Working in South Africa

South Africa, whilst having a high unemployment rate (circa 25%), also has a large skill shortage in certain professions. Employers continually struggle to find the right candidates for certain roles and turn their attentions to recruiting abroad.

What work visa options exist?

South Africa offers a number of different work visas for prospective immigrants but all come from a philosophy of recruiting in skills that add to the South African economy but not at the expense of the South African worker. In essence offering suitable protection to citizens that job opportunities they could fulfil were not taken by foreign workers.

This philosophy is common with most countries immigration policies, it is in the qualifying of applicants that South Africa differs. Whilst most offer a points based scheme, South Africa offers a number of options that are more ambiguous in their criteria.

For the corporate worker moving with his existing company an intra-company visa is a fairly straight forward process.

For South African based corporates with a requirement to employ many staff from abroad a corporate visa can be applied for. This is a visa that allows for a certain amount of employees for a certain period of time. This visa is excellent in concept but exactly who can apply and for what roles remains a changing playing field.

Individual workers that feature on the quota list (a short skills listing) can apply for a quota work visa. This allows for the visa to be issued prior to obtaining a job. The applicant then gets a 3 month period in South Africa to secure employment. This visa promotes skilled immigration specifying both the qualification and experience required. Its flaw being the quota list itself which is sometimes outdated and not reflective of the true skill shortage commerce is experiencing.

For those individuals not on the quota list, a general work visa can be an option. This visa can only be applied for when the employer has advertised and interviewed unsuccessfully for a South African to fill the role. This can be a time consuming process.

How long do work visas take to process?

The Department of Home Affairs website boasts of a 30 day turnaround time, this is highly unlikely and one should expect more in the region of 2- 3 months.

Where can an application be made?

In the main work visa applications should be made in your country of origin or at the next nearest South African embassy or consulate.

Is there anything an applicant can do to speed up the process?

For most work visas the applicant must obtain SAQA (South African Qualification Authority). This process can take 4 -6 weeks and no application can be made to the Department of Home Affairs until this is received.

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