Discover How to Secure a South African Work Permit

Applying for a South African work permit allows a foreign national to immigrate to South Africa on a temporary basis in order to undertake an offer of employment.

Living and working in South Africa via a Work Permit application bears some similarities to the UK Work Permit placing emphasis upon an offer of employment and involving a primarily employer-led process.

South African Work Permits may be obtained in four different categories, each with their own requirements.

Migrating to South Africa 

As a specialist immigration consultancy, IXP Visas can help you to establish which South Africa visa route is the most appropriate for you. We can help you to obtain a visa for South Africa whether you require a short-term solution such as a Visitor Visa, a longer-term work or study visa or a permanent residence permit allowing you to permanently migrate to South Africa.

Work permit applications can be monitored throughout the process and our immigration consultants can provide South Africa immigration lawyer expertise helping you to navigate the wide range of South Africa visas.

Visa Benefits

South African visas fall into one of two categories, temporary residence permits and permanent residence permits.

While the latter category, as the name suggests, is devoted to those immigrating to South Africa on a permanent basis either through business or family based routes, the temporary residence permit group includes the various types of Work Permits available for South Africa along with Study Visas and Visitor Visas.

Work Permits allow applicants to live and work in South Africa for an agreed period, based upon a job offer being in place. However, whilst these temporary visa services are not specifically intended as routes to permanent resident status in South Africa, they can, with the exception of the Intra-Company Transfer, be extended beyond their initial grant.

A Work Permit is initially awarded for periods of up to one year. However, it can be extended beyond this if the position of employment persists providing that an extension is applied for in good time.

Visa Eligibility

In South Africa, work permits are issued as either a General Work Permit or are granted along the quota system or on the grounds of exceptional ability.

General work permits for South Africa are the most easily recognisable work visas, requiring a specific job offer to be in place before an application can be made.

The process of applying is an employer-led one. In addition to the offered position of employment, the prospective employer must demonstrate that the position has been unsuccessfully advertised in the home market and that no indigenous South African citizen or permanent resident could be found to fill the position.

Applications for this South African immigration service also requires confirmation that the prospective candidate possesses the necessary skills and experience to fulfil the position.

In South Africa, visa applications in this category must demonstrate that:

  • An advertisement has featured in the print media
  • Domestic applicants did apply but were found to be unsuitable
  • The salary is consistent with current remuneration for South African citizens or permanent residents

Alternatively, the quota system allows candidates whose skills lie in one of the several professions deemed to be in short supply to apply for temporary residence in South Africa without the need for a job offer to be in place before an application can be made.

Quota Work Permits can be a popular option as the waiver on the job requirement means that employers do not need to advertise before bringing a foreign national to work for them.

However, this visa service carries its own requirement and applications must demonstrate that the applicant has the necessary skills along with five years of relevant experience.

Importantly, successful candidates must be able to give confirmation within 3months (90 days) of issue that employment has been secured.

The categories of profession included in the quota system and the allocated places in each case are subject to change. our consultant will be able to help you assess your eligibility.

How to prove that the position cannot be filled by a South African national?

The employer will have to prove that no suitable candidate could be found even though the position was advertised. This will serve to prove to the department of home affairs that the position cannot be filled by locally available talent.

Why Should I obtain a recommendation letter from the Department of Labour?

As of 28th May 2014, the Department of Home Affairs has decided to enforce stringent measures with South African employers employing foreign staff members. The Department of Labour has now been recruited to further scrutinise your application in proving that all attempts have been exhausted to first find a local SA Citizen or permanent resident. The Department of Labour will conduct an on-site inspection at your designated workplace to verify that your prospective employer is complying with all labour laws.

According to the Department of Labour, they are currently committed to processing your application within 30 days, but in our experiences, applications are taking about 2 months to be processed before sending your recommendation letter to DHA.

How long does processing this visa take?

Although the South African department of home affairs are committed to processing an application within 30 days, it is more realistic to expect the visa to be processed within 2 to 3 months from the time of lodgement.

Exceptional Skills

The third South African Work Visa category permits applicants to enter the country based on exceptional skills.

In these circumstances, verification by a reputable body is essential and applications must be accompanied by details of the exceptional ability from a South African governmental body or foreign equivalent or an academic or business organisation.

Each case will be assessed on its own merits and the Department of Home Affairs must be satisfied that the claimed ability is consistent with this route. Where documentary evidence can be provided to support the claim of extraordinary ability, it should be included.

The final permit to work in South Africa which can be obtained by foreign nationals is the Intra-Company Transfer or ICT. This allows employees to transfer between South African and foreign branches or subsidiaries of a company to engage in a specific temporary position.

Exceptional Skills Quotas

If you can demonstrate that you have the skills and experience to contribute to the South African economy through one of the chosen professions, you will not need to provide proof of company sponsorship. However, you will need to demonstrate proof of employment within 3 months of entering South Africa on this visa. If you do not manage to gain a job and provide proof within this period, your Work Permit will be revoked by the Department of Home Affairs.

These quotas exist because South Africa needs more people with these skill sets to fill existing labour gaps.

What Professions are Included on the Quotas?

As with most labour shortage lists, these skills change annually. South African quotas allow between 150 and 4,150 people to enter the country under each of these professional categories, and figures are worked out based on current needs.

Professions that are currently in demand are:

  • Information and Organisation
  • Manufacturing and Construction
  • Natural and Physical Science
  • Biomedical Engineers and Technicians
  • Health
  • Education
  • Agriculture and Science
  • Science
  • Building and Engineering
  • Manufacturing and Process
  • Fabrication Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Electro-technology and Telecommunication
  • Jewelry
  • Information and Communication Technology

If you have skills and experience in any of these areas, we will help you provide the evidence to support your application and ensure you are competitive against the many other applications under each category and have the best chance of success in your application.

All applications need to be supported by documentary evidence.

What Documents Will I Need to Submit?

In addition to the documentation discussed above, there are standard documents you will need to submit to support your application. These largely work to prove your identity and show that you comply with the health and character requirements.

As part of a standard application, you’re likely to need:

  • The application form
  • Your passport
  • The fee
  • A vaccination certificate
  • Proof of financial means to support yourself while in South Africa
  • Medical reports
  • Police clearance certificates
  • A letter of motivation to state that your skills will benefit South Africa
  • Any documentation needed for your spouse and/or children to join you


Work Visas for South Africa, as discussed above, are not specifically designed for those wishing to gain permanent resident status.

However, candidates may extend their permits or ultimately apply for a permanent residence permit. As a result, several circumstances may arise in which applicants relocate to South Africa for a period of several years.

As a result, spouse immigration and dependent immigration are permitted and a successful applicant's immediate family members may join them in the country. However, dependents will not be permitted to undertake employment unless they secure their own permit for work.

South African Work Permits

Name: Working visas for South Africa

Description: Mass unemployment and affirmative action make securing a South African work permit difficult even with the strongest possible business case. To enter South Africa to take a position of employment in the current climate requires a strong case and just a little bit of luck.

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