Foreigners who’d like to work in South Africa must first make a work permit application. You cannot work in South Africa without the correct stamp in your passport.
Before we continue, let’s distinguish between permits and visas. Prior to 2014, ‘permits’ referred to both temporary and permanent residency. Since the immigration changes, ‘visa’ refers to temporary residency and ‘permit’ refers to permanent residency.
Now that you know the difference between visas and permits, let’s continue looking at the application process.
Our aim today is to give you a detailed view of work visa and permit applications.
We’re going to cover the following:
- Where to start.
- Temporary residency requirements, i.e. visa requirements.
- Permanent residency requirements, i.e. permit requirements.
- Who to approach for professional help with your application.
- From where to apply.
- Frequently asked questions.
Where do you start?
You should always start by finding out if you qualify for a work visa.
The way to do this is by means of an immigration assessment. During this assessment, an immigration consultant will ask you a couple of pertinent questions. These questions will all relate to the eligibility criteria for South African work visas.
Why should your first step be an assessment?
It’s simple – you don’t want to apply for a visa you don’t qualify for. The outcome will inevitably be a rejection. Unfortunately, after having spent time and money on the application.
What are the South African work visa requirements?
You cannot submit a work visa (or permit) application if you don’t meet all the requirements.
South Africa has four work visas which grant temporary residency. Each visa has its own requirements. Below we’ll share the criteria of each visa that sets it apart from the rest:
1. General Work Visa
The South African government’s first priority is protecting South African labour. Thus the government wants to ensure that positions filled by foreign workers cannot be met by citizens or residents.
For this reason, the main criteria of the General Work Visa are:
- The employer must be able to prove that all reasonable steps were taken to try and attract a South African before offering the position to a foreigner.
- The application must include an original advertisement for the vacant position.
The other major criteria of the General Work Visa are the following:
- You must receive a valid job offer and a contract of employment. These documents must be signed by both parties. The contract must stipulate the following:
- Leave entitlement.
- Working hours.
- Termination period.
- The position must comply with the particular requirements stipulated in the Immigration Act.
- The application must include confirmation that you possess the necessary qualifications, as certified by SAQA.
2. Critical Skills Work Visa
The critical skills work visa is based on a list of occupations where professionals are badly needed in South Africa. For this reason, the critical skills visa’s main requirement is:
- Your occupation and qualification must appear on the South African critical skills list.
3. Intra-company Transfer Work Visa
Intra-company transfer work visas are for when an overseas company wants to send an employee to a South African:
- Affiliate; or
The assignment cannot be for longer than four years. The intra-company transfer work visa is only granted for a maximum of four years.
The visa’s main requirements are:
- You, the employee, must only be employed in the specific occupation and capacity for which the intra-company transfer work visa is granted.
- The South African company must demonstrate that an appropriate plan is in place to transfer skills from the visa holder to South African colleagues
- The overseas company must:
- Be able to show that your contract of employment with them is valid for at least six months.
- Confirm that the company will transfer you to a branch, subsidiary or an affiliate in South Africa.
- Demonstrate that your time in South Africa will not be longer than four years.
4. Corporate Workers Visa
The corporate workers visa enables a company to recruit a certain number of foreign workers into specific positions for a finite period of time.
For example, an engineering company can use a corporate workers visa to employ 200 civil engineers. The civil engineers will receive individual corporate workers certificates. These certificates will allow the engineers to enter and work in South Africa.
The main requirements for the foreign applicant are:
- The employer must be in possession of a corporate workers visa.
- The applicant must:
- Fill a role as specified under the corporate workers visa.
- Pay a repatriation deposit or provide a guarantee from the employer.
What are the requirements for a work permit application?
As explained earlier, a permit allows for permanent residency. You’ll have to again meet certain requirements in order to submit a work permit application:
1. General Work visa
You must have held a general work visa for an unbroken period of five years.
2. Critical skills work visa
You may be eligible for permanent residency if either of these is true:
- You’ve been in employment for an unbroken period of five years.
- You already have five years of experience in your field, which is considered a critical skill in South Africa. What’s more, you’ll be able to apply for permanent residence immediately. You don’t have to first apply for temporary residency.
3. Intra-company transfer work visa
You can only apply for permanent residency on a work visa if you’ve held it for five years.
Therefore, work permit application cannot be made purely as a result of holding an intra-company transfer work visa. Remember, this visa is only valid for a maximum of four years.
To be eligible for permanent residency, you must have previously held, or subsequently hold, another type of work visa for 12 months or more. This combined with four years on an intra-company transfer work visa would allow for a permanent residency application.
4. Corporate workers visa
The corporate workers visa is issued for a maximum of four years, or for a period not exceeding the corporate visa held by the company.
As permanent residency requires five years of work in South Africa, the corporate workers visa in itself cannot lead to permanent residency.
However, the time you have held the corporate workers visa for can be utilized for work permit applications. This means you must’ve held, or subsequently hold, another type of work visa for 12 months or more.
Where do you apply?
- First-time temporary residency visa applications: At an embassy or consulate in the applicant’s country of origin or home country.
- Permanent residency applications: From within South Africa.
Getting help with your work permit application
You have a choice of two options when making an application:
- Do the application on your own.
- Work with an immigration company.
Our advice? Secure the services of an immigration company. You’ll have immigration experts by your side who:
- Knows the South African Immigration Act back to front.
- Can advise you on which would be the best visa for you.
- Can guide you through the immigration process.
- Will be able to assist should an appeal be necessary.
Some questions up time and again in our dealings with clients. Below we’ll answer the most frequently asked questions our consultants get:
Can my family join me in South Africa?
Yes, partners and dependents can accompany work visa holders.
It’s important to note that partners on accompanying spouse visas cannot work, study or run a business. Partners should apply for a visa in their own right for any of these activities.
Another point to note is that partners may not be included in permanent residency applications. However, partners may apply at a later time based on their relationship with the permanent resident.
Do my children need visas to attend school?
Yes, dependent children must have a South African study visa in order to go to school.
How long does the application process take?
Our team will work with you to compile your application as quickly and efficiently as possible. Once your application has been submitted to the Department of Home Affairs, it is unfortunately out of our hands.
However, as a general guideline, temporary residency applications take between 8 and 12 weeks to process. Permanent residency applications currently take up to two years to reach an outcome.
What do I need to apply for residence in South Africa?
You must submit the following regardless of which visa or permit you’ll apply for:
- A valid passport.
- One passport photograph.
- A medical certificate that’s no older than six months.
- A radiological certificate that’s no older than six months.
- Police clearances that are no older than six months, from all countries in which you’ve lived for more than 12 months.
- Birth certificate.
- Marriage certificate, if applicable.
- Divorce certificate, if applicable.
- Eligibility documents, which vary depending on the visa or permit.
If I have a criminal record, can I still successfully apply for temporary residency?
Unless you’ve been convicted of a serious crime, like murder, rape or drug trafficking, you’ll generally still qualify to become a South African temporary resident.
For instance, the DHA often does not consider traffic offences or drunken driving charges reason to deem you an undesirable person.
It’s always best to check with an immigration company prior to making an application though.
If I have tuberculosis (TB), can I still successfully apply for temporary residency?
No, you cannot. TB is considered an infectious disease and deems you a prohibited and undesirable person.
Can I change employers?
Temporary residents on critical skills and general work visas can change employers. However, it would require a new visa application. This is because you’re only allowed to work for the employer stated on your visa.
Permanent residents are free to change employers without any restrictions.
Can I study?
Yes, you can study part-time with any of the visas:
- General work visas.
- Critical skills work visas.
- Intra-company transfer work visas.
You must, however, meet these requirements:
- You’ll study part-time. Full-time studies are not allowed.
- You hold a valid temporary residency visa.
- The duration of the course of qualification does not exceed the validity period of the visa.
- The Institution of Higher Learning at which you decide to study must be registered with the Department of Higher Education.
Permanent residents are free to study without any restrictions.
Getting started with your work permit application
The first step, as discussed, is an immigration assessment. Why not start right away by taking our free online assessment? Simply click here.
We’ll contact you within 24 hours to discuss your eligibility. You’ll be under no obligation to commit to using our services though. Our assessment is free and non-obligatory.
If you do decide to continue using our services, our team will:
- Guide you through the requirements;
- Compile your visa or work permit application; and
- Be with you every step of the way.
You can also use the contact form below to get in touch: