South Africa, like most countries, allows non-nationals to change from temporary status to permanent residence, provided they meet government criteria.
Permanent residence gives foreigners the freedom to live and work in a country without restriction on study, business activities and so on - in essence, enabling them to engage in any activity for which they would normally require a permit.
SA residence permits
Under South African law, a foreigner may apply for direct permanent residence if he has been granted a work permit of a type that allows this: for example, an exceptional skills work permit.
Other direct residence candidates are those who have been granted a business permit, relatives of citizens or permanent residents, those who are financially independent and those granted retirement permits.
Under 21-year-old children of permanent residents or citizens are automatically granted resident status, but must confirm their acceptance of this status within two years of their 21st birthday.
Permanent residence may also be granted on "other grounds', as defined by Home Affairs.
For example, any foreigner who has received an offer of permanent employment is eligible to apply - but his employer must show by means of an organogram that the position exists; and must prove that an advertisement was placed and responses screened, and that no suitably qualified citizen or permanent residence holder was available to fill the position.
How to apply for permanent residence
This documentary proof must be submitted with the application form, and the foreign worker must have five years? continuous employment with that employer to qualify for permanent resident status.
A non-national who has been granted a quota work permit because he has skills required in South Africa, as identified in the Minister of Home Affairs published annual skills quota lists, may also apply for permanent residence; as may those granted a work permit because they have extraordinary skills or qualifications.
Anyone who has established a business and invested a minimum of R2,5-million may also apply.
The minimum investment amount may be waived in certain circumstances: for example, to promote investment in key sectors such as Information and Communication Technology; clothing and textile manufacturing, chemicals and biotechnology; agro-processing; metals and mineral refinement; automotive manufacturing; tourism and crafts.
Any person who has a minimum net worth of R7,5-million is eligible as well; as are people who intend to retire in South Africa and have a minimum monthly income of R20 000 each, payable through a pension or annuity plan.
A citizen?s immediate family members - including brothers, sisters, parents or children - may also apply for permanent residence. The spouse of a citizen or permanent resident may apply for permanent residence after five years of marriage.
The Department of Home Affairs would require statements from two witnesses that the spousal relationship is a "good faith' one, and has not been arranged to acquire permanent residence falsely.
In addition, refugees who have been resident in South Africa for five years are eligible for permanent residence. The United Nations protects refugees from being deported to a country where their lives will be in danger.
Non-nationals cannot qualify for permanent residence in certain circumstances - for example, if the person does not comply with the health requirements prescribed in the application. Applicants will need to submit a medical and radiological report, and should be free of infectious diseases.
An applicant will also be denied permanent residence if he has a warrant of arrest outstanding for certain offences; has been convicted for a serious offence; or has been deported from South Africa and not rehabilitated because of problems relating to his deportation, such as fines that remain unpaid.
In addition, any member of an organisation that practices or promotes racial hatred, crime or terrorism may not apply for permanent residence, nor may any person found to be in possession of a fraudulent residence permit, passport or identity document.
After five years of living in South Africa, a permanent resident may apply for citizenship. This will allow him to vote and exercise all rights normally associated with citizenship of a country.
Contact details for Global Migration SA are available here