Immigration and Residency in South Africa

A person’s liability for South African tax is determined by their residence status. A person can be a resident or a non-resident for South African tax purposes.

A resident of South Africa is an individual who is ‘ordinarily resident’ in South Africa – South Africa is their true home – or a ”physically present resident” who spends more than 91 days in total in each of the current and previous five tax years and more than 915 days in total during the previous five tax years (the days need not be consecutive). In South Africa the general rule is that a person who is a resident of South Africa is assessable for tax on their worldwide income.

A non-resident of South Africa is generally someone who spends less than 91 days in total in each of the current and previous five tax years in South Africa. Non-residents are generally assessable on income derived directly or indirectly from sources in South Africa. Extended business travellers are likely to be considered non-resident of South Africa for tax purposes unless they remain in South Africa for more than five years or make South Africa their true home.

South Africa’s immigration system is regulated by the Immigration Act of 2002 (as amended) and its associated regulations. Foreign nationals that do not have permanent residence status in South Africa are required to obtain temporary residence visas before arriving in the country. Temporary residency visas are issued for a period of time of between 12 and 48 months depending on what type of temporary visa is applied for.

  • Business visa – Issued for time periods that range from a 12-month period to the expiry date of the applicant’s passport
  • Work visa – Typically issued for a two-year period of time but this does depend upon the period the offer of employment is made for
  • Retired Persons visa – Issued in accordance with the prospective immigrant’s financial situation but are for a maximum of four years
  • Study visa – Usually issued for the period of the study course
  • Spousal visa – Issued for a three-year period of time
  • Life Partner visa – Issued for a three-year period of time
  • Relative visa – Typically issued for between two and four years
  • Financially Independent visa – Applicants under this category are able to apply immediately for permanent residency. In the event that this process is not quick enough an application for temporary residency can be made under the retired persons visa.

Permanent residency in South Africa entitles the immigrant to stay and reside in South Africa and undertake a specified activity according to the category that the permanent residency permit is issued under. Once granted, permanent residency entitles the individual to obtain a South African identity document.

The immigrant must have lived in South Africa with that visa for at least five years before applying for citizenship, and one of those years must have been the year before making the application. The other four years must have been within the eight years before making the application. This five-year period can be shortened to two years if the person is the wife or husband of a South African citizen. Permanent residency holders who are absent from South Africa for three years or longer may lose their right to permanent residency.

Interested in Immigration and Residency in South Africa?

Europe Focus March 2019

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