Permanent Residency on the basis of ‘Exceptional Skills’

Section 27(b) of the Immigration Act allows for an applicant to obtain permanent residency on the basis of their ‘exceptional skill’ and work experience.

So, what makes a person exceptionally skilled? Prior to 2014, an applicant could be exceptionally skilled in any field – whether it was viticulture (the making of wine) or being a recognized author. At present and for the purposes of permanent residency, an exceptionally skilled person is now considered a person who:

  • falls within the critical skills list,
  • Is registered with the relevant professional body verifying that the applicant is a holder of a critical skill,
  • has five years relevant work experience,
  • submits a comprehensive CV and testimonials from previous employers, and
  • submits a motivation letter for permanent residency

In short, a person who qualifies for permanent residency on the basis of exceptional skills is also a person who may, or  has, temporary residency on the basis of their critical skill. This does not necessarily mean that without holding a critical skills visa that permanent residency on this basis is not possible – but it does make it easier. This is due to the fact that the Department of Home Affairs has already verified that you, the applicant, are a critical skills holder.

You will also see from the list above that it is not necessary to have an offer of permanent employment to be eligible for this category. What this means in practice is although your permanent residency will be linked to a condition to continue working in the field under which you applied for a specified period of time, you will not be tied to a specific employer.

As previously discussed, the turn-around time for permanent residency often varies on the category under which one applies (you can read more about that here). What is apparent, however, is that if you have the necessary work experience and skills, applying for permanent residency on this basis helps you ‘cut the queue’ – as the average turn-around time is close to six months.

Even better yet – if you studied in South Africa and have received a diploma for your South African qualification in a category that is considered critically skilled – you do not need to wait for the work experience to apply for permanent residency as a blanket waiver was given to South African foreign students in a hope to prevent ‘brain drain’ from South Africa.