South Africa Work Visa

South Africa has many exciting employment opportunities for people seeking to build on their skills sets whilst experiencing another culture.

Although getting a job abroad is exciting, people are often unsure about the paperwork they require. To work in South Africa, foreign nationals need a visa, a few different types of South Africa visa are available depending on the role to be filled.

This article explains the various work permits and requirements issued by the South African government to help people prepare for their future employment.

Types of South Africa work visa

Foreigners with valuable skills that are in short supply in South Africa may be issued with a visa. Only when South African citizens with the relevant skills are not available will a foreigner be granted a permit in order to protect job opportunities for local people.

Applications are reviewed on a case-by-case basis by South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs. The duration of the visa will depend on the job to be carried out and other considerations.

There are 4 types of South Africa work visa:

  • General work visa
  • Critical skills work visa
  • Intra-company transfer work visa
  • Corporate visa

Prospective employees should consult the information below to find out which one they are able to apply for.

General work visa for South Africa

General work visas may be issued to foreigners when there are no South African citizens or permanent residents with the relevant skills available. General work visas are valid for the duration of the employment contract, up to a maximum of 5 years.

Workers should not make travel arrangements until their visa application has been approved by the Department of Home Affairs.

General work visa requirements

General work visa applicants should present the following documents at a Visa Facilitation Centre (VFC) in South Africa or the nearest South African embassy in their home country.

  • Completed and signed general work visa application form
  • A valid passport
  • Proof of financial means to support the applicant’s living expenses until they receive a salary: bank statements, cash or travellers’ cheques
  • Medical reports
  • Police clearance certificate from all countries the applicant has lived in for 12 months or more since the age of 18
  • Vaccination certificate if applicable
  • Means of payment to cover the fee

Other requirements specific to the work to be undertaken:

  • Certificate from the Department of Labour
  • Proof of qualifications by SAQA (South African Qualifications Authority)
  • Contract of employment signed by the applicant and the employer
  • Proof of the employer’s registration in the Registrar of Companies
  • Required documentation for the accompanying spouse or children if applicable

As visa requirements are subject to change, applicants are advised to check with the Department of Home Affairs in South Africa, or their nearest South African embassy or consulate before making an appointment.

South Africa critical skills work visa

Occasionally the Minister of Home Affairs for South Africa issues a list of critical skills. These are skills considered to be in short supply amongst the South African workforce and therefore employers are permitted to recruit from overseas.

Foreigners with these sought-after qualifications can apply for a South Africa critical skills visa. Critical skills visas are issued for maximum 5-year periods. Applicants must be able to show proof of relevant qualifications in order to be eligible.

Examples of critical skills

The following are just some of the skills currently considered to be critical for the Republic of South Africa:

  • Agricultural engineer
  • Boilermaker
  • Business analyst
  • Financial investment advisor
  • Geochemist
  • Geologist
  • IT security specialist
  • Mining technician
  • Nursing professionals
  • Pressure welder
  • Soil scientist
  • Urban and regional planner

There are many more skills on the complete list. Foreigners who wish to apply for a critical skills visa should check the latest full version of the document to see whether they have the relevant qualifications to apply for a work permit and apply for jobs in South Africa.

Critical skills visa application

Critical skills visa applicants must submit the following documents at the Visa Facilitation Centre or South African embassy:

  • Completed and signed application form
  • Valid passport
  • Vaccination certificate, if required
  • Proof of financial means to cover the individual’s living expenses until they receive their salary: bank statements, cash, travellers’
  • Medical reports
  • Police clearance certificate from all the countries lived in for a year or more since the age of 18
  • Evaluation of foreign qualifications by SAQA translate into an official language of South Africa

Within 12 months of obtaining the critical skills visa, the applicant must present a work contract as proof of employment.

Intra-company transfer work visa

This type of permit is required by employees of multinational companies who wish to transfer them from an overseas branch to South Africa. The intra-company transfer work visa is valid for a maximum of 4 years, it cannot be renewed or extended.

Intra-company work visa requirements

The documentation required to apply for an intra-company transfer work visa is largely the same as those to apply for a general work visa.

In addition, intra-company transfer work visa applicants need a letter from the South African company confirming the transfer from the parent or affiliate company abroad.

This letter must state the occupation and role the employee will carry out and confirm that the duration of the employment will not exceed 4 years.

Corporate visas and corporate worker’s visas

Should a company wish to employ numerous workers from overseas in order to fill a skills shortage, they must apply for a corporate visa. The application has to state the number of workers they require and provide specific job descriptions.

The company must also be able to prove that they have been unable to find workers with the relevant skills and experience locally. This time of visa is most common in sectors such as farming, mining, and engineering.

Provided the corporate visa application is approved, the Department of Home Affairs issues the visa and authorisation certificates for each worker. At this point the company can start recruiting from overseas, each new employee will be given a corporate workers certificate.

Corporate worker’s visa

The Corporate worker’s certificate should then be converted into a corporate worker’s visa by the employee. The corporate worker’s visa will be valid or as long as the corporate visa, up to a maximum of 3 years.

Visas for business activity in South Africa

The permits detailed above are for individuals who wish to become engaged in paid employment in South Africa. Travellers who simply wish to carry out business activities on behalf of their company back home to not need a long-term work visa.

Instead, South Africa business visas are available for eligible foreign citizens. The business visa is valid for a maximum of 90 days for work purposes or to invest in the South African economy. There are also visit visas for attending conferences in South Africa.

However, if the primary purpose of the trip is tourism, visitors should opt for the South Africa tourist visa which is also valid for up to 90 days. South Africa’s tourist eVisa is to be launched in 2021 which will simplify the application process.