Who wants to live in South Africa?

  1. * Nearly 20% of the residence permits issued in 2013 went to Zimbabweans
  2. * Germans and British people received nearly half of the retired persons permits
  3. * A third of the medical treatment residence permits were issued to Angolans

You’d probably be forgiven for thinking that many South Africans would jump at the chance to leave the country, but it can’t be all bad because there are a lot of people from other countries who want to live here. In 2013 nearly 110 000 of them were granted residence permits, according to a Statistics South Africa report on documented immigrants released on July 15.

Zimbabweans in particular seem to think the grass is greener on this side of the border: a third of all the permanent resident permits in 2013 were issued to them. They also received 19% of the temporary residence permits.

But Zimbabweans are not alone: Nigeria, India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the United Kingdom, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lesotho and Angola make up, with Zimbabwe, the top 10 countries from which people were granted South African residence permits, said StatsSA.

Most of these newcomers only get temporary residence visas. In fact, only 6% of all the permits issued (6 801) were permanent.

Nearly half (48%) of the people issued permanent residence permits were between the ages of 30 and 44 years. Ninety percent of them were granted work permits or relative’s permits.

To get a relative’s permit a foreigner must have an immediate family member who is a South African citizen or a permanent resident who is willing and able to support that person financially during his or her stay.

There are a number of types of temporary residence permits available, but 80% of those issued in 2013 were visitor's, work or relative's permits.

People from African countries were issued the most relative's (56%) and visitor's permits (53%), but for work permits, marginally more people from Asian countries (45%) than African countries (43%) got permits in 2013.


There were just 374 permanent residence permits issued to people who applied for refugee status. That’s 5.5% of the total number granted. This number is significantly lower than in 2011, when 1 664 refugee status permits were granted, 17% of the total. All the permits were issued to people from other African countries, except for one that went to a person from Brunei Darussalam.


Europeans top the list of foreigners wanting to retire in South Africa, particularly Germans and British people. Eighty percent of the people granted permanent residence permits for retired people come from Europe. Half of the permits issued went to nationals from the United Kingdom and Germany. The total rises to 80% if all the other European nationals are included. The same trend can be seen in the temporary residence permits for retired people granted in 2013.


Most (80%) of the people granted permits to study in South Africa come from African countries. Half of them are from Southern African Development Community countries.

Medical patients

People who come to South Africa for medical treatment for longer than three months need to apply for a permit. In 2013, 1 407 medical treatment permits were issued, mostly to people from other African countries. A third of those people come from Angola. The DRC and Nigeria follow. Patients from those three countries make up 56% of the medical treatment permits granted in 2013.

Note: The StatsSA data focuses on successful applications for temporary and permanent residence permits in 2013. It excludes information on refugees, asylum seekers, undocumented immigrants and those whose applications were not approved or were still pending by the end of 2013.

Download the data here

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