- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals South Africa Guide (PDF)
Expats wishing to take up employment in South Africa will need to acquire a work permit, but getting one isn't always a consistent process. In South Africa, work permits are known as work visas and allow the bearer to enter, stay and work in the country.
Applying for a work visa for South Africa
The main consideration for work visas is still whether South African citizens are able to perform the task in question at the same level as the applicant. The documentation required to prove this is a grey area that partially depends on officials' personal discretion. As a result, patience and persistence are highly advised for expats who don't have an employer organising their permit for them.
There are several visas for expats wanting to work in South Africa, including the General Work Visa, Critical Skills Work Visa and the Intra-company Transfer Work Visa.
Either way, the first time that expats apply for a visa has to be at a South African mission outside the country. It isn't possible to change from a visit visa to a work visa while in South Africa.
Types of work visas for South Africa
General Work Visas
To apply for a General Work Visa, expats must have a job offer from a South African employer. General Work Visas are issued for the term of the work contract, up to a maximum of five years.
Prospective employers have to prove that they were unable to find a South African citizen or permanent resident for the expat's position. Linked to this, expat employees have to provide proof that they have the necessary qualifications or skills needed for the job. Expat employees are also not allowed to earn less than the average salary and benefits earned by citizens and permanent residents in similar positions.
Critical Skills Work Visas
The South African Critical Skills Work Visa enables foreigners working within certain fields to enter the country regardless of whether they have an offer of employment, as long as they have an occupation listed on the government's critical skills list.
As is the case with General Work Visas, Critical Skills Work Visas can only be issued for five years or less. Expats on this visa will need to prove to the authorities that they've obtained employment within 12 months of being issued the visa. The main sectors identified by the critical skills list include engineering, information and communications technology, science, research and medicine.
Intra-company Transfer Work Visas
Multinational businesses often use this visa for transferring personnel between branches in different countries. The Intra-company Transfer Work Visa is valid for up to four years. Required documentation includes an employment contract and letters from both the transferring company outside of South Africa and the receiving company in South Africa.
►For info on employment in the country, see Working in South Africa
►For more on residency visas and requirements, see Visas for South Africa
"The visa process is incredibly frustrating. I would advise anyone seeking to work here to apply for a Critical Skills visa back in their home country, rather than submitting here."
Read more of Indian expat Namrata's advice for those moving to South Africa.
"I would recommend doing lots of research before moving here and taking care of things as much as possible before you leave, through your home embassy. I used an immigration consultant. I know people who have worked through the process themselves, but having a consultant really helps."
American expat Heather shares her experiences moving to and living in Johannesburg.
Are you an expat living in South Africa?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to South Africa. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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