Unwrapping the General Work Visa

General Work Visa South Africa
General Work Visa South Africa

May 2014 saw some fundamental changes to the way work visas could be applied for, not least was the alterations to the General Work Visa.

Below we take a look at some of these changes to the General Work Visa and as importantly what the actual effect of the implementation of these new regulations has meant.

When is it appropriate to apply for a general work visa?

It is important to understand the rationale behind the General Work Visa category. There exists a number of work visa options that cater for:

Those applicants who have what is deemed a critical skill – this is a comprehensive list of occupations and professions that can apply for a work visa (critical skills visa) without the need of an employment offer and based upon the fact that South Africa is in need of the talent that they supply.

Where ‘workers’ are being moved to South Africa due to the need of their employer there are the Intra company transfer work visa and the corporate workers visa alternatives.

In short there are better options with more straight forward pathways to obtaining a work visa. The General Work Visa is almost akin to a catch all work visa for those who do not fit into the above listed options but where there still exists a genuine need for the employer to fill a vacancy with a foreigner.

What is a genuine need to employ a foreigner?

Without the need to get all technical where there is a true need to employ a foreign worker is simple and straightforward to explain.

If an employer has made every effort to source a South African citizen or permanent residence holder but with no success then there may well be a case for employing a foreign worker.

What is not a genuine need?

Some examples of what would not constitute a good validation for a general work visa include:

  • I can employ a foreign worker cheaper
  • I prefer the foreign worker over a South African
  • A foreign worker contacted me for me a job and I think they will be good

Applying for a General Work Visa

There are some very important steps that a company must follow and demonstrate that:

  • They have made very effort to find a local South African – for example, a small, local, once off advert may not be too convincing.
  • Be able to show they have interviewed and assessed South African applicants and that the ‘local South African recruitment process’ was indeed genuine in nature.

The involvement of the Department of Labour (DOL)

What companies and foreign candidates need to be very much aware of is that the Department of Labour conduct a number of checks to ensure that the application is genuine:

The DOL maintain a list of those who are unemployed and seeking positions – they will compare the role being filled by the foreign worker, with available applicants on their database, and refuse an application where they uncover suitable South African applicants for the position.
They will conduct work place visits to help ascertain the validity of the General Work Visa application and compliances of the Company with ordinary Labour Laws.

This of course is all understandable, the DOL has to play its role in balancing the protection of jobs for South Africans with ensuring foreign labour can be accessed if required. What however is not understandable is the time frame that the DOL takes to perform its role, which can be as much as 2 – 4 months.

Given the time that both the DOL and the DHA thereafter will take in performing their functions, getting the evidence together efficiently and correctly the first time is imperative to the overall process.


The General Work Visa is the most difficult of the work visa’s to obtain. Primarily as the role applied for under the visa has not been identified as a skill shortage area in South Africa and is not a company transferring an existing member of their staff to South Africa.

That said, genuine cases will be processed and approved and the General Work Visa remains a viable option.

Whether you are a prospective employee or employer getting the right advice has never been more important, Intergate have been processing work visa applications for 8 years and have assisted thousands of individuals and hundreds of companies in making the right immigration decisions.

Contact us for a free and confidential consultation on your immigration requirements and discover for yourself why Intergate Immigration (ISO 9001) is considered to be the premier Immigration consultancy in South Africa.