On 28 July 2017 the Department of Home Affairs released its anticipated White Paper on International Migration that provides a policy framework that will result in changes to our Immigration Legislation. The amendment process has commenced and is expected to be finalised in March 2019.

The new white paper is looking to address our current outdated legislation as well as policy gaps in respect to international migration policies and has implemented a more modern holistic approach.

How will these proposed changes affect Citizenship by naturalisation?

Delinking citizenship from permanent residence

Our current Citizenship Amendment Act of 2010, allows an applicant to apply for South African Citizenship by naturalisation if they have been a Permanent Resident Permit holder for a period of at least 10 years. Therefore, in terms of our current legislation there is a definite natural progression between the duration of having permanent residence and the right to apply for Citizenship.

The White Paper confirms that the granting of residency and citizenship should now be delinked. It proposes that the permanent residence permit be entirely replaced with a long-term residence visa that will be later reviewable and not contribute towards citizenship. Further a points-based system will be used to determine who will qualify for a short or long-term visa. The Department of Home Affairs proposes scoring an applicant based on their qualifications, age, investment amount, work experience, type of business and the ability to transfer skills. This is not unlike the immigration systems implemented by Canada and the United Kingdom where points-based systems are being used.

Accordingly, there will be no automatic progression from residency to citizenship in law or in practice. Further, that the granting of citizenship to foreign nationals should be considered as being exceptional and requiring an executive decision of the Minister of the Department of Home Affairs.

It is proposed that an advisory panel be established to consider citizenship applications and to make recommendations to the Minister. The purpose of these policy interventions is to enable South Africa to grant citizenship status to foreigners based on strategic, security considerations and national priorities.

In light of the above, if you were considering applying for South African Citizenship, it will be worthwhile taking into consideration the pending changes and making your application as soon as possible.

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