As the Department of Home Affairs implements a new visa regime, Statistics SA has revealed that about 102000 foreigners received temporary permission to live in the country, while another 6800 got the nod for permanent residence last year.
Many of them were from other countries on the continent, with the Zimbabweans leading the pack.
The data released yesterday does include the number of “undocumented” foreigners.
Statistician-general Pali Lehohla said there were 2million South Africans born outside the country. To arrive at a total for last year, Stats SA used a combination of Census 2011, surveys and administrative data.
The numbers help to illuminate the appropriateness of the new visa regulations, he said.
Lehohla poured cold water on reports that many foreigners had slipped under the radar.
“There are not 6million [foreigners] in the country,” he said. Those coming here to seek economic opportunities are young and of “reproductive age”, he added.
“People don’t go to places where they don’t know anybody,” said Lehohla.
The median age of Zimbabweans granted temporary residence permits is 28. Other relatively young migrants came from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, and Congo-Brazzaville, with their median ages ranging between 29 and 30.
“People come to South Africa looking for work and they are largely from the African continent,” Lehohla said.
Those coming to live here permanently are only slightly older if they are from the rest of Africa. But immigrants from Europe bring more grey than youth.
“There aren’t any Africans who come to South Africa to retire,” said Lehohla.
The Germans, Brits and the Dutch come here to retire, he said.
The median age of permanent residents from Germany is 46, while of those from the UK and the Netherlands is 43 and 41 respectively. Britons who come to South Africa temporarily are in their late 30s and not in their early 30s like the Chinese, French, Indians and Americans.