Work Permit

South African Working Visas

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

Migrating to South Africa can be achieved in a number of ways both on a temporary and permanent basis.

As a specialist immigration consultancy, Global 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 visit 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.

Whilst 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 working permits available for South Africa along with study visas and visit visas.

Working permits allow foreign nationals 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 working 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 working 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 three months (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; a Global Visas migration consultant will be able to help you assess your eligibility.

Exceptional Skills

The third South African work visa category permits applicants to enter the country based upon exceptional skills.

In these circumstances, verification by a reputable body is essential and applications must be accompanied by details of their 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.


Working 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.


  1. Charlotte Arthun

    Volunteer Visas

    I am applying from the United States for a volunteer visa for South Africa. I will be working at a safari lodge as their photographer, but will not be paid. My volunteer position is for one year. Do I qualify for a volunteer visa, or does the institution need to be a non-profit? What does the letter of invitation need to include specifically? Thank you so much.

    1. Profile photo of Your Immigration Expert
      Your Immigration Expert Post author

      South Africa Work Visas
      To secure a volunteer visa for South Africa the unpaid work must be under the order of a bona fide charity or volunteering institution. The lodge will be connected to a conservation charity in South Africa who may endorse your application if you agree to share your photos with them. The arrangement can be discussed further now you under the rule. South Africa still has a fragile economy and their remains a large percentage of the indigenous people without employment and there are no social services making even “unpaid” work desirable as it could lead to tips, food, training or a full-time job. While affirmative action laws still apply to underline this point.

      If you are going to remain longer than six months you will be required to complete a medical and have a yellow fever vaccination.

      The letter simply needs to be on letterhead, outline the duties you will carry out, confirmation it is an unpaid role, the duration of your expected service, signed by a manager with contact details on letterhead. Charities in South Africa are not expected to write a letter in any specific format as this could delay help arriving and distract them from the charitable work they are doing.

      If you can not secure a volunteer visa, I would recommend a retirement visa as there is no minimum age limit and you can secure a temporary retirement visa for four years. For a temporary residency visa, you must demonstrate you have access to ZAR 37,000 per month. This can be in the form of cash/cash equivalents or cash income generated by your capital asset(s). The proof of funds can be either of the aforementioned or a combination of both.

      This would allow you to follow your passion while remaining compliant with South African immigration laws. If you would like further help simply post a further question by joining our community and opening a group or new topic so I can guide you through the visa process.

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