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How to Apply for a Work Permit in South Africa
Everything you need to know about work visa application and temporary residency
Recently updated: Here’s how you can live and work in South Africa on a visa.
Last Update: 23 February 2018
Applying for a work visa in South Africa or any other temporary residence visa is challenging; plus, new immigration regulation was introduced in 2014 for the first time in a decade.
The changes are meant to put South African legislation more on par with international standards and to facilitate faster application turnaround times, but it's still difficult for businesses and people to navigate a new system.
As Black Pen Immigration, who are specialists in South African immigration law, explains, “Applying for temporary residence visas (i.e. work visas) can come with lots of pain and frustration.”
Black Pen is one of many South African companies that facilitate the application process. Black Pen strives to do its best to make the experience as painless as possible.
To mitigate the anxiety and confusion that often comes with applying for temporary residence visas in South Africa, we’ve asked Black Pen to provide answers to some of the most common application-related queries. Remember though, if the information below isn’t enough to help you lodge your application individually, Black Pen is happy to aid you in the process.
FAQS ABOUT TEMPORARY RESIDENCE AND WORK VISA APPLICATION IN SOUTH AFRICA
1. How have the 2014 immigration regulation changes affected the rules surrounding temporary residence and work visa application?
The 2014 immigration regulation changes affect everything from the application process to the fees associated with application process. To learn more, have a look at our article about the immigration revisions. Otherwise, be aware that all information below reflects the changes.
2. What are the different types of temporary residence visas in South Africa?
Below we discuss 8 of the different types of temporary residence visas in South Africa:
Relatives Visa South Africa: for applicants who are strictly biological relatives of a South African citizen or a foreigner with a South African permanent residence permit. Children who are legally adopted also qualify. People on this visa do not have the right to work.
Spousal/Life Partner Visa South Africa: for applicants who are married to or in a permanent relationship with a South African citizen or a foreigner with a South African permanent residence permit. This applies to those in both heterosexual relationships and same-sex relationships. People on this visa do not have the automatic right to work or run their own business, but this right can be applied for separately. To lodge an application under the life partner visa category it is necessary to prove two years cohabitation, and both partners must participate in separate, simultaneous interviews at a South African consulate or embassy in the home country of the foreign partner.
General Work Visa South Africa: for applicants who have a job offer from a South African company that’s willing to participate in the process. The company will need to justify why you should be awarded a position over and above a South African and will be required to prove that they advertised the job in print media for a specific duration of time. Applications in this category are subject to approval by the South African Department of Labour, a unit that will further scrutinise the necessity of hiring a foreigner for the appointed job, before they can be reviewed by Home Affairs. Do note, contrary to its name, this visa only allows applicants to work for the specified company.
Critical Skills Work Visa South Africa: for applicants working in an industry that the South African government has characterised as having a scarcity of skills. The list of such industries is published in the government gazette. To apply for a visa in this category you do not need a job offer, but within one year of being granted the visa, you do need to prove you’re gainfully employed in your field.
Intra-company Transfer Work Visa South Africa: for applicants who are employed by a foreign company and are transferring to a branch, subsidiary or affiliate of that company in South Africa. If your company structure is right, this is a relatively easy permit to get approved, but it’s only valid for four years. It is not possible to renew this type of permit.
Business Visa South Africa: for applicants who are planning to start a business in South Africa. In order to apply for this permit, the South African Department of Trade & Industry must deem your business in the country’s national interest and you must be able to prove that 60% of your workforce is made up of either South Africans or permanent residence permit holders. It’s also necessary to invest a minimum of R5 million into the book value of the business.
Retirement Visa South Africa: for applicants who can prove they receive a monthly income equivalent to R37,000 a month . Note, you do not need to meet an age minimum. Alternatively, applicants can also prove they have a capital sum in the bank that’s equivalent to R444,000 per annum (R1,776,000 for the full four years). Applicants who receive this permit can also extend an invitation to their spouse or dependants (biological children under 18 years of age).
Study Visa South Africa: for applicants who are planning to study at a South African educational institution that’s registered with the South African Department of Higher Education (note: this does not include English language schools). This visa also allows for part-time work not exceeding 20 hours per week.
3. For how long is a temporary residence or work visa in South Africa valid?
The length of validity varies depending on the visa category. Generally, visas are valid for between one and five years.
4. What do I need to apply for a temporary residence or work visa in South Africa?
Every type of permit application demands that applicants supply:
- One passport photograph
- A medical certificate that’s no older than six months
- A radiological certificate that’s no older than six months
- Police clearances that are no older than six months from all countries in which you’ve lived for more than 12 months
- Birth certificate
- Marriage certificate, if applicable
- Death certificate, if you’re widowed
- Divorce certificate, if applicable
- Eligibility documents (vary depending on permit category)
5. If I have a criminal record can I still successfully apply for a temporary residence or work visa in South Africa?
Unless you’ve been convicted of a serious crime, like murder, rape or drug trafficking, then, generally, you still qualify to become a South African temporary resident. For instance, the South African Department of Home Affairs often does not consider traffic offences or drunken driving charges reason to deem you an undesirable person. You should however always check this with an immigration company prior to making an application.
6. If I have tuberculosis (TB) can I still successfully apply for a temporary residence or work visa in South Africa?
No. TB is considered an infectious disease and deems you a prohibited and undesirable person. You are not eligible to apply.
7. Where do I apply for a South African temporary residence or work visa and how long is the processing time?
It’s possible to apply in your country of origin, residence or in South Africa. If applying in your country of origin or residence, you must do so at a South African embassy or consulate. If applying in South Africa, you must do so at a Visa Application Centre (VAC). These bodies are run and managed by a company called Visa Facilitation Services (VFS). Do not apply at a Department of Home Affairs office.
Do note: as per the 2014 immigration regulation changes, it's no longer possible for visitor's visa holders to apply for a long term temporary residence visa such as, for example, a work visa, business visa or study visa, in South Africa. These applicants will need to return to their country of origin or residence to lodge an application. However, a spouse or dependent minor child accompanying a work or business visa holder can change to a longer-term visa such as, for example, a work visa, business visa or study visa in South Africa.
Processing times vary and fluctuate and you can currently expect to wait for around 4 – 8 weeks.
8. What happened to the quota and exceptional skills work visas? If I hold one of these visas, what happens?
These visa types were done away with as per the 2014 immigration changes. If you hold one of these visas, it’s recommended that you contact an immigration professional immediately to see how you can apply under one of the other visa categories. It is not possible to renew one of these visas.
9. Is it possible to renew a temporary residence or work visa that’s about to expire?
Yes. Though, you must of course be eligible to apply according to the rules described above. Automatic entitlement does not exist simply because you’ve done this before. You must renew your permit before 60 days of its expiration at a VAC. Generally, the South African Department of Home Affairs will not allow you to apply for renewal more than three months before it expires.
10. What happens if my current temporary residence or work visa expires? Can I apply for a renewal?
No. You can’t submit a renewal application in South Africa on an expired visa. At this point, you become an undesirable person, and if you try to leave the country, you will be banned for a time period that corresponds to the length of time that you’ve overstayed your visa. If you fall into this category, we recommend seeking professional advice according to your circumstances!
11. If I’m working with a general work visa in South Africa, do I need to apply for a new visa if I wish to change employers?
12. Can I work in South Africa if my spouse/life partner is already working with a valid permanent residence work permit in South Africa? What about if I have a spousal/ life partner temporary residence visa myself?
If you have a temporary residence accompanying spousal/life partner visa on the basis of your partner’s permit (or because you have married a South African), you do NOT have the right to work, only to remain with your partner in South Africa. The authorization to be able to work/run your own business must be applied for through the Department of Home Affairs; this is called a work/business endorsement.
13. What do I need to apply for a work or business endorsement on my spousal/life partner temporary residence visa?
To get a work endorsement you need a job contract, and to get a business endorsement you need to register a business with the CIPC. No minimum investment or job creation is needed.
14. Do I need to stay in South Africa the entire time my temporary residence or work visa is valid?
No. You have complete freedom of movement.
15. Is it too difficult to apply for a temporary residence or work visa in South Africa without the help of a professional?
It’s certainly not impossible, but it’s definitely not a pleasure. Application generally comes with long queues, frustration and confusion. Thus, it’s considerably easier and more pleasant to employ an immigration consultant to help you lodge your application, especially in light of the complicated changes to immigration regulation in 2014.
16. What are the benefits of using an immigration consultancy, like Black Pen?
Aside from helping you to avoid the long queues and frustrating interpersonal interactions that come with submitting an application and following up on its outcome, using an immigration consultant gives you the peace of mind of knowing that your application is being handled by someone up to date on all immigration legislation. Immigration consultants know relocation procedures back to front and can give advice about which visa category is best for you.
To get in touch with a consultant about your temporary residence query.
Interested in living in South Africa on a more permanent basis? Read what Immigration Lawyer has to say about getting permanent residence in South Africa.