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Congratulations on receiving your South African permanent residency! As you are about to embark on your next big adventure we looked at what the next steps are for settling into life in South Africa.

Your rights as a permanent resident

As a permanent resident, you have most of the rights and responsibilities of a South African citizen. However you will not be able to obtain a South African passport nor be able to vote in South African government elections. These rights are only obtained with South African citizenship applications.

By law, as a permanent resident, you are also required to exchange your foreign drivers’ license for a South African drivers license. This may be done at the nearest SA Traffic Department and can only be done by the Permanent residency holder.

Confirming your South African permanent residency

Your permanent residency is issued by the Department of Home Affairs as a certificate. The department requires that you present your certificate when requested to confirm your South African permanent residency to the Pretoria Head Office. Please do note that this certificate is only issued once, thus must be safe-guarded at all times. We suggest keeping the original in a safe. We therefore suggest that you make certified copies and carry a certified copy with you.

Applying for an South African ID card

After receiving your permanent residence certificate, you are obliged to apply for a South African Identity Card. This ID card states your South African ID-Number and is important if you intend to reside permanently. Without an ID card and ID-Number, you may not be able to apply for a credit card, a car loan, a bond, a mobile or cell phone contract or open an account i.e clothing account.

The ID card process

In order to apply for your South African ID book you will need to have been issued with a South African Permanent Residency certificate, only once you have a Permanent Residency certificate and your residency status has been verified by the Pretoria Head Office, will you able to begin the process.

After the permanent residence verification result has been received, the Department of Home Affairs will supply you with an application form (BI-9) to apply for the Identity Document.

Please note that you will need to complete your application at the Department of Home Affairs office as they do not allow this form to leave their premises. As fingerprints are taken, it is necessary that the application be done personally by the applicant.

You will be required the following documentation for the submission of your application:


Two ID sized photographs of each applicant is required.


The original passport for each applicant will be required during the submission of the application. A certified copy of your passport photograph page will be required for submission in your application.

Birth Certificate

The original, full unabridged birth certificate for each applicant is required to accompany the application. A certified copy of your unabridged birth certificate will be required for submission in your application.

Permanent Residence Certificate

The original permanent residence certificate for each applicant is required to accompany the application, including proof of verification.

Marriage/Divorce/Death Certificates

Where applicable, the original marriage/divorce/death certificate for any current/previous marriages for each applicant is required to accompany the application. A certified copy of each applicable document will be required for submission in your application.

Leaving the country, your residency status

Now that you have obtained this status, should you leave South Africa for a period of 3 years or longer, the Department of Home Affairs may withdraw your status. This can be prevented if you inform the Department of Home Affairs of your departure timeously and provide an acceptable reason for your absence ie being transferred for work purposes etc.

Ready to settle in? We listed our top ten things to think about during an international move. Click here to read more!

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