Answer to a question from a reader

How can asylum seekers and refugees apply for temporary residence from inside South Africa?

The short answer

You can get exemption by applying to Home Affairs for a Waiver of Regulation 9(5).

The whole question

Dear Athalie

I have been in South Africa as an asylum seeker since 2007. I want to get a residence permit so that I can enjoy the same rights as other permanent residents. I read in one of your previous responses that asylum seekers are allowed to apply for temporary residence from within the country by asking for exemption. How can I do this?

The long answer

The Constitutional Court ruled in 2018 that any foreigner, including refugees and asylum seekers, could apply for temporary or permanent residence, and that this could be granted if the person fulfilled the requirements of the Immigration Act. The Court also ruled that an asylum seeker or refugee applying for temporary or permanent residence did not have to give up their status when they made their application. The Court said that this was because forcing the return of such applicants to their own countries was inconsistent with the principle of non-refoulement (not forcing people to return to countries in which they faced persecution) and was illegal.

A person applying for temporary residence has to apply from outside of the country, but you can get an exemption from this by applying to Home Affairs for a waiver. (This is called a Waiver of Regulation 9(5)). 

VFS Global, the company that processes applications for Home Affairs, says that it will accept submissions at all their offices for exemptions from having to apply for temporary residence from outside the country. A person applying for permanent residence can apply from inside the country.

A temporary residence visa includes a study visa, a business visa, a critical skills visa, a general work permit and a spousal visa. All of these will have different qualifications.

For a general work permit, you would have to prove that an employer could not find a South African employee with your work skills, so it is not easy to get one.

You could ask the following organisations for advice and assistance:

  • Lawyers for Human Rights (Refugee and Migrant Rights Programme) at Johannesburg: 011 339 1960. Email:;

  • Legal Resources Centre: Email:;

  • PASSOP: Cape Town: 021 762 0322

Wishing you the best,

Answered on July 8, 2022, 10:16 a.m.

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