Rights and Obligations as a South African Permanent Resident

You’ve finally received your permanent residency – after months or possibly years of waiting for an outcome. What does this mean for you now?

Permanent residency is not to be confused with citizenship, which can be applied for at a later date. Citizenship entitles a person to vote as well as have a South African passport, which permanent residency holders cannot have. However, permanent residents must and are entitled to have a South African identity document, which provides them with a South African identity number.

The South African Identity Act 68 of 1997 applies to all South African citizens and permanent residents. Once a permanent resident, you are required to apply for a South African identity document. This is done by going to your local Department of Home Affairs and providing them with verification of your permanent residency (attached to the back of your original certificate), your passport, your birth certificate and marriage/divorce certificate (with original sworn translations if in a foreign language). As it takes in the vicinity of 3-6 months to obtain an ID document, it is recommended that you do this as soon as possible to allow for departmental delays.

Having a South African identity number is extremely beneficial. As a permanent resident, the ability to apply for a home loan, car loan or have a more long-term agreement with a broker is substantially easier. You are also entitled to enter South Africa in the ‘citizenship/PR’ line at the airport, discussed in more detail here.

A South African identity document does not entitle any children born subsequent to the issuing of an identity document to an automatic status in South Africa. This means that if you do have a child as a South African permanent resident, they must still apply for temporary residency and permanent residency after they are born, and until they do so they are considered illegal foreigners in South Africa.

It is also worth noting that a permanent residency holder may lose their permanent residence if they are out of the Republic for a duration of longer than three years, do not adhere to the conditions on their permanent residency permit or commit a schedule 5 or 6 offence.

If permanent residency is maintained and the prescribed number of years has been reached, a permanent residency holder can apply for South African citizenship.