Permanent residence permits are no longer stamped into their holders' passports, and therefore permanent residents are required to present their permanent residence certificates at the passport control each time they exit or enter South Africa.
This rule applies even to those with passports issued before mid-2014 who still have their permanent residence permit endorsed in it. We regularly receive enquiries as to whether the original certificate needs to be presented (and therefore taken on the trip, raising the risk of damage or loss), or whether a certified copy will suffice. We have been given vastly different reports from many of our clients (ranging from "the official only looked at my passport" to "I was asked for my ID", or "I had a recently certified copy of my PR certificate with me, but they insisted on the original"). Due to this, and seeing that there is generally no time to fight these matters out or receive legal support there and then, we recommend that permanent residents take their original permanent residence certificates, as well as their ID document (if available; or proof of application for it) along whenever travelling across South African borders. Please keep a few certified copies in a safe place at home.
In the event that the original certificate is lost, an application for Confirmation of Permanent Residence has to be made, which takes 12 months and more to be finalized and results in a letter confirming the validity of the permit. This application is also to be made in the event that the holder of a permanent residence permit has been absent from South Africa for more than 3 years since 2003, or not had residence in the country for more than 5 years prior to 2003, has not complied with any of the conditions on his or her permit or is otherwise in any doubt as to whether the permit is still valid.
We have also received disconcerting reports of permanent residents who were, on re-entry to South Africa, told that their permits were invalid or "not on the system", and whose passports were withheld. In all these cases, the query was resolved within a few weeks, but the incidents caused some trauma and certainly inconvenience.