Forty-six percent of the total permanent residence permits were for people from SA Development Community (SADC) countries.
Statistician General Pali Lehohla said in Pretoria that the greatest number of people granted permanent residence were from Zimbabwe.
This was largely due to a special dispensation, which made it easier for Zimbabweans to obtain residence permits in South Africa, he said.
Zimbabweans accounted for 42.6 percent (1939 people) of immigrants from the 10 leading African countries, followed by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with 12.9 percent (587), Nigeria with 10.3 percent (470) and Lesotho with 4.7 percent (213).
People from countries outside Africa granted permanent residence last year accounted for almost a third of these type of permits.
Over a fifth of these were from India (500 people), 16.3 percent were from China (366), 11.5 percent from the United Kingdom (258) and 8.8 percent were from Pakistan (197).
Lehohla said immigrants were contributors to South Africa, as many tended to be very resourceful.
The majority were in their peak working years, with those from the 10 major African countries, in terms of the number of immigrants, tending to be younger than those from other continents.
Eighty percent of those granted permanent residency from overseas were aged between 15 and 64, compared to 76.6 percent of those from other African countries.
The median age of those granted permanent residence was 30 for both Zambian and Somalian immigrants, 31 for those from the DRC, and 32 for those from Zimbabwe.
This was in comparison to a median age of 46 for German immigrants, 43 for those from the United Kingdom, and 41 from the Netherlands and South Korea.
Half a percent of permanent residence permit recipients from African countries last year were aged over 65, while 5.7 percent of those from overseas countries were in this age bracket.
The highest percentage of children aged 14 or younger granted permanent residency were from the DRC, at just over 29 percent.
Overall, children of this age category accounted for a fifth of permanent permits granted.