We answer the most frequently asked questions about De Saude Attorneys’ legal services, pertaining particularly to South African immigration and citizenship law.
How do I know if I am eligible for South African citizenship?
The various categories for citizenship are birth, descent and naturalisation (including being married to a South African for a prescribed period).
What happens if any of my applications are refused?
If an application has been refused, it is important to determine whether the refusal is valid in law. Generally, applicants have a choice as to whether or not they wish to appeal the adverse decision taken against them or file a new/fresh application.
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/or if the application is indeed accepted for processing, it may be refused for being non-compliant.
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, on 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 timeframes for adjudication of applications varies. The following timeframes can be used as a guideline:
(i) Applications submitted abroad:
- Visas valid for longer than 90 days: 1 – 2 months
- Visas valid for 90 days or under (with or without work authorisation): 1 – 2 months
- The internal policy of foreign missions is usually to not accept permanent residence applications.
(ii) Applications submitted in South Africa:
- Visas valid for longer than 90 days: 1 – 2 months
- Renewal of 90 (or shorter) holiday visa (with or without work authorisation): 1 – 2 months
- Permanent residence: 5 – 24 months
- Correction: 1 – 2 months
- Transfer of visa: 1 – 2 months
- Confirmation of Status: 1 – 2 months
- Regulatory waivers: 2 – 6 months
- Ban upliftment: 1 – 6 months
- Upliftment of Prohibition: 12 – 24 months
- Regularisation (Form 20 Applications): 1 – 6 months
(iii) Citizenship applications:
- Applications for South African citizenship: 3 – 12 months
- Confirmation of Status: 3 – 12 months
- Resumption of South African citizenship: 8 – 16 months
- Retention of South African citizenship: 3 – 12 months
- Exemption: 3 – 12 months
- Certificate of South African citizenship status: 3 – 12 months
(iv) Applications for Lithuanian citizenship: 12 – 24 months
(v) Archival searches: 1 – 3 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 file to the DHA or its foreign mission for processing.
I am illegal and want to regularise my status. What do I need to do?
You may regularise your status outside the borders of South Africa or within:
(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.
You must prove by way of documentation that you are in a position to immediate apply for a visa.
The processing of the aforementioned process takes on average 1 – 6 months.
Once your application has been favourably considered you may then submit your application for a visa, provided that all your required documentation are still valid.
I am married to a South African, what visa do I qualify for?
Foreigners married to a South African 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 the 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, parents or children of a South African may apply for and acquire a relative visa, valid for a maximum period of 2 years, 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, after collating the required documents, 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 deemed to be critical in South Africa, which means that if the foreigner’s skills, experience or qualifications match any one 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.
Important to note is 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 the applicant, however, intends on working 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 filed at the Visa Facilitation Service (VFS) Centre closest to his/her usual place of residence.
Applications filed abroad must be submitted at the South African mission/VFS Centre closest to his/her place of usual residence or in his/her country of origin.
Must I submit my visa application in person?
Yes, all applications must be filed in person as the application process at the offices of application include biometrics (digital fingerprinting) and digital photographs.
Where do I file my Lithuanian citizenship application?
Applications for Lithuanian citizenship by reinstatement is filed directly with the migration office in Lithuania. These applications may be submitted via courier. The applicant is not required to appear in person at the migration office at any time during the adjudication process.
I have been banned from South Africa, what am I to do?
It is important to determine the reason for the ban first in order to understand how to challenge same.
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 lifesaving 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 which case the applicant may file his/her application at the VFS Office closest to his/her place of residence.
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.
My ancestor left Lithuania before 1919, do I still qualify for citizenship?
You must be able to prove that your ancestor was a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania. If your ancestor left before Lithuania gained independence, you will not be able to meet this requirement and would therefore be disqualified from applying.
Will my passport be retained during the decision-making process for Lithuanian citizenship?
If the application is filed in South Africa (at the relevant VFS service centre) the passport document will not be retained during the adjudication process. The passport document is only required on the day of submission and then again when an outcome becomes available. If however the application is submitted abroad, the foreign mission will usually retain the passport document during the process.
Will I be able to travel while awaiting the outcome of my application?
If your application is submitted in South Africa you are able to travel freely provided you are in possession of a valid temporary residence visa when entering and exiting South Africa.
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.