There are various misconceptions when it comes to immigrating to South Africa. The visa options, the processes and many other matters relating to South African immigration.

Today, we’ll clarify ten of the most common misconceptions. Because  you don’t want any surprises along the way, do you?

1. I have a South African relative – they are able to sponsor me

NOT IN ALL CASES. South African immigration law provisions for a relatives visa. However, there are limitations as to who can apply for this visa.

The relatives visa category provisions for the first and second step of kinship, meaning these relatives:

  • Spouses
  • Life partners
  • Parents
  • Children
  • Siblings

It is important to note that temporary and permanent residency are options under the relatives category. However, in some cases, permanent residency (PR) is not an option. For instance, parents cannot apply for PR based on minor children, nor can siblings apply for PR based on their South African brother/sister.

2. A child born to a permanent resident becomes a SA citizen or permanent resident automatically

NOT QUITE. Up to October 2014, children born within South Africa to permanent residents automatically received SA citizenship. Therefore, foreign children born prior to October 2014 are recognised as citizens provided:

  • their birth was registered with the Department of Home Affairs, and
  • the child has an unabridged birth certificate with a South African ID number on it.

Children born post October 2014 are eligible to apply for relatives temporary and permanent residency based on their parents’ status. With this being said, it is still necessary to apply for the appropriate visa.

Our recommendation is to submit applications for temporary residency visas as soon possible after birth. Thereafter, one can apply for permanent residence.

3. My child has a SA birth certificate and can therefore study in South Africa

INCORRECT. Following from the previous point, a child born in South Africa and with a SA birth certificate doesn’t automatically get a status in the country. The parent MUST apply for a visa for their child.

One of the most common misconceptions is that a child born in SA can use their SA birth certificate to attend school in the country. There have been numerous cases where parents have only realised that the child has the incorrect status when the child need to write their final matric exams. This is because a study visa or SA ID is required.

Do not make this mistake as it’s extremely tricky to rectify. If you are unsure, feel free to consult a specialist firm like Intergate who is able to point you in the right direction. And do so as soon as possible after the birth of your child .

4. I can get a work visa before I have a job offer

NOT ENTIRELY TRUE. The critical skills work visa is the only work visa category that allows you to apply for a visa without a job offer in place.

If you do apply without a job offer in place and your application is successful, you’ll get a 12 month job seeker visa. This visa allows you up to a year to find and confirm employment and extend your visa.

All other categories of work visas require the job offer or employment contract BEFORE being able to make application. Why? Because these visa are employer specific.

5. I can apply for permanent residence because I’ve studied in South Africa for many years

WRONG. Being on a study visa for multiple years does not lead to permanent residency in South Africa.

Permanent residency is not based on the number of years spent in the country. Rather, there are various categories for permanent residency, each with their own set of criteria. Some examples include business, critical skills, retirement, financially independent or the spousal category.

The only exception to the above would be if you studied a critical skill at one of South Africa’s tertiary institutions. Once graduated, you’d be eligible to apply for Critical Skills PR using a waiver that has been issued by government.

6. I can come to South Africa on a visitors visa and apply for a long term visa there

MAYBE, MAYBE NOT. Prior to the law change in May 2014, individuals were able to come to South Africa and submit their long term visas while on a tourist visa. This is no longer the case.

For first time temporary residency visa submissions, applications must be done abroad from the country of origin or country of residence.

However, there is an exception to this rule. In July 2019, a directive was passed called Direction 7 of 2019. This allows for spouses, life partners and children of South Africans to submit within the country. This was a welcomed development!

7. The retirement visa is only for those who are of retirement age

INCORRECT. Although the name does suggest that this is only for retired persons, this is not entirely true. The good news is that there is no minimum age criteria for this category. In fact, we have multiple individuals applying for this visa who are in their thirties.

Although pension income can be used to meet the criteria of R 37,000 income per month, there are other ways to demonstrate one’s finances. For instance, rental income, annuity income, dividend payouts and lump sum in cash.

8. I have to surrender my passport when I submit a visa application

MAYBE, MAYBE NOT.  For temporary residency submissions abroad, the passport is taken in by the SA authorities. Processing times can vary between 4-6 weeks. Thereafter, your passport is returned to you with the outcome.

For submissions within South Africa, however, your passport will not be taken in.

9. I can travel with proof of submission (VFS receipt)

NO YOU CAN’T. VFS receipts were only accepted prior to the law change in May 2014.

If you have submitted a renewal and your existing visa has since expired, you are not able to travel. Although you are legal to remain in the country pending the outcome of your application, you cannot travel internationally without a valid visa in your passport.

Your VFS submission receipt will not suffice and you will risk being declared an undesired person.

10. It is possible to apply for permanent residency immediately

YES AND NO. This is a question we get all the time. Although it is possible to apply for permanent residency immediately, it have to be done abroad.

Here’s why we do not recommend submission for PR abroad:

  • The processing time is around 3 years
  • You will not receive a tracking number to follow up on your application
  • In our experience, many applications get lost in transit as adjudication takes place in Pretoria (Home Affairs Head Office)

The most practical route is to first obtain temporary residency. This means that you don’t need to wait 3 years to relocate. You can expect a processing time of 4-6 weeks.

Once have your temporary residency, you’ll be able to travel to South Africa and apply for your PR. This is a more streamlined process and you get a tracking number.

Intergate is here to provide realistic expectations!

Our immigration specialists are ready to have a chat with you and answer all your questions. Simply give us a call on +27 (0) 21 424 2460 or email us at Intergate prides itself on providing realistic advice so there are no surprises as you embark on your relocation journey.

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