in the country, and if you want to extend your temporary resident permit, or change its status to permanent, this must be done 30 calendar days before the permit is due to expire. You can download the relevant form BI-947 from

An application for permanent residence will cost you in the region of £150.


In order to apply for a South African visa, the South African Department of Home Affairs state that you will need to submit the following:

  • An employment contract if you already have a job lined up in South Africa
  • A full set of fingerprints in person at a local immigration office
  • Police clearance certificates for all countries in which you resided for a period of one year or longer, since your 18th birthday

Also any of the following, if applicable:

  • Marriage certificate/proof of spousal relationship
  • Divorce decree/proof of legal separation
  • Proof of custody/maintenance
  • Death certificate for late spouse
  • Consent of parents for minors
  • Proof of judicial adoption


Note: UK citizens and other British passport holders who produce evidence of the right to reside permanently in the UK may travel to South Africa on holiday without a visa for 90 days.

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