How Can I Get A Work Permit in South Africa

Work Permit South Africa

Getting a work visa can turn out to be a nightmare if you don’t have your ducks in a row. You need to know what work visas are available and the qualifying criteria.

South Africa’s immigration system is confusing and frustrating if you are not experienced, but today we are here to give you all the information you need to qualify yourself. South Africa is a popular destination for many neighbouring countries and tourists from all over the world. 

It is in your best interest to make use of experienced immigration agents in South Africa.

Our government which regulates the immigration law called “The Department of Home Affairs” amended the regulations in 2014 which now prohibits first-time applications from being submitted in South Africa.

First-time applications must be submitted in your country of residence for any form of temporary residence visa.

These are the different South Africa visa types you can apply for.

The first step to obtaining a work permit


The first steps


The first step you need to complete is finding out which work visa you would qualify for. There are 4 types of work visas and applying for the incorrect one would lead to your work visa being rejected.

To find out which visa you qualify for, you can either speak to an immigration agent who is experienced and can tell you which visa you qualify for or you can read further to find out which visa you qualify for.

Once you have found out which visa you qualify for, the next step is securing employment.

You can start by browsing employment websites to try and secure employment in South Africa such as:

Many employers in South Africa are not educated about employing a foreign national and what the process entails.

You have to take it upon yourself to educate them so that they can understand the immigration process.

Many prospective employers would request a work visa before they employ you, however, this is not how it works. To get a work visa you first need the job offer before you can apply.

What is a working visa?


what is a works visa


A work permit in South Africa is a special authorization visa from the Department of Home Affairs that allows a foreign citizen the right to work in our country legally.

If you are interested in working in the country you must follow the correct procedures.

There are different types of work permits and familiarising yourself with the different types will help you in knowing which visa you qualify for.

Who Qualifies for A Work Visa In South Africa?


Qualifying for a work visa


Qualifying for a work visa for SA is dependent on your situation and whether you satisfy the requirements for the visa. 

All work visa types have their own set of criteria which must be satisfied to submit for the visa. Applicants with the right type of work skills and qualifications are eligible to submit for this residence visa which they are allowed to add their immediate family members such as a spouse and dependents

Types of Work Permits in South Africa

Types of work visas

There are 4 types of work visas for South Africa:


  • Critical Skills Visa
  • Corporate Workers Visa
  • General Work Visa
  • Intra-company transfer work visa

Requirements to get a work visa


Requirements for a work visa


The requirements for foreigners to work differ

Critical Skills Visa:

SA has a shortage of certain occupations which cannot be filled by a South African citizen or permanent resident because of the lack of skills.

The Department of Home Affairs in 2014 combined the exceptional skills visa and the quota visa to form the new critical skills work visa. A critical Skills occupation list has been updated in 2022 which has all the shortages of occupations listed.

Qualifying criteria for the visa:

  • Must have a job offer (Offer letter & Contract of employment)
  • Occupation must be listed on the critical skills list
  • Applicants must be registered with a professional body or council that is the regulator of their profession in South Africa.
  • Have no criminal record.
  • Not suffering from tuberculosis
  • Your qualifications have been assessed by the South African Qualifications Authority

Duration of the visa:

The visa is valid for a maximum of 5 years or the duration of your contract if it is less than 5 years.

When do you qualify for permanent residence:

  1. When you have been on the critical skills works visa for 5 years straight, with no visa change in between.
  2. If you have more than 5 years of work experience in your occupation.

Corporate Workers Visa:

A corporate entity in South Africa can apply for a corporate visa which allows the company to employ a predetermined number of foreigners.

The corporate company first has to apply for the corporate visa for the company and once approved then only can they start recruiting foreigners.

The company must however prove that they have explored all avenues in first finding South African citizens or permanent residency holders.

Qualifying criteria for the visa:

  • The corporate company has a corporate visa.
  • You are being employed in the position that the corporate visa was issued for.
  • No criminal record
  • You have not been diagnosed with tuberculosis

Duration of the visa:

The corporate worker’s visa is issued for 4 years or the remainder of the company’s corporate visa.

Can I apply for permanent residency:

The holder of the corporate worker’s visa does not qualify for permanent residence.

General Work Visa:

The general work visa is issued to foreign citizens who can prove that a South African citizen or permanent residence holder has not been displaced.

The employer previously had to obtain a labour permit in South Africa from the Department of Labour. The process has now changed in 2022 and the employer still has to proceed with the Department of Labour but this time they will be issued with a final visa notification letter. The Department of labour certificate for a work permit is crucial and our blog post has all the details.

The Department of Home Affairs is trying to protect the South African labour market.

Qualifying criteria:

  • Employer to obtain final visa notification letter
  • Must have a job offer and employment contract
  • Qualifications assessed by the South African Qualifications Assessment Authority
  • No criminal record
  • Not been diagnosed with Tuberculosis

Duration of the visa:

The visa is issued for a maximum of 5 years or the duration of the contract if it is less than 5 years. The visa can be renewed closer to the expiry of the visa.

Can I qualify for permanent residency:

The holder of a general work visa qualifies for permanent residency after completing 5 continuous years.

Intra-Company Transfer Work visa:

Multinational companies who has a branch, affiliate or subsidiary in South Africa are allowed to send foreign staff members to work in South Africa.

The local branch, affiliate or subsidiary branch must have transfer skills plan in place to show that the foreign applicant’s skills are being transferred to a South African citizen or permanent residence holder.

This is one of the work permits in South Africa that cannot be renewed unless you have a special circumstance.

Qualifying criteria for the visa:

  • Been employed with the overseas branch for 6 months or more.
  • Employees’ skills transfer in place
  • No criminal record
  • You have not been diagnosed with Tuberculosis

Duration of the visa:

The visa is issued for a maximum of 4 years and cannot be extended.

Can I qualify for permanent residency:

The intra-company transfer work visa does not qualify for permanent residency.

Can my spouse and children join me?


Adding family to a work visa


The holder of an original South African work permit can add immediate family members to their visa as dependents such as a spouse or kids.

The dependents can accompany the main visa holder for the duration of his or her visa in South Africa.

Can my spouse work on an accompanying visa?

No, your spouse is not allowed to work, study or start their own business while accompanying you. Many applicants wonder if there is an accompanying spouse work permit for South Africa and sadly nothing like this exists.

If your spouse would like to work, they would then have to qualify in their own right for the visa.

Can my children attend school with an accompanying dependent visa?

No, if your children are of school-going age they must then apply for a student visa to attend a school or any other educational institution registered with the Department of Education.

Where do you apply for the work visa?


Where to apply for a work visa



Applicants who are on a visit visa in South Africa cannot apply in the country. This means they have to travel back to their country of residence to submit their application at the South African embassy, diplomatic mission or consulate.

How can a foreigner get a work permit in South Africa:

Applicants are not allowed to change their status in South Africa if they are on a visit visa. The only exceptions are made for foreign spouses and children of South African citizens or permanent residency holders.

The only people who can apply for a visa in South Africa are those who are currently on a temporary residence visa. This is known as a change of status which in layman’s terms is changing from one long-term visa to another long-term visa.

Applications in South Africa must be submitted through Visa Facilitation Centre (VFS). Applications must be submitted in person and your biometrics will be captured.

The work permit application process


Work Permit Process


There are many 3rd party requirements you need to complete including documents you must collect before you are allowed to make a visa submission.

South African Qualifications Authority – SAQA

All foreign qualifications obtained abroad must be evaluated by the South African Qualifications Authority to assess whether they are on par with the South African National Qualifications framework.

The following work visas must include a SAQA certificate:

  • Critical Skills Work Visa
  • General Work Visa
  • Corporate Workers Visa

The process should generally take about 4 – 6 weeks but this can take longer if they have received a high volume of applications.

Department of Employment and Labour (DEL)

Employers must ensure that they complete the Department of Employment and Labour process first before doing anything else.

Most people refer to this as “labor permit South Africa”

The following work visas must be vetted by the Department of Employment and Labour before an application is listed with the DHA.

  • General Work Visa
  • Corporate Visa (This is the company visa that the employer needs to submit)

Once the application has been approved, then only may the applicants and employers proceed with the application.

Registering your occupation with a professional body or council

An applicant submitting for a critical skills visa must register with a professional body or council before they can submit for the visa.

Each professional body or council has there own requirements which they would assess you against. Some require you to complete an assessment and some would require evidence from previous employers listing your experiences.

Most professional bodies would require you to include your SAQA certificate as well.

Once you have passed your assessment, they would then issue you with a membership letter and a letter confirming that you are eligible to apply for the critical skills visa.

The duration depends on each professional body.

Requesting a police clearance certificate

All people submitting a visa must request a police clearance from their country of residence and every country they have lived in since the age of 18.

The certificate should not be older than 6 months at the time of submission.

Each country has their process and processing time so you must request it just at the right time.

Medical & Radiology forms

Anyone submitting a visa that is 6 months or longer must submit medical and radiology forms.

Medical Forms

The medical check is done by a general practitioner to check for the following:

  1. Physical and mental valuation
  2. You are not suffering from any diseases such as leprosy, venereal disease, trachoma or any other infectious or contagious condition.

Radiology Forms

The radiology check is a chest x-ray to see that you do not suffer from the following:

  1. Signs of active pulmonary tuberculosis.

These forms must be completed by a registered doctor and radiologist in your country of residence.

The forms must have the following present when submission:

  • The physical address of the practice
  • Practice number and stamp
  • Physical address
  • Contact details

These forms should not be older than 6 months at the time of submission.

Undertaking letters from your employer

Your employer has to create the following written undertakings which must be included in your application:

  • A letter from your employer stating that they accept the responsibility for the costs of deportation for you and your family should you need to be deported from the country
  • A letter from your employer stating that they will always ensure that your passport is kept valid for the duration of your employment.
  • Your employer has to provide you with their full particulars including the business registration with the Commission on Intellectual Property and Companies (CIPC)
  • A letter from your employer that they will inform the Director-General should you not comply with the immigration regulations or the conditions of your visa.
  • A letter from your employer that they will inform the Director-General when you are no longer employed by them or if they have been promoted to a different within the company.

These are most of the 3rd party processes that you need to complete before applying for a works visa.

How long does the application process take?


How long does it take to get a work visa



Submitting a work visa abroad at a South African embassy, diplomatic mission or consulate depends on how busy the embassy is then.

The visa processing abroad takes about 90 days on average to process.

In South Africa:

A visa to process in South Africa takes about 5 – 10 months to process because of COVID-19.

DHA closed their doors during COVID-19 and when it started accepting applications it received a large number of applications which created a huge backlog.

Obtaining a vfs work permit in South Africa comes with delays and therefore applying abroad makes more sense.

The costs of a work visa


How much does a work visa cost


There are various costs for a work visa:

  • Medical – This is dependent on the costs of your general practitioner or your medical aid might cover.
  • Radiology – This is dependent on the costs for your x-rays and you can find out if your medical aid will cover these costs.
  • South African Qualifications Assessment – R 1,700.00 for the first qualification and thereafter R 850,00.
  • Professional Body or Council membership fees – This is dependent on what the professional body or council charges for an assessment and joining fees.
  • Translation of documents – If any of your documents have been published in a foreign language then you need to have this translated by a sworn translator into English. This cost depends on the sworn translator’s service fee.
  • Department of Home Affairs fees – For all work visas, there is a charge of R 1520.00 in South Africa and abroad the price is similar which is converted into your currency.
  • Visa facilitation fee (VFS) – In South Africa VFS is contracted to accept visa submissions on behalf of Home Affairs. Their fee charge is R 1550.00

Can I change employers?


Changing employers with a work visa


Your work visa is endorsed with your current employer’s company name on your visa. Therefore if you have secured a new employment opportunity, you then have to submit a new work visa for that company.

The visa is not open-ended meaning every time you change employers you must then submit a new visa every time.

Can I Work in South Africa Without a Work Permit

Under no circumstances are you allowed to work in SA with no visa of any sort that allows you to legally work.

The consequences are dire which can lead you to be arrested and deported back to your country of residence. Your employer will be fined by the DHA and things could become a legal battle that can have a severe impact on the future of the business.

You can be listed as an undesirable person and banned from the country for a certain number of years.

You and your prospective employer should follow the legal route and apply for the visa, then once you receive the visa then only may you start working. We understand that it can be frustrating waiting for the visa to be approved, but your employer needs to be patient and understanding. 

During an interview, you must communicate to your employer that you are not allowed to work and that it could be anything from 3 months to collect documents whilst the 3rd party processes can take some time to complete. The more information that you relay and educate your prospective employer the better the expectations from them as to when you can start working.

An Immigration agent will keep your prospective employer in the loop and educate them about the visa process to set the right expectations. 

Online work permit application South Africa


Online work visa application


Unfortunately, you cannot complete the process online as certain aspects require you to do things in person.

  • You have to submit your application in person so that your biometrics can be captured.
  • You have to submit your application in person.

The only thing that is completed online is the forms in SA which entail VFS and scheduling your appointment.

Most embassies, consulates or diplomatic missions are still done manually and you have to complete the 1738 DHA forms by pen.

Can I study part-time?


Studying part time with a work visa


You are allowed to study part-time if you are on one of the following visas:

  • Critical Skills Visa
  • General Work Visa
  • Intra-company transfer visa

You are not allowed to study full-time and if you wish to do so then you must apply for a student visa.

Migrate With Q can assist you in submitting for a work visa and you can contact us for a free assessment. We will give you the best advice so that you can make an informed decision. A new South Africa work permit awaits you.

About Charl

Charl Vollmer

Charl Vollmer has 8 years of experience helping people immigrate to South Africa. I am passionate about helping people and making their dreams a reality. Charl constantly stays up to date with South African Immigration rules and regulations.  To contact Charl, visit our contact page.

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