South Africa’s High Court Paves Way for ICT Visa Holders to Gain Permanent Residency

In this legal case before the High Court of South Africa from 18 of April 2023 (Case number: 21573/2021), the court addressed the crucial issue of converting Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) work visas to permanent residency. The Department of Home Affairs had initially rejected the applications of U.S. citizens for permanent residency, asserting that the ICT visa, intended for temporary international assignments for skill transfer, does not support a change to permanent residency status.

The court, however, found this interpretation by the Department inconsistent with the Immigration Act of 2002 (“Act”). The acting judge of the High Court van Heerden clarified that the Act and its regulations do not expressly prohibit changing status from an ICT visa holder to a permanent resident while in the country. This ruling challenged the Department’s stance, aligning with the Immigration Act’s broader objectives to promote economic growth by employing needed foreign labor and facilitating the entry of exceptionally skilled individuals.

The judge issued a stern critique of the Department of Home Affairs for its procedural failings, particularly highlighting the excessive duration of the process and the Department’s failure to respond in a timely and court-mandated manner. The judge explicitly condemned the Department’s approach to handling judicial review applications, stating that it undermines the effective enforcement of immigration laws and is detrimental to the objectives of the Immigration Act.

Concluding, the court overturned the Department’s decisions and directed the issuance of permanent residence permits to the applicants. This judgment is crucial as it confirms the legal feasibility of converting an ICT visa to permanent residency under South African law and criticizes the administrative inefficiencies that hinder the process, thereby reinforcing the need for a more effective and responsive immigration system. This ruling holds significant implications for professionals and specialists aspiring to long-term residency in South Africa, marking a shift towards a more inclusive and efficient approach in handling immigration cases and recognizing the valuable role of foreign expertise in South Africa’s socio-economic development.

Click here to read the detailed official court case ruling.