Immigration to South Africa

According to official South African statistics, as of 2011, 2.2 million foreigners live in South Africa.
Black Africans compose about 79.6% of the population and represent different ethnic groups, including Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele, Tsonga, Venda, Pedi, Sotho, Tswana and Swazi, as well as recent immigrants from other parts of Africa. Whites compose 9.1%, being the descendants of Dutch, French, British, Irish, and German settlers who began arriving at the Cape from the mid- to late 17th century, immigrants from Europe who arrived in South Africa in the twentieth century, and Portuguese who left the former Portuguese colonies of southern Africa after their independence in the mid-1970s. Coloureds are mixed-race people primarily descended from the earliest settlers, their slaves, and the indigenous peoples. The remaining 2.4% are categorised as 'Indian/Asian', including the descendants of Indian indentured sugar estate workers and traders who came to South Africa in the mid-19th, as well as a few Chinese South Africans.
The 2014 HSBC Expat Experience Report ranked South Africa 14th in their league table based on expat experiences.
As of mid-2010, the South African Department of Home Affairs has removed the ability for people to lodge immigration applications locally and regionally, and these are now all sent to what has been nicknamed "The Hub" by immigration practitioners and consultancies. This is an effort to curb the corruption and bribery which was rife in the local Home Affairs offices, and has to some extent succeeded in doing so.

Immigration figures

Immigration assumptions by Statistics South Africa to South Africa based on race. Negative numbers represent net migration from South Africa to other countries.
1985-2000635 27514 476-304 112
2001-2005769 03823 335-133 782
2006-2010922 88534 688-112 046
2011-20151 067 93640 929-95 158

Countries of Origin

Permits and visas

Foreign immigrants coming to South Africa can choose between a variety of visas and permits depending on their reason for visiting South Africa, as well as the time they would like to spend in South Africa. Immigrants can choose between temporary residence visas and permanent residence permits. In many cases however the person concerned would have to apply and be holding a temporary residence visa for a number of years, before applying for a permanent residence permit.
Work permit options include the general work permit, the special or exceptional skills permit and the quota work permit. Companies, wishing to employ a large number of foreign employees can apply for a corporate work permit for South Africa. Cape Town's growing business process outsourcing industry regularly makes use of this work permit option in order to legally employ foreign nationals for customer service positions.
Investors and entrepreneurs opening a business in South Africa or buying into an existing business can apply for a business permit, also known as a company permit. Partners or spouses of South Africans or permanent residency holders are often encouraged to apply for a life partnership or spouse permit. Business, work or study endorsements can be added to this permit.
For foreigners wishing to retire in South Africa, a retirement or financially independent permit can be issued. Study permits can be issued to foreigners of any age wishing to study at one of South Africa's accredited learning institutions.
When entering South Africa for the first time foreign passports are stamped with a visitor permit, valid for 90 days.

Attacks on immigrants

On 12 May 2008 a series of riots started in the township of Alexandra when locals attacked migrants from Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, killing two people and injuring 40 others.
The violence spread to other townships later that week across the Gauteng Province of South Africa with riots reported in several settlements including Diepsloot, Johannesburg central, Jeppestown, Hillbrow and others. A man was burnt to death near Reiger Park on the East Rand. Police had arrested more than 200 people on charges including murder, attempted murder, rape, public violence and robbery. Armed police used tear gas and rubber bullets to quell rioting in central Johannesburg, attacks on foreigners and looting of foreign owned shops. The violence then spread to the coastal city of Durban
In 2015, there was another wave of violence against foreigners in Johannesburg and other places, which caused panic and despair in neighbouring Zimbabwe.
23-27 March 2019 groups armed with machetes broke into the homes of migrants in Durban. At least six people were killed, several were wounded and their homes were looted. At least 300 Malawi migrants were forced to leave the country. In separate attacks, foreign truck drivers were forced out of their vehicles and were attacked with knives. On 2 April 2019, another group of migrants in Durban was attacked and forced to flee their homes. The escalating violence added tension to the upcoming 2019 South African general election.

New Regulations

Draft Regulations were published in the Government Gazette of South Africa on 14 February 2014 for public comment. The closing date for public comment was 28 February 2014 but this was extended to 7 March 2014 to allow further submissions.
On 28 July 2017 the South African Government has released its anticipated White Paper on Immigration that provides a policy framework for comprehensive review and overhaul of South Africa’s immigration system and the introduction of significant changes over the next two years.