Chris Watters
Please note that this advisory cannot and does not represent legal advice. We would first need instructions on the specific circumstances applying in any given situation.

Whether one is planning to move to South Africa for business or employment reasons or you are emigrating to SA because of family or spousal factors or he or she is coming because they are fleeing political developments back home, South Africa – and its Department of Home Affairs – like any other country, has rules and regulations to manage that process, which must be complied with and respected.

Generally speaking, despite the bad press the Department of Home Affairs gets, so long as a person presents the Department with the prescribed requirements, he or she will get the required permit – even if sometimes there can be a delay in getting that outcome.

It should be noted that South African immigration legislation is currently in a state of flux in that a number of provisions of the current Immigration Act and Refugees Act, and their Regulations, are soon to be amended. Care should be taken that between first getting advice on the relevant requirements, that there are not important changes in the requirements and practices.

Permits to stay in SA (excluding permits for refugee status purposes) are divided into two broad categories – temporary residence permits [TRPs] and permanent residence permits.

TRPs are themselves divided into short term permits (for visits of up to three months) and longer term TRPs (for stays of up to five years) can be obtained for most purposes envisioned by business (and accompanying dependants) and inter-family or spousal situations. The charitable and educational sectors are also catered for.

Where the corporate or personal circumstances are such that one cannot get a ‘neat fit’ provision is made for seeking a waiver of requirements that cannot be complied with, if good cause exists. This is not however to say that there is a permit for ‘every occasion’ – no country could allow for such an open door approach.

On the subject of temporary residence permits (other than for refugee-status purposes), there is a considerable delay in getting permit applications adjudicated inside SA. Generally therefore, we currently recommend submitting temporary residence permit applications at the Embassy / High Commission or Consulate serving the region or country the expat resides in. These applications are adjudicated at the Embassy or a regional Hub; they are not sent back to South Africa.

Where a person receives a negative outcome, there is (in most cases) an extensive internal appeal process available to the aggrieved party although there are very tight time frames for the submission of such appeals. The SA Constitution and the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act, require that all persons, expat or other and whether in SA or not, are entitled to fair administrative action.

Care should taken with the timing of one’s departure for South Africa and shipping your possessions. There can be severe customs’ implications should household belongings arrive for clearance before the expat has secured the correct temporary residence permit.