Immigration to South Africa

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The demographics of South Africa have uncommon profile, marked by a heterogeneous population base, social issues brought on by the legacy of apartheid, divisions within ethnic groups, HIV/AIDS and emigration. The Rainbow Nation demography consequently plays a prominent role in public policy.

Blacks compose about 79.6% (2007 est.) of the population and represent different ethnic groups, including Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho and Swazi, as well as recent immigrants from other parts of Africa (particularly Zimbabwe and Nigeria). Whites compose 9.1% (2007 est), being the descendants of Dutch, French, British, and German settlers who began arriving at the Cape from the late 17th century, immigrants from Europe who arrived in South Africa in the twentieth century, and Portuguese who left the former Portuguese colonies of southern Africa (Angola and Mozambique) after their independence in the mid-1970s. Coloureds (8.8%, 2007 est) are mixed-race people primarily descended from the earliest settlers, their slaves, and the indigenous peoples. The remaining 2.4% are categorised as 'Indian/Asian', including the descendants of Indian indentured sugar estate workers and traders who came to South Africa in the mid-19th (particularly around Natal), as well as a few Chinese South Africans, approximately 100,000 people.[1]

The 2012 HSBC Expat Experience Report [2] ranked South Africa 9th in their league table based on expat experiences.

Permits and visas[edit]

Foreign immigrants coming to South Africa can choose between a variety of permits depending on their reason for visiting South Africa, as well as the time they would like to spend in South Africa. Immigrants can choose between temporary residence permits and permanent residence permits. In many cases however the person concerned would have to apply and be holding a temporary residence permit for a number of years, before applying for a permanent residence permit.[3]

Work permit options[4] include the general work permit, the special or exceptional skills permit and the quota work permit. Companies, wishing to employ a large number of foreign employees can apply for a corporate work permit for South Africa. Cape Town's growing business process outsourcing industry[5] regularly makes use of this work permit option in order to legally employ foreign nationals for customer service positions.

Investors and entrepreneurs opening a business in South Africa or buying into an existing business can apply for a business permit, also known as a company permit. Partners or spouses of South Africans or permanent residency holders are often encouraged to apply for a life partnership or spouse permit. Business, work or study endorsements can be added to this permit.

For foreigners wishing to retire in South Africa, a retirement or financially independent permit can be issued. Study permits can be issued to foreigners of any age wishing to study at one of South Africa's accredited learning institutions.

When entering South Africa for the first time foreign passports are stamped with a visitor permit, valid for 90 days.[citation needed]

Challenges for immigrants[edit]

On 12 May 2008 a series of riots started in the township of Alexandra (in the north-eastern part of Johannesburg) when locals attacked migrants from Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, killing two people and injuring 40 others.[6]

The violence spread to other townships later that week across the Gauteng Province of South Africa with riots reported in several settlements including Diepsloot, Johannesburg central, Jeppestown, Hillbrow and others.[7] A man was burnt to death near Reiger Park on the East Rand.[8] Police had arrested more than 200 people on charges including murder, attempted murder, rape, public violence and robbery.[7] Armed police used tear gas and rubber bullets to quell rioting in central Johannesburg, attacks on foreigners and looting of foreign owned shops. The violence then spread to the coastal city of Durban[9]

Criticism also exists in the form of immigrants to South Africa getting upset with the authorities. As of mid-2010, the South African Department of Home Affairs has removed the ability for people to lodge immigration applications locally and regionally, and these are now all sent to what has been nicknamed "The Hub" by immigration practitioners and consultancies. This is an effort to curb the corruption and bribery which was rife in the local Home Affairs offices, and has to some extent succeeded in doing so.[10] The Department of Home Affairs has also threatened to remove Immigration Practitioners from the Immigration Act, which would effectively mean that only lawyers or state-appointed immigration officers could represent someone in lodging a permit application, otherwise they would have to submit themselves, and in person. This in the face of the long waiting times to receive most permits. [11] The 16 leading immigration companies of South Africa have teamed up to sue the Department of Home Affairs with the goal to get a better service quality of the department and better processing times for permits.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [Statistics South Africa Mid-year population estimates, South Africa: 2007]
  2. ^ "HSBC Expat Experience Report 2009". HSBC. 16 October 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-16. 
  3. ^ "Permanent Residence". Initiate Immigration. 28 August 2013. Retrieved 2013-08-28. 
  4. ^ "Work permit options South Africa". Department of Home Affairs. 28 August 2013. Retrieved 2013-08-28. 
  5. ^ "South Africa "Business Process Outsourcing Destination 2013"". Language Recruiters. 28 August 2013. Retrieved 2013-08-28. 
  6. ^ "South African mob kills migrants". BBC. 12 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-19. 
  7. ^ a b "South Africa: Xenophobic Rage Leaves Trail of Havoc in Gauteng". Retrieved 2008-05-19. 
  8. ^ "Flames of Hate". Archived from the original on 21 May 2008. Retrieved 18 May 2008. 
  9. ^ "South Africa attacks reach Durban". BBC. 21 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-21. 
  10. ^ "Immigration South Africa". Green Immigration South Africa. 10 September 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-10. 
  11. ^ "South African Immigration". Intergate Immigration Service. 11 January 2011. Retrieved 2011-01-11. 

External links[edit]