South Africa critical skills visa

South Africa is a dynamic country with a growing economy and exciting job opportunities in traditional as well as expanding sectors like tech. The South African lifestyle is relaxed but also has a lot to offer in terms of leisure and entertainment, with vibrant cities like Cape Town being magnets for young locals and foreigners alike.

It is normal that many consider making it their home. Some first visit South Africa on a temporary visa, fall in love with the place and decide to move here and look for a job. Others are offered a position with a relocation package and visa sponsorship.

There are many different types of visas for South Africa, including (among others) several short-term, medical, or working visas.

This page includes information about a long-term visa that allows foreigners to work and earn a salary in South Africa, the critical skills work visa (CSWV):

  • What a critical skills visa is and its validity
  • What are the critical skills sought after in the country
  • How to get a critical or scarce skills visa for South Africa

The critical skill visa for South Africa

The critical skill visa was recently launched and replaced the former exceptional skills and quota work visas. It is a work visa that does not only benefit expats but also the South African economy.

In fact, the top goal of the critical skill visa is to assist the South African Department of Trade and Industry in achieving the objectives of programs like:

  • The National Development Plan(NDP)
  • The Industrial Policy Action Plan(IPAP)
  • The New Growth Plan(NGP)

Under the CSWV system, foreigners who possess exceptional skills or qualifications that are scarce in South Africa will be allowed to move to the country and work. The occupations and skills that are in high demand were identified by the South African Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET).

South Africa critical skills visa: validity

A critical skill work visa is not a permanent but rather a long-term visa. It can be used to enter the country to start work but it is not a pathway to permanent residency.

A CSWV can be issued to an applicant for a period of up to 5 years. The actual validity will depend on the applicant’s specific circumstances. If the applicant has not already secured a job and no offer of employment has been made, the CSWV will be valid for no longer than 1 year.

Critical skill visas allow the holder to add their spouse and dependent children to the permit. The applicant’s family members will be allowed into South Africa for as long as the CSWV remains valid.

The critical skills visa for South Africa can be renewed provided that all requirements for renewal are met. Foreign nationals wishing to renew their visa must pay the relevant fee.

Critical skills considered for the visa

The official list of critical skills was published by the Department of Higher Education and Training in its official Gazette in June 2018.

The most sought-after professional figures can be grouped into the following sectors:

Agricultural skills

  • Agricultural Engineer
  • Forestry Technician
  • Agricultural Scientist
  • Sheep Shearer


  • Construction Project Manager
  • Quantity Surveyor
  • Architect
  • Land Surveyor
  • Urban and Regional Planner

Business, Management, and Economics

  • Actuaries and Risk Assessors
  • External Auditor
  • Corporate General Manager
  • Financial Investment Advisor

Information technology and communication


  • CISCO Solution Specialist
  • Network Analyst
  • CISCO Engineers
  • Integrated Developers (PHP, Perl, Java )
  • System Integration Specialist
  • Data Centre Operations
  • IT Security Specialist
  • Enterprise Architecture
  • Microsoft System Engineers
  • AV Specialists (Anti-virus)
  • Network Specialist (Security)
  • Database Specialists
  • Desktop Support Engineer
  • Network Controllers
  • Solutions Architects in Telecommunications and ICT


  • Energy Engineer
  • Civil Engineer
  • Electronics Engineer
  • Electrical Engineer
  • Metallurgical Engineer
  • Chemical Engineer
  • Industrial Designer
  • Electrical Installation Inspector
  • Geologist
  • Industrial and Production Engineers
  • Materials Engineer
  • Manufacturing Managers
  • Production/Operations Manager
  • Ship’s Engineer
  • Quality Systems Manager
  • Energy Engineering Technologist
  • Automotive Electrician
  • Mechanical Engineer
  • Mining Engineer
  • Electrical Engineering Technologist
  • Research and Development Manager
  • Telecommunications Engineers
  • Boiler Maker
  • Metallurgical Engineering Technologist
  • Air Conditioning and Mechanical Services Plumber
  • Automotive Motor Mechanic
  • Mechanical Engineering Technologist
  • Mining Engineering Technologist
  • Chemical Engineering Technologist
  •  Civil Engineering Technologist
  • Electronics Engineering Technologist
  • Fitter and Turner
  • Diesel Mechanic
  • Mechatronics Technician
  • Materials Engineering Technologist
  • Metal Fabricator
  • Structural Plaster
  • Pressure Welder
  • Toolmaker
  • Physical and Engineering Science Technicians

Health professionals and related Clinical sciences

  • Nursing Professionals
  • Public Health Physician
  • Hospital Pharmacist
  • Veterinarian
  • Retail Pharmacist
  • Medical Superintendent/Public Health Manager
  • Registered Nurse (child and family health)
  • General and Specialist Medical Practitioner

Life and Earth sciences

  • Environmental Engineers
  • Biochemists
  • Industrial Pharmacist
  • Bioinformatician
  • Environmental Manager
  • Aquatic Scientist
  • Animal Scientist
  • Biological Scientist
  • Botanical Scientist
  • Bioeconomist
  • Bioinformaticist
  • Food Scientist
  • Computational Biologist
  • Chemical Scientist
  • Ecological Scientist
  • Environmental Scientist
  • Engineering Geologist
  • Geohazards Specialist
  • Geochemist
  • Geophysicist
  • Polymer Scientist
  • Materials Scientist
  • Metallurgical Scientist
  • Advanced Composites Engineering
  • Metrology
  • Protein Scientist
  • Microbiological Scientist
  • Water Resource Scientist
  • Seismologist
  • Marine Bioscientist
  • Soil Scientist
  • Toxicology Scientist
  • Laboratory Technologist and Technician
  • Archaeological / Paleontological Specialist

Professionals and associate professionals

  • Land and engineering surveyors
  • Materials Engineering
  • Technologist
  • Electronic Engineering Technician
  • Electrical Engineering Technician
  • Draughtsperson
  • Chemical Engineering Technician
  • Mechanical Engineering Technician
  • Surveying Technician
  • Geomagnetic Physicist
  • Geomatics Technician
  • Quantity Surveying Technician
  • Civil Engineering Technician
  • Materials Engineering Technician – Road materials
  • Materials Engineer Nondestructive Testing (NDT)
  • Materials Tester
  • Aeronautical Engineering
  • Architectural Technologist
  • Architectural Draughtsperson
  • Architectural Senior Technologist
  • Astronomer
  • Plasma Physicist
  • Physicist (SKA)
  • Space Technologist
  • Space Weather Specialist
  • Solar Physicist
  • Space Physicist
  • Magnetic Technology Specialist
  • Radio Frequency Engineering
  • Environmental Technologist
  • Radar Engineering
  • Mining Technician
  • Landscape Contract Manager
  • Industrial Engineer
  • Landscape Architect
  • Landscape Horticulturalist
  • Safety, Health, Environment and Quality Practitioner
  • Organisation and Methods Analyst (incl. scheduler, estimator)
  • Industrial Engineering Technologist
  • Industrial Engineering Technician


  • Millwright
  • Moulder
  • Pipe Fitter
  • Industrial Machinery Mechanic
  • Double Coded Welder
  • Raise-bore Operators

Business process outsourcing

  • Business Analyst
  • Customer Service Manager/Team Lead
  • Quality Assurance Specialist/Auditor
  • Quality Analyst
  • Software Development Engineers and Managers
  • Systems Architects, Engineers and Managers

Academics and researchers

Research in any of the following areas:

  • Galaxy Structure and Dynamics
  • Galaxy Formation and Evolution
  • Pulsars and Black Holes
  • Dynamic and Transient Bursts
  • VLBI Operations
  • Pulsars and Gravitational Waves
  • Deep Observations of the earliest Radio Galaxies
  • Cosmology and Dark Energy
  • Calibration and Imaging of Radio Interferometer data
  • Cosmic Magnetism
  • Signal Processing
  • Algorithm for Radio Astronomy
  • Signal Processing for Radio Astronomy
  • Observational Radio Astronomy in General
  • Supercomputing for Radio Astronomy
  • Software Development for Radio Astronomy
  • Performance at Minor Energy Costs
  • Beam Modelling
  • Feeds for Radio Astronomy Systems
  • Antenna Modelling
  • Receivers for Radio Astronomy Systems
  • Signal Processing for Radio Astronomy
  • Nano-photonics – Data Transport Power
  • Nanotechnology
  • High-Speed Data Transport
  • Antenna Design
  • RFI Shielded Buildings and Facilities
  • Space Science and Technology
  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Global Change Information Communication Technology
  • Earth Observation
  • Energy Security
  • Natural and Applied Sciences

How to get a critical skills permit for South Africa

Obtaining a critical skills work visa is not as straightforward as applying for a simple electronic visa for tourists online.

You will have to apply in person at a South African embassy or consulate — fortunately, petitioners do not have to book an appointment in advance.

You will then need to complete the application form in all of its parts as accurately as possible.

Finally, you must bring with you a series of supporting documents that prove that you are eligible for this type of work permit.

South Africa critical skills visa: requirements

Those applying for a critical skills visa must meet the eligibility requirements. They also must make sure to respect the visa’s terms and conditions for the entirety of its validity period.

Moreover, they must submit supporting documents as part of their application. Supporting documentation for the South African CSWV includes:

  • An eligible passport that is valid for at least 30 calendar days after expiry of the intended visit
  • A recent health certificate
  • A recent radiological report
  • Proof of marriage or union in case the family plans to join the applicant in South Africa
  • Police clearance certificate(s)
  • Proof of yellow fever vaccination where applicable
  • A letter by the employer accepting responsibility for the costs related to the deportation of the applicant in case necessary
  • Proof that the applicant falls within a specific critical skills category
  • Proof of evaluation of the foreign qualification
  • Proof of payment of the applicable fee
  • Further documents depending on the applicant’s specific circumstances


FAQ about South Africa critical skills visa

Skills eligible for the critical skills visa programme for South Africa are those considered to be in short supply by the local Ministry of Home Affairs. The Ministry updates the list when it considers it necessary. The list can be quite long and detailed.

Skills included in the eligible list can vary greatly and can cover fields such as:

  • Academia and Research
  • Agriculture
  • Archaeology
  • Astronomy
  • Business and Finance
  • Chemistry
  • Engineering
  • Geology and Geochemistry
  • IT
  • Landscaping
  • Mining
  • Nursing
  • Paleontology
  • Pharmacy
  • Urban planning
  • Veterinary

Applicants are strongly encouraged to check the full version of the latest list before submitting their request.

Those wishing to get a critical skills visa for South Africa must:

  • Gather all relevant supporting documents
  • Fill out the critical skills visa application form. Handwritten forms will not be accepted
  • Locate the nearest South African embassy or consulate
  • Visit the embassy to submit their application in-person
  • Pay for the relevant visa processing fee

Once the visa is granted or a decision has been made on the request, petitioners will need to return to the embassy to pick up their visa.

Please note that it is not possible to apply online for this type of visa. Eligible foreign nationals who intend to spend a relatively short period of time in South Africa may consider an electronic visa instead.

Processing times vary although the South African authorities aim to review applications within 30 to 40 business days from the date of submission.

Please note that it may take considerably longer depending on the specific request. That is especially the case for those applications that require further documentation or information. In that case, the petitioner will be contacted directly so that they can submit the missing items.

Delays can also occur due to proximity to public holidays and the volume of applications that the embassy or consulate is experiencing.