Crackdown halves number of foreigners with temporary residence permits

Home Affairs director-general Mkuseli Apleni. File photo.
Home Affairs director-general Mkuseli Apleni. File photo.  Image: ESA ALEXANDER
The number of temporary residency permits awarded to foreigners has halved since 2012‚ while permanent residency figures have multiplied by nearly five times.

A survey of the most recent documented immigrants‚ released last week by Stats SA‚ showed that after visitor permits‚ relative‚ study and work permits were the most popular among foreigners applying for temporary residency in 2015. Work‚ relatives and business topped the list for permanent residency applicants‚ with refugees fourth.

The Department of Home Affairs approved more than 6‚000 permanent residency permits in 2015 compared to 1‚283 in 2012‚ but the number of temporary permits issued nearly halved from 141‚550 to 75‚076.

Department spokesman Thabo Mokgola said immigration policy changes were behind the shift.

“A new Immigration Act came into operation in 2014‚ which resulted in amended requirements for temporary residence visas‚” he said.

“The process was streamlined‚ which made it easier to apply for residency but also got rid of certain processes which allowed people to abuse the system.”

Foreigners who qualified were permitted permanent or prolonged stays of up to three years on a number of grounds‚ including medical treatment and retirement.

Nigerians and Zimbabweans received the most residency permits overall in 2015‚ while India led the way for non-African overseas countries‚ followed by Bangladesh‚ China and the UK.

Juan Locke‚ an immigration specialist at Immigration South Africa‚ said many Indians were qualifying on the basis of being critically skilled. And credible applications for spousal working visas and critical skills visas were usually the most successful.

Visa applications were often rejected because supporting documents were fraudulent‚ but Locke said applicants from first-world countries were still more likely to be successful.

“Through my experience we find first-world countries have the least amount of resistance.

“Third-world and war-torn countries seem to have a lot more hoops to jump through and regulations to abide by. Processing times are generally two to three times longer than in the first-world countries.”

More than two-thirds of residency permits were awarded to the top 10 countries‚ which also included Germany‚ Pakistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mokgola said these countries were lodging the most applications “due to ongoing business ventures in South Africa or in conjunction with South African companies”.