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Frequently Asked Questions

We answer the most frequently asked questions about De Saude Darbandi Attorneys’ legal services, pertaining in particular to South African immigration and citizenship law.

How do I know if I am eligible for South African citizenship?
The general rule is that there should be a link to South Africa in one way or another. This is either by virtue of birth, residence, and/or relationship to a South African.
What happens if any of my applications are refused?
If an application has been refused, it is important to determine whether the refusal is legally valid. Generally, applicants have a choice as to whether or not to appeal the adverse decision taken against them, or where possible, file a new/fresh application. Appeal applications must, however, be filed within the prescribed period.
What if I don’t have all the necessary documentation for my applications?
As a general rule, incomplete applications will not be accepted for processing and, if accepted, are likely to be refused on the grounds of non-compliance. It is therefore imperative to ensure that legally compliant applications are submitted for processing.
Do I have to go to court if any of my applications are turned down?
Each case is evaluated on merit. However, as a general rule, if you have exhausted all internal remedies available, you may, upon notice to the relevant parties, approach a competent court for assistance.
How long does it typically take to have immigration and citizenship matters resolved?

The time frames for the adjudication of applications vary, however the following timeframes can be used as a guideline:

Visa applications should be processed within a period of 2 – 3 months. Practically, applications filed abroad may take between 5 – 60 days on average and 30 – 60 days on average, if filed locally.

Passport documents are retained when visa applications are made abroad, but not in South Africa.

Permanent residence applications should be processed with in a period of 8 months. However, most of these applications are processed within a period of 24 months on average.

It is not advisable to file permanent residence applications at foreign missions abroad. The applicant should endeavour to file these applications in South Africa, the processing of which (regardless of where filed) takes place at the Hub in Pretoria.
Regulatory waivers take on average 4 – 8 months.

Exemption applications take on average 8 – 24 months.

Applications to uplift a declaration of desirability can take between 1 – 12 months on average (depending on the reason for the declaration).

Non-prohibition applications can take between 12 – 24 months on average.
Permanent residence verification, confirmation, rectification, determination of status and citizenship applications may take on average 4 – 12 months.

Regularisation applications take on average 1 – 10 months.

What is the process for applying for a temporary visa and for a permanent residence permit?

The first step is to determine whether you qualify for a temporary residence visa or permanent residence permit. Once a favourable determination has been made, you will need to collate the necessary information/documentation to submit for processing.

I am illegal and want to regularise my status. What do I need to do?

You have the option of regularising your status inside or outside the borders of South Africa as explained below.

(i) Outside South Africa

Any foreigner who departs South Africa without a valid visa will be declared undesirable and banned from returning for 1 – 5 years.

You may, for good cause, apply to uplift the ban, the processing of which may take 1 – 5 months on average.

Once the ban is uplifted, you may apply for a visa at the South African mission in your country of origin, enabling you to return to South Africa

(ii) Inside South Africa

You will need to make an application to the Director-General of the Department of Home Affairs, requesting authorisation to remain in South Africa and permission to apply for a visa after the expiry of your current visa.

You must prove by way of documentation that you are in South Africa without valid status for reasons beyond your control and that you are in a position to immediately apply for a visa.

The processing of the aforementioned process takes on average 1 – 10 months.

Once your application has been favourably considered, you may submit your application for a visa, provided that your required documentation is still valid.

I am married to a South African – what visa do I qualify for?
Foreigners married to South Africans may apply for either a relative visa, which prohibits work, or a visitor visa with work authorisation, based on the marriage to a South African.

A foreigner not married to a South African must prove that he/she has been cohabitating with their South African life partner for at least two years preceding the date of filing either of the aforementioned applications.

If the foreigner has been married to or cohabitating with (or a combination of both) the South African for no less than 5 years, the foreigner may also apply for and acquire South African permanent residence.

I have South African children or parents – do I qualify for a visa?

Yes. The parents or children of a South African may apply for and acquire a relative visa, which is valid for a maximum period of 2 years, and is renewable.

How do I apply for South African citizenship?
You will first need to determine, through consultation, if you are eligible for South African citizenship.

Once the determination has been made, and the required documents have been collated, the application must be submitted at the Citizenship section of the Department of Home Affairs for processing.

What are critical skills work visas?
In 2014, the Minister of Home Affairs published a list of skills, which shall be replaced in due course, deemed to be critical in South Africa. This means that if a foreigner’s skills, experience or qualifications match any of the listed critical skills, he/she may apply for a work visa to conduct work in such a field.
I am under the age of 25 years and want to work in South Africa. What is the process I need to follow?
An exchange visa may be issued to a foreigner who is under the age of 25 years and has received an offer to work for no longer than 1 year.

It is important to note that the holder of an exchange visa in this category will not qualify for a permanent residence permit within 2 years after the expiry of the exchange visa.
If, however, the applicant intends on working in South Africa for more than 1 year, it will be necessary to apply for a different type of work visa.

Where must I submit my visa application?
Applications filed in South Africa must be submitted at the Visa Facilitation Service (VFS) Centre closest to your usual place of residence. The general rules is that anyone other than the holder of a visitor or medical treatment visa may apply for a new visa/permit and/or change the conditions of his or her existing visa from within South Africa.

Applications filed abroad must be submitted at the South African mission/VFS Centre closest to your place of usual residence or in your country of origin.

Must I submit my visa application in person?
The general rule is that all visa applications must be submitted in person, as the application process includes the collection of biometrics (digital fingerprinting) and digital photographs.
I have been banned from South Africa – what am I to do?
It is important to first determine the reason for the ban, in order to understand how to challenge it.
I am a prohibited person. Can I come back to South Africa?
Prohibited persons do not qualify for a port of entry visa, admission into South Africa or a visa or permanent residence permit, unless the prohibition has been uplifted by the Director-General of the Department of Home Affairs.
Can I sue the Department of Home Affairs?
If you have valid grounds to launch court proceedings against the DHA, the general rule is yes.
Can I submit my visa application in South Africa?
In terms of the new immigration rules, the holder of a visitor visa or medical visa may not change their status in South Africa. The application must be filed at the South African mission in his/her country of origin, or place of long-term residence. The exception to this rule is if such an applicant is in need of emergency, life-saving medical treatment for longer than three months, or is the spouse or dependent of the holder of a work or business visa who wishes to apply for a study or work visa. In these cases, the applicant may file his/her application at the VFS Office closest to his/her place of residence or if the applicant is the spouse or dependent child of a South African.

In the case of a “renewal” and/or “extension” of an existing visa, the applicant may file his/her application in South Africa 60 days prior to the expiry of the current visa, except in the case where a person is issued with a visa valid for 30 days. In this case, the renewal application must be made 7 working days prior to the expiry of the visa.
In the case of a “renewal” and/or “extension” of an existing visa, the applicant may file his/her application in South Africa 60 days prior to the expiry of the current visa, save in the case where a person is issued with a visa valid for 30 days, only in which case the renewal application must be made 7 working days prior to the expiry of the visa.

Will I be able to travel while awaiting the outcome of my application?
If your application was submitted in South Africa, you are able to travel freely, provided that you are in possession of a valid temporary residence visa when exiting and re-entering the country.

If your application was submitted abroad, you may travel to South Africa if your passport document has not been retained, or if you hold a second passport enabling you to travel, and if such passport is from a visa-exempt country.

If your application is submitted abroad you may travel to South Africa if your passport document is not retained or in the event that you hold a second passport enabling you to travel.

De Saude-Darbandi Attorneys | Cape Town, South Africa

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