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PAIA, 2000 (Act 2 of 2000) 

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Migrants' Helpdesk Print E-mail
13 February 2008
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Applying for asylum
There are many reasons why people came to South Africa. If you have left your country because of persecution and fear for your life if you were to return then you may apply for asylum. This process is governed by the Refugees Act of 1998. A specific procedure must be followed:

  • Declare your intention at the point of crossing into South Africa.
  • Present yourself at the nearest Refugee Reception Office; the Johannesburg Refugee Reception Office is at 31 Planet Avenue, Crown Mines.
  • Bring two passport-size photos.
  • You will be interviewed and asked about your reasons for seeking asylum.
  • Your fingerprints will be taken and you will be issued with a section 22 temporary permit and asked to return for a second interview.
  • Ideally you should receive a decision regarding your status as a refugee within three months of your application; however, because of severe backlogs this process takes much longer.
  • You are expected to return to the Refugee Reception Office to renew your temporary permit for as long as it takes to finalise your refugee status.
  • Once your status as a refugee has been determined you are issued with a section 24 permit that is valid for two years, renewable three months before expiry.
  • You may now apply for a refugee identity document and a travel document that replaces your passport.
  • If your application has been rejected, you may appeal the decision within 30 days.

Section 22 and 24 permits allow the holder to live, work and study in South Africa.



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Useful information

  • Whenever you experience health problems approach your nearest primary health care clinic. Services are free of charge. While having valid documentation is not a pre-requisite, take along your section 22 or 24 permit. If you require hospital attention, the local clinic must refer you.
  • Hospitals will not attend to you without a referral from a clinic unless it is an emergency. Hospitals charge an administrative fee of not more than R50. If you cannot afford this fee obtain an affidavit from the nearest South African Police Service station, explaining your financial situation.

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  • Section 27(f) of the Refugees Act states that a refugee is entitled to seek employment in South Africa.
  • Employment may be sought in almost all sectors of the job market.
  • Many employers are unaware of the conditions of asylum seeker and refugee permits. Explain these conditions in your CV; you may also attach a letter from organisations such as the Migrant Helpdesk explaining the validity and conditions of your permit.
  • All foreign qualifications require an evaluation accounting to South African standards. Documents should be submitted to the South African Qualifications Authority. These  certificates state what level of qualification you have in terms of South African standards.
  • As an asylum seeker or refugee you are protected by the labour law of the country and should you be unfairly dismissed from work, you may report the matter to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) within 39 days.

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  • According to the South African Constitution, everyone has the right to basic education, including basic adult education.
  • Approach the closest public school to where you live and apply for registration; if you experience any difficulty contact the Department of Education.
  • If you are unable to pay school fees, make an application for en exemption. There are certain service organisations that specifically provide assistance with regard to this.
  • For tertiary education bursaries, contact the United Nations High Commission for Refugees or the institutions directly.

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Residence permits

Study permits are issued to applicants who intend to study at primary, secondary or tertiary institutions or other educational institutions in South Africa for longer than three months. The applicant is interviewed and is required to submit proof of provisional enrolment with an educational institution.

Study permits are issued for 36 months in respect of primary or secondary education and for the duration of the course in respect of tertiary education. Permits for studies at other educational institutions are issued for a maximum period of two years.

A medical treatment permit is issued to a person who intends to receive medical treatment in South Africa for more than three months. An applicant for a medical treatment permit is, inter alia, required to submit a letter from his or her medical practitioner indicating the reasons for the treatment and the duration of the treatment, as well as proof of sufficient funds to cover the medical expenses or membership of a medical scheme.

A relative's permit is issued to an immediate family member of a South African citizen or permanent resident. The South African citizen or permanent resident must accept full responsibility for the foreign family member's needs while they live here, as well as proof of a minimum amount of R5 000 per person. Under the relative's permit, the foreign family member is not allowed to work, study or enter into any business activities. A relative's permit is issued for two years.

A retired person's permit is issued to a foreigner who intends to retire to South Africa. Applicants must submit proof of a minimum monthly income of R20 000 from a pension fund, retirement account or irrevocable retirement annuity. A retired person's permit is valid for four years.

Work permits: in accordance with the South African government's Joint Initiative for Priority Skills Acquisition (JIPSA), the minister of home affairs, in conjunction with his or her counterparts in trade and industry and labour, on an annual basis, publishes specific professional categories for which a demand exists in the local labour market.

Applicants for work permits in such professional categories are issued with quota work permits for an unlimited period of time.

General work permits are issued to foreigners who do not qualify for a quota work permit, provided that the applicant's prospective employer, inter alia, submits proof that the local labour market was tested and that no suitably qualified or experienced South African citizen was available for employment in the position offered to the foreign candidate.

The Immigration Act makes provision for a foreigner to apply for permanent residence status in various categories:

  • A foreigner who has been a resident in South Africa on a work permit for a continuous period of five years and who has received a permanent offer of employment;
  • A foreigner who has been the spouse of a South African citizen or permanent resident for a continuous period of five years;
  • A child of a South African citizen or permanent resident under the age of 21 years;
  • A child of a South African citizen;
  • A foreigner who has been offered permanent employment, provided that satisfactory proof be submitted that no suitably qualified South African citizen was available to fill the position;
  • A foreigner who has exceptional skills or qualifications, subject to the same criteria applicable to the exceptional skills work permit category;
  • A foreigner who wishes to establish a business or invest in an exciting business in South Africa, subject to the same criteria applicable to a business permit under temporary residence;
  • A foreigner who has been a recognised refugee in South Africa for a continuous period of five years;
  • A foreigner who intends to retire to South Africa, subject to the same criteria applicable to the retired category under temporary residence;
  • A foreigner who is considered to be financially independent and produces proof of a minimum net worth of R7,5-million; and
  • A foreigner who falls within the first step of kinship of a South African citizen or permanent resident, namely, parents and children.

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Joburg Migrant Helpdesk
Region F
CJ Cronje Building
80 Loveday Street
Tel: 011 376 8684

Region C
100 Christiaan de Wet Road
Florida Park
Tel: 011 761 0270/7



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Last Updated on 27 January 2013