Citizenship: How many years do you need to be a permanent resident?

Moving to a new country can be intimidating but also incredibly exciting. What isn’t exciting is attempting to understand the ins and outs of immigration. At June Luna Immigration Attorneys, we pride ourselves on our reputation for helping would-be South Africans achieve citizenship while avoiding costly and timely delays.

The first thing to know is how many years you need to be a permanent resident before qualifying for citizenship. As per the Department of Home Affairs, an individual can only apply for citizenship if they have been on a permanent residence permit for five (5) years from the date of obtaining permanent residence in South Africa. This was confirmed by the constitutional court in the court case of Mulowaya & 2 Others v Minister of Home Affairs & 1 Other.

It is important to note that while travel is allowed, the applicant cannot be absent for more than ninety (90) days a year for five years previous to making the application. If applying as a family, each family member must adhere to the five (5) year and ninety (90) day travel stipulation to qualify for citizenship.

The process for citizenship is not quick and can take between one to three years if there are no complications or administrative delays. Furthermore, the process for application will only officially begin when verification of a permanent residence permit has been confirmed by Immigration Services (IMS) through a written and signed letter of proof of permanent residence (to be attached to the application). However, an added benefit is that as an official citizen, you will now qualify for a South African passport and have the right the vote, amongst other privileges.

As with any residency application, the legal jargon and list of requirements can feel overwhelming for anyone without a legal background, which is why we advise permanent residents interested in obtaining citizenship to work with an immigration attorney. Our dedicated and experienced team will ensure that you understand the process and will work with you to achieve citizenship as efficiently as possible. For more information on the citizenship process and how our team can help, please contact us.