Answer to a question from a reader

How can I get a South African ID so that I can further my studies?

The short answer

If either of your parents has permanent residency in South Africa, you would qualify to apply for permanent residence too. Then after five years, you could apply for citizenship by naturalisation.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

I was born in Lesotho and my parents are also from Lesotho, but I grew up in South Africa and have done all my schooling here.

The long answer

If either of your parents has permanent residency in South Africa, you would qualify to apply for permanent residence too. After five years of permanent residence, you could apply for South African citizenship by naturalisation. 

But if neither of your parents has a permanent residence permit, you could only apply for permanent residence on the basis of a work permit, which you had held for five years. 

It is a very difficult position that you find yourself in, because, as you say, you need an ID to be able to further your studies and acquire the skills that might enable you to get permanent residence.

If you want to get a student visa to enable you to study, this is what the Expatica website lists as the requirements:

“First, you need acceptance from a South African school. The letter must be on the institution’s letterhead and signed by or on behalf of the principal or registrar.

You need to then complete the temporary residence permit application form B1-1738. Take this in person to the South African embassy in your home country.

You must also submit the following:

  • A passport valid for at least 30 days after the end of your course, with two consecutive, clear pages left.

  • Payment for the South African student visa application.

  • Two passport-sized photographs.

  • An official letter from the South African educational institution confirming the duration of your course, plus confirmation that it will inform the authorities if you fail to register, you are de-registered or expelled or when the course is completed or extended.

  • Proof of finances to cover tuition and living costs for the duration of your stay, around ZAR 3,000 per month, and a cash deposit to cover the cost of a return ticket.

  • Certificate of medical aid cover or health insurance, plus a letter confirming that it will renew annually. If you’re a student and the dependent child of a parent holding a South African visa and medical insurance, you may be covered by your parent’s scheme.

  • In some cases, a yellow fever vaccination certificate.

  • Medical and radiological reports from within the last six months.

  • Information about where you will be living in South Africa.”

The Expatica website notes that “A South African student visa never qualifies you for permanent residency, no matter how long you live in the country. Instead, you must first change your status to the type of visa that allows qualification for residency, such as a work or business visa. You can do this from within South Africa.”

Perhaps you could ask for advice from one of the following organisations:

  • Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town for help and advice. Here are their contact details:


Tel: + 27 (0) 21 465 6433

  • Black Sash

For free paralegal advice, email:

Helpline: 072 633 3739 or 063 610 1865.


Tel: Musina 015 534 2203

Durban: 031 301 0531

Pretoria: 012 320 2943

Johannesburg: 011 339 1960

Cape Town: 021 424 8561


Johannesburg: 011 836 9831

Cape Town: 021 481 3000.

Wishing you the best,

Answered on Oct. 2, 2023, 10:49 a.m.

See more questions and answers

Please note. We are not lawyers or financial advisors. We do our best to make the answers accurate, but we cannot accept any legal liability if there are errors.