A Criminal Record and Temporary or Permanent Residency

A Criminal Record and Temporary or Permanent Residency

Applying for South African temporary residency or permanent residency is a marathon. Between gathering paperwork and dealing with the Department of Home Affairs – patience is imperative. While administrative delays from Home Affairs are almost inevitable, having a criminal record while applying for South African residency can also cause additional complications.

Individuals with a criminal record applying for temporary or permanent residency should anticipate delays at the very least and rejection at worst. According to Section 29 (1)(b) of the South African Immigration Act, having previous criminal convictions or an outstanding warrant can result in an applicant being declared a prohibited person. An exception are those cleared by the Director-General for “good cause”.

An added complication is the lack of an accepted standard or definition of ‘Good and Sound Character’. If an applicant has a conviction, the Department of Home Affairs may reject the application based on their subjective interpretation. If this happens, the outcome could potentially be challenged through litigation, depending on the individual circumstances of the case.

For existing residency holders, being criminally convicted can result in your residency being withdrawn. Any permanent resident found guilty of a Schedule 5 or 6 offence (violent or drug-related crimes amongst others) may lose their residency status and ultimately have to leave the country.

Moving forward with a criminal record:

In conclusion, it is entirely possible to obtain or maintain temporary or permanent residency with a criminal record. Although it varies from case to case, the outcome largely depends on the nature of the crime committed. Serious crimes (such as drug trafficking, fraud, rape, murder, etc.) will likely result in your residency being rejected or withdrawn.

Always remember that having a criminal record does not mean that all hope is lost. Our experienced attorneys will explain the complexity of the Immigration Act and Regulations as it relates to your situation. They will also guide you through the possible complications and the steps to take should your application be unfairly denied. Alternatively, if convicted of a Schedule 5 or 6 offence while a resident, our attorneys will assess your case and advise you of your chances of keeping your residency.

The reality of obtaining or maintaining South African temporary or permanent residency with a criminal record is not straightforward. For an accurate assessment of your chances, it is best to work with an immigration expert from the start. For more information on our South African immigration services, please contact us.