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This page contains information on South African work visas for individuals. Should you represent a business requiring work visas for two or more foreign employees in South Africa, please review our corporate services section or contact us for more information.
Definition of Work
Since the legislative amendments of July 2005, "work" is defined to include "any activity consistent with being employed or consistent with the profession of the person, with or without reward". This means that any such activity requires the appropriate South African work visa in order to be conducted legally in the country.
Persons wishing to seek or take up employment in South Africa continue to require a formal work permit. There is a choice of various categories of work authorisations and permits, which is to be made according to the type and duration of the post as well as to the applicant’s qualifications and/or experience.
Short-term Authorisation to Work
The wider definition of "work" includes many activities that could previously be conducted while being in possession of an ordinary visitor's permit. This applies to short-term project work, unpaid internships or seasonal work in the hospitality or film industries for example. In these cases a so-called "authorisation to work" may be obtained, which is linked to a visitor's permit and far less onerous to obtain than the formal work permit.
General Work Visa
The most commonly known work visa type is the so-called "general work visa". Here, the prospective employer needs to motivate his need for the foreign applicant’s specific qualifications, skills or experience and to submit proof of his efforts to recruit a local candidate (amongst other things by way of an advertisement of the position in a specific format). Further, the applicant’s qualifications need to be evaluated by the South African evaluation authorities (), which can be time-consuming and costly. Also a salary benchmarkingobtained, to show that the foreigner will not be paid below the local standards.
IMCOSA will gladly advise you in detail regarding the requirements and handle all necessary procedural steps on your behalf. Contact us if you wish to find out whether you qualify for a general work visa.
Quota Work Visa
The quotas and list of professional categories for the "quota work permit" published in March 2006 came as a disappointment to those expecting it to be as flexible as its predecessor. It was updated in 2007 and again in May of 2009. Those who fall within its specialised categories and can prove at least five years' work experience in their field, may obtain a work permit with substantially less onerous requirements than those of the general work permit. Here, the employer does not need to motivate and prove that the position cannot be filled by a South African citizen or permanent resident. Of particular interest is the fact that a quota work permit can be issued even if no job offer has been made to the applicant yet. A binding contract is to be submitted to the Department within 90 days. The applicant’s qualifications need to be evaluated by the South African evaluation authorities (), which may be costly and time-consuming if one is not well informed.
Persons with exceptional skills or qualifications can be granted an "exceptional skills work visa" purely on the grounds of those skills or qualifications and independently of a particular job offer or position to be taken. The term "exceptional" is not defined in the legislation. However, the skills need to be proven by a prescribed set of documents, which are not easily available to most applicants. Let us know should you feel that you may qualify for this category.
In the case of secondments or transfers of employees between branches, related or affiliated companies, a so-called "intra-company transfer visa" may be applied for. The requirements for this type of permit are lower and the process around it is less onerous than in the other work permit categories, but the permit is restricted to a period of 2 years and cannot easily be extended. In terms of the latest draft legislation, the time of promulgation of which is uncertain, the period will be extended to 4 years.
Corporate Worker Visa
Persons wishing to take up employment with an organisation that is in possession of amay apply for a "corporate worker visa". The requirements are very basic in comparison to most other work visa categories.
Spouses or Life Partners of South Africans
Spouses or life partners (hetero- or homosexual) of South African citizens or residents, who are supported by their partners, may obtain a work authorisation without having to meet the onerous requirements of the formal work visas. Let us know if you wish to find out more about this category.
Voluntary or Charitable Activity
Persons wishing to take up charitable or voluntary activities in South Africa (typically with a non-profit, religious or other charitable organisation) can obtain an extended visitor’s permit for a period of up to 3 years, which authorises them to conduct this type of work. It seems to be within the nature and general definition of such activities that they may not be remunerated, or else a work permit would be required.
In another visa category, permanent residence is open to persons who fall within certain professional categories. However, the relevant categories have not been published since 2005, and thus no such applications can be made at this point in time.
Permanent residence on the grounds of exceptional skills may be applied for immediately without a work offer.
In the case of voluntary or charitable activities a permanent residence permit may not be granted.
Contact us to find out more about obtaining a South African work visa.