Answer to a question from a reader

How do I apply for permanent residence as an asylum seeker?

The short answer

Here is how to apply for a critical skills visa.

The whole question

I have been an asylum seeker for 13 years.

I saw an article on GroundUp that asylum seekers can apply for permanent residence or other forms of permits.  I have a certificate in telecommunications.

How do I go about 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.

A person applying for permanent residence can apply from inside the country; 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. (This is called a Waiver of Regulation 9(5)). VSF Global, the company that processes applications for Home Affairs, says that it will immediately accept submissions at all their offices for exemptions from having to apply for temporary residence from outside the country. A temporary residence visa includes a study visa, a business visa, a critical skills visa and a spousal visa. All of these will have different qualifications.

To apply for Temporary or Permanent Residency, you need to have the following documents ready:

  • Proof of residence or spousal citizenship in South Africa
  • Government issued Marriage Certificate (if you are married)
  • A letter of support from the partner that holds citizenship/permanent residency
  • Proof of current mental records and well-being
  • A completed temporary or permanent residency application form

To apply for a critical skills visa, you need to apply online through VFS Global. They will give you an appointment at one of their Visa Application Centres, which you must attend in person, where biometric data will be taken. The VSF Global fee is R1,350 per application, and the Department of Home Affairs fee is R1,520, and these must be paid in advance with the online application.

You will need to prove that you qualify for the critical skills visa by showing that your occupation is on the critical skills list.

This is what is on the critical skills 2019 list under Information Technology and Communication:

CISCO Solution Specialist Network Analyst CISCO Engineers Integrated Developers (PHP, Perl, Java ) System Integration Specialist Data Centre Operations IT Security Specialist Enterprise Architecture Microsoft System Engineers AV Specialists (Anti-virus) Network Specialist (Security) Database Specialists Desktop Support Engineer Network Controllers Solutions Architects in Telecommunications and ICT 5. Read more at:

You will need to submit a birth certificate, a medical certificate and a radiological certificate (to prove that you don’t have TB). Both the medical and radiological certificates must not be older than six months.

Your passport must be valid for 30 days after your current permit expires.

VSF will submit your application to Home Affairs and they will process it, which is supposed to take about eight to ten weeks, though it could well take longer. You will be notified by VSF to collect the outcome.

If you succeed, the critical skills visa will be valid for up to five years, though you will have to find employment within the first twelve months and notify Home Affairs of this. Once you have completed five years of employment, you can apply for a permanent resident visa.   

Answered on June 19, 2019, 12:27 p.m.

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