The Department of Home Affairs is the custodian of the identity of all South African citizens, critical to which is the issuance of birth, marriage and death certificates; identity documents (IDs) and passports; as well as citizenship; naturalisation and permanent residency certificates. This goes beyond merely issuing documents and encompasses the safe maintenance and archiving of biometric and demographic records of citizens and residents of the country.
The department is also responsible for the effective, secure and humane management of immigration.
Statutory bodies falling under the department are the:
The Government Printing Works (GPW), a division of the Department of Home Affairs, provides printing, stationery and related services to all government departments, provincial governments and municipalities. It also publishes, markets and distributes government publications. Based in Pretoria, the printing works provides a variety of related services to departments, the printing industry and other African countries, including manufacturing and supplying fingerprint ink to the South African Police
Service (SAPS), and printing postage stamps for the Democratic Republic of Congo and Lesotho.
Over the past few years, government had been seized with the challenge of transforming the GPW to position it as a security printer of choice for government and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.
Government decided to position the organisation as a key player in the smart card and passport industry.
A new passport-production system was implemented at the GPW high-security printing facility in Pretoria. In addition, a new South African passport was also introduced with unique South African quality features and improved security features.
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The Branch: Civic Services is mainly responsible
for the National Population Registration and civic
services. National population registration entails
recording personal particulars with a view to issuing
identity documents (IDs); identification by means of fingerprints and photographs; and dealing with matters pertaining
to the status of persons, such as births, marriages
Civic services entail issuing passports, registering
foreign births, determining citizenship and
issuing certificates of naturalisation or resumption
of South African citizenship.
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The Branch: Learning Academy deals with issues of learning and development, research, knowledge and information management.
The academy has three main sections, namely:
- Learning Programme Delivery
- Research and Information Management
- Quality and Stakeholder Management.
It forms part of the support for the department's core business of offering immigration and civic services for South Africa.
The academy has registered the National Certificate of Home Affairs Services with the South African Qualifications Authority. This qualification has three specialisations, namely: Refugee Affairs, Immigrations and Civic Services. The department is accredited by the Public Sector Education and Training Authority as a site for learning, allowing the Learning Academy to enrol learners for the registered home affairs qualification.
The academy also offers generic learning and development such as customer services, management development programmes and training in uniform processes and procedures of the services offered in the department.
Managing research in the Department of Home Affairs entails coordinating research projects that external scholars and researchers want to conduct on the department. The Research Management Unit also identifies research areas within the department that can assist in better delivery of home-affairs services.
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South African citizenship is regulated by the South
African Citizenship Act, 1995 (Act 88 of 1995) [PDF] , and regulations issued in terms thereof. South African citizenship may be granted by way of:
- birth or descent
- an application for naturalisation as a South African citizen
- an application for resumption of South African citizenship
- the registration of the birth of children
born outside South Africa to South African fathers or mothers
- an application for exemption in terms of Section 26(4) of the Act.
In October 2010, the National Assembly adopted the South African Citizenship Amendment [PDF] and Births and Deaths Registration Amendment Bills [PDF].
The Births and Deaths Registration Amendment Act, 2010 (Act 18 of 2010) [PDF], seeks to streamline the procedures related to the following:
- who, other than parents, should register the birth of a child, including the next-of-kin or a legal guardian
- the registration of orphans and abandoned children
- simplifying the of the process for the change of surnames of children and adults
- paternity, including steps to be followed when a mother registers a child under one father and later changes to another
- registration of birth after 30 days
- the registration of adopted children to ensure alignment to the Children's Act, 2005 (Act 38 of 2005).
The South African Citizenship Amendment Act, 2010 (Act 17 of 2010) [PDF], amends provisions of the South African Citizenship Act, 1995, that deals with citizenship by birth, naturalisation, and the loss of citizenship in terms of the mandate of the Department of Home Affairs.
The South African Citizenship Amendment Act, among other things, ensures that:
- a child born to a South African parent inside or outside the country is a South African by birth as long as the child is registered according to South African law.
- a child born of non-South African parents but adopted by South African parents is a citizen by descent.
- a child born of non-South African parents in South Africa, may, at the age of 18 years apply for naturalisation. While he or she is a minor, such children will retain the citizenship of their parents.
- a child with no claim to any citizenship will be given South African citizenship in accordance with international law and practice.
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The Population Register hosted by the Department of Home Affairs stores and provides citizenry-identification information, including unique identification numbers, birth dates and marriage status. In essence, this system forms the core of citizenry-information systems within the department.
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The National Immigration Branch is responsible for control over the admission of foreigners for residence in and departure from South Africa. This entails:
- processing applications for visas, temporary residence permits and immigration permits
- maintaining a travellers' and foreigners' control system
- tracing and removing foreigners who are considered undesirable or who are in South Africa illegally.
The Refugees Act, 1998 (Act 130 of 1998) [PDF], gives effect within South Africa to the relevant international legal instruments, principles and standards relating to refugees; provides for the reception into South Africa of asylum seekers; regulates applications for and recognition of refugee status; and provides for the rights and obligations flowing from such status, and related matters.
In recent years, the department has sought to control illegal immigration through a variety of measures:
A computerised visa system was instituted to curb the forgery of South African visas and has been extended to all South African missions abroad.
The final immigration regulations came into effect on 1 July 2004. The release of these regulations followed the signing of the Immigration Amendment Act, 2004 (Act 19 of 2004) [PDF], into law on 12 October 2004.
The immigration policy aims to:
- discourage illegal migration into South Africa by encouraging foreign nationals to apply for different permits to legalise their stay in the country
- create an enabling environment for foreign direct investment in South Africa
- attract scarce skills required by the economy in accordance with the 2014 vision of eradicating poverty and underdevelopment.
The final immigration regulations furthermore aim to establish a new system of immigration control to ensure that:
- temporary and permanent residence permits are issued as expeditiously as possible and according to simplified procedures
- security considerations are fully satisfied and the State regains control over the immigration of foreigners to South Africa
- economic growth is promoted through the employment of needed foreign labour, foreign investment is facilitated, the entry of exceptionally skilled or qualified people is enabled and academic exchange programmes in
Development Community (SADC) are facilitated
- tourism is promoted
- the contribution of foreigners to the South African labour market does not adversely affect existing labour standards and the rights and expectations of South African workers
- a policy connection is maintained between foreigners working in South Africa and the training of South African citizens
- a human-rights-based culture of enforcement is promoted.
The department prioritised the issuance of quota work permits to foreigners who fall within specific occupational classes or specific professional categories. In this context, details of specific occupational classes and
specific professional categories and the applicable quotas are published annually in the Government Gazette after consultation with other stakeholder departments.
The Immigration Amendment Act, 2011 (Act 13 of 2011) [PDF], provides for, among other things:
- revising provisions relating to the Immigrating Advisory Board
- revising provisions relating to the making of regulations
- the designation of ports of entry
- revising provisions relating to visas for temporary sojourn in South Africa
- the mandatory transmission and the use of information on advance passenger processing
- the transmission of passenger name record information
- revising provisions relating to permanent residence
- revising penal provisions.
The Directorate: Refugee Affairs manages refugee services in South Africa. It has established the Asylum Seekers Unit and Country of Origin Information Unit. The units advise refugee-reception offices on policy-related matters and on the background information of an applicant's country of origin. After being recognised, refugees are issued with refugee identity documents (IDs), which give them access to the basic services in South Africa, including basic healthcare, education and employment.
The South African Government, through the Department of Home Affairs, issues United Nations (UN) travel documents to refugees. Since May 2005, refugees have been issued with a refugee smart ID, which contains security features that are not forgeable.
This directorate seeks to professionalise the functioning of the refugee regime in preparation for mass influxes in the future. The department also seeks to assist those who wish to return to their countries of origin after changes in the circumstances that led to their forced migration, by engaging in campaigns of voluntary repatriation jointly with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
The Refugee Amendment Act, 2011 (Act 12 of 2011) [PDF], contains certain amendments to eliminate abuse of the asylum system and redefines the criteria for refugees seeking asylum in a clear and transparent manner.
In place of the Refugee Status Determination Officer who determines whether a person qualifies as a refugee or not, the Act proposes that committees decide on the status of applications. Committee members will have specific expertise required to adjudicate such matters, for example, in national affairs, international relations, politics and current affairs.
An application for asylum can have one of three possible outcomes: acceptance, rejection as manifestly unfounded, or rejection as unfounded. South Africa adheres to internationally accepted reasons for granting asylum status.
The Act also provides for the registration of a child born of an asylum seeker, provided the birth certificate is submitted at any Refugee Reception Office to have the child included as a dependent of the asylum seeker or refuge.
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Foreigners who wish to enter South Africa must
be in possession of valid and acceptable travel
documents. They must have valid visas, except
in the case of certain countries whose citizens
are exempt from visa control. Such exemptions
are normally limited to permits, which are issued
for 90 days or less at the ports of entry. The visa
system is aimed at facilitating the admission of
acceptable foreigners at ports of entry. The visa
becomes a permit upon entry; therefore, no additional
permit will be issued.
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Control of travellers
The travel documents of persons entering or
departing South Africa are examined by immigration
officers at recognised ports of entry, to
determine whether such persons comply with the
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Control of sojourn
Foreigners who are in the country illegally and who are therefore guilty of an offence may be classified into three categories,
namely those who:
- entered the country clandestinely
- failed to renew the temporary residence permits issued to them at ports of entry
- breached the conditions of their temporary residence permits without permission, such as holiday visitors who took
up employment or started their own businesses.
Depending on the circumstances, persons who are in South Africa illegally are either prosecuted, removed, or their sojourn is legalised. Officers at the various regional and district offices of the department are in charge of tracing, prosecuting and removing illegal foreigners from the country. Employers
of illegal foreigners may also be prosecuted.
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Government allows immigration on a selective basis. The Department of Home Affairs is responsible for:
- processing applications for immigration permits for consideration
- admitting persons suitable for immigration, such as skilled workers in occupations in which there is a shortage in South Africa.
The department particularly encourages applications by industrialists and other entrepreneurs who wish to relocate their existing concerns or to establish new concerns in South Africa.
The department is not directly involved in an active immigration drive. In categories where shortages exist, the normal procedure is for employers to recruit abroad independently and, in most cases, initially apply for temporary work permits.
The department considers the applications for immigration permits of prospective immigrants who wish to settle in the relevant provinces. In terms of new regulations, regions will be responsible for issuing permits previously issued by the regional committees in respect of permanent residence. They will also do so in respect of temporary residence. Enquiries in this regard may be made to the nearest office of the Department of Home Affairs in South Africa, to missions abroad, or to the Director-General of Home Affairs for the attention of the Directorate: Permitting in Pretoria.
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In terms of the Immigration Act, 2002 [PDF], temporary residence permits are divided into
the following categories:
- visitor's permits
- diplomatic permits
- study permits
- treaty permits
- business permits
- crew permits
- medical permits
- relative's permits
- work permits with the following categories:
- quota work permits
- general work permits
- intra-company transfer work permits
- exceptional skills work permits
- corporate work permits
- retired person permits
- exchange permits
- asylum permits.
In terms of Section 11, a visitor's permit may be issued to a person who intends to enter South Africa for less than 90 days for the purpose of tourism, business, education or
Foreigners who are exempt from visa requirements may therefore proceed to a port of entry where visitors' permits for the mentioned period will be issued, provided such persons can produce evidence to
prove their bona fides.
Foreigners who are citizens of countries that are exempted from visa requirements for less than 90 days may likewise obtain visitors' permits at a port of entry. Such foreigners enjoy exemption for the period only. Foreigners who require a visa prior to proceeding to South Africa, or who intend to enter South Africa for any period longer than the period for which they are exempt
from the visa requirement, must apply for
and obtain a visa prior to proceeding to the
Foreigners who intend to accept an offer of employment, start a business, take up studies or enter South Africa for any purpose for which a temporary residence permit is provided for in the Act, must apply for an appropriate temporary residence permit via the South African diplomatic representative in their countries of origin/residence. In countries where there are no representatives, applications must be submitted in the nearest country where there is a foreign
The outcome must be awaited outside South Africa and applicants may only proceed to South Africa once the permit as
applied for has been issued to them.
The overriding consideration when dealing with applications for work permits is whether
the employment or task to be undertaken cannot be performed by a South African citizen or an approved permanent immigrant
already residing in South Africa.
Applications for the extension of temporary residence permits must be submitted at least 30 days prior to the expiry date of the permit, to the nearest regional/district office of the Department of Home Affairs where the applicant is employed. Any enquiries related to temporary residence permits may be directed to the nearest district/regional office of the Department of Home Affairs in South Africa, to South African diplomatic representatives abroad, or to the Director-General of Home Affairs, for the attention of
the Directorate: Permitting.
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Removal of undesirable persons
In terms of legislation, the Minister of Home Affairs may order the deportation of any person who is declared undesirable or prohibited, other than an asylum seeker.
These are foreign nationals who are in South Africa illegally and should be deported to the countries of which they are citizens or territories where they have rights of domicile or residence.
Any person who has become a deportation subject may, pending his or her deportation be detained in a manner and at a place determined by the Director-General of the Department of Home Affairs.
Source: South Africa Yearbook 2011/12
Editor: D Burger. Government Communication and Information System
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