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Immigration & Work Permits

Work Permits

Foreign workers are required to have the proper visas and work permits in South Africa, as established by immigration laws. Work permits must be secured for employees, and sponsored by a locally licensed and incorporated entity. If you have yet to complete the incorporation process you can use an outsourced management company or GEO Employer of Record to sponsor the employee for the necessary permits.

You must apply for visa in a South African embassy before you arrive in South Africa, and must read all requirements and make sure you follow these requirements to the letter. A visa will take different times to process depending on the visa type and embassy which processes the application. The cost will depend on the type of visa and country of application.

Unfortunately the visa process and requirements are also influenced by the type of visa, nationality of the applicant and which Embassy it the application is lodged with. For example the Embassy may require the applicant to:

  • Lodge a cash deposit equivalent to the value of a return trip to their home country
  • Show a police clearance certificate from every country where the applicant has lived (for 12 months or longer) since the age of 18.
  • Supply medical and radiology reports
  • Show bank statements
  • Supply a vaccination certificate (most commonly if the applicant has travelled in a region prone to Yellow Fever)
  • Show they have medical coverage for their time in South Africa

Applications must be lodged in person, but can generally be picked up by someone else provided they have a letter of consent from the applicant, the applicant’s passport and proof of their own identity.

Your Options

Use your own company

Companies who are properly incorporated and registered in South Africa can organise General Work Visas for their foreign workers. It takes 2-4 months dependent on whether the company is already registered for sponsorship. The processing time varies dependent on the country of residence of the employee.

The processing steps are:

Employee supplies documentation to Company

Company gathers required documentation

  • Written undertaking to cover any deportation costs related to applicant and dependents
  • Written undertaking to inform the Director-General if the applicant fails to comply with the visa conditions
  • Written undertaking to the Director General if the terms of the employment change
  • Proof of company registration with the CIPC (Commission on Intellectual Property and Companies)
  • Employment contract signed by employer and applicant. The contract must show the employment is conditional on General Work Visa approval, and that the employee is being paid a suitable market salary or better.
  • Supporting letter from Employer to state why the General Work Visa is required for this particular applicant
  • A completed application form: DHA-1738
  • Proof of the position being advertised in the national print media in South Africa

Company applies for an SAQA (South African Qualifications Authority) evaluation of the applicants qualifications (2-3 weeks).

Company applies to Department of Labor for certificate confirming no local person could be employed in the position

Company must confirm to the Department of Home Affairs each year that the employee remains employed as well as update the Department as to the terms and conditions of the employment including the job description.

When this process is complete (1-2 months) the employee must lodge the Work Permit application in person at the South African Consulate in their country of residence. The processing time is 30 days (Consulate dependent). Once the application is approved the employee can then enter South Africa to commence their assignment.

Employee documentation required :

  • Completed application form
  • CV
  • passport copy
  • 2 passport photos
  • medical report (from within last 6 months)
  • radiological report (from within last 6 months)
  • police clearance certificate(from within last 6 months) covering every country where the applicant has spent at least 12 months since they turned 18 years old.
  • birth certificate
  • marriage certificate if applicable

Shield GEO Solution

Shield GEO can organise General Work Visas for foreign workers in South Africa. It costs USD $2,500 and takes between 45-65 days. The processing time varies dependent on the country of residence of the employee.

The processing steps are:

  • Employee supplies documentation to Shield GEO
  • Shield GEO applies for an SAQA (South African Qualifications Authority) evaluation of the applicants qualifications (2-3 weeks).

When this is complete the candidate must lodge the Work Permit application in person at the South African Consulate in their country of residence. The processing time is 30 days (Consulate dependent). Once the application is approved the employee can then enter South Africa to commence their assignment.

Employee documentation required :

  • Completed application form
  • CV
  • passport copy
  • 2 passport photos
  • medical report (from within last 6 months)
  • radiological report (from within last 6 months)
  • police clearance certificate(from within last 6 months) covering every country where the applicant has spent at least 12 months since they turned 18 years old.
  • birth certificate
  • marriage certificate if applicable

Types of visas in South Africa

Category Description of Visa
General Work Visa Visa is for the length of the employment contract which must be demonstrated to the Director-General every year and up to a maximum of 5 years. The visa is linked directly to the employer who sponsors it. If the employee changes employers they must apply for a new General Work Visa.
The employer must demonstrate that they advertised for the position and were unable to find a suitable local candidate, thus requiring the applicant from overseas. The applicant should show sufficient skills and experience (typically 5+ years work experience and a relevant educational or professional qualification).
The applicant must be paid a market salary as set by the Department of Labour or a benchmarking organisation.
The applicant must register with the relevant professional body within South Africa, if applicable.
Processing time: Varies by the Embassy / High Commission where it is lodged. E.g. The South African High Commission in the US takes 4 weeks, in the UK it takes 1 month, in Australia it is 3 weeks.
Duration: limited by the duration of the employment but up to a maximum of 5 years
Cost: Varies by the Embassy / High Commission where it is lodged. E.g. The South African High Commission in the US charges USD $255, in the UK it costs GBP £125, in Australia it is AUD $167.
Renewable: Yes
Critical Skills Work Visa Valid for 3 years. Can be obtained without a job offer but the visa holder must show that they are employed in their field within 12 months of receiving the Critical Skills Work Visa.
Processing time: Varies by the Embassy / High Commission where it is lodged. It is suggested to take 6-8 weeks. E.g. The South African High Commission in the US takes 4 weeks, in the UK it takes 1 month, in Australia it is 3 weeks.
Duration: maximum of 3 years
Cost: Varies by the Embassy / High Commission where it is lodged - it is meant to be approx ZAR 1520. E.g. The South African High Commission in the US charges USD $255, in the UK it costs GBP £125, in Australia it is AUD $167.
Renewable: Yes up to a maximum total of 5 years
Intra-Company Transfer Work Visa For an employee transferring from a foreign company into the South African branch or affiliated company.
Max 4 years duration, non-extendable. The employee must have been employed by the foreign company for at least 6 months before applying for Intra-Company Transfer Work Visa.
Processing time: Varies by the Embassy / High Commission where it is lodged. It is suggested to take 6-8 weeks. E.g. The South African High Commission in the US takes 4 weeks, in the UK it takes 1 month, in Australia it is 3 weeks.
Duration: maximum of 3 years
Cost: Varies by the Embassy / High Commission where it is lodged. E.g. The South African High Commission in the US charges USD $255, in the UK it costs GBP £125, in Australia it is AUD $167.
Renewable: Yes
Entreprenuer Visa (Business Permit) For applicants who want to start a business in South Africa. The visa is issued for 3 years and is extendable. Must invest at least ZAR 5,000,000 into South Africa and the business must employ at least 60% South African residents. Requires approval from the South African Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). The DTI will assess whether the business is feasible and will make a positive contribution to South Africa's national interest.
Processing time: Varies by the Embassy / High Commission where it is lodged. It is suggested to take 6-8 weeks. E.g. The South African High Commission in the US takes 4 weeks, in the UK it takes 1 month, in Australia it is 3 weeks.
Duration: maximum of 3 years
Cost: Varies by the Embassy / High Commission where it is lodged. E.g. The South African High Commission in the US charges USD $255, in the UK it costs GBP £125, in Australia it is AUD $167.
Renewable: Yes
Business Visa This is a temporary visa for business purposes. Not to be confused with the Business Permit above.
Processing time: Varies by the Embassy / High Commission where it is lodged. It is suggested to take 1-2 weeks. E.g. The South African High Commission in the US takes 5-10 days, in the UK it takes 5 working days, in Australia it is 10 working days.
Duration: maximum of 3 months
Cost: Varies by the Embassy / High Commission where it is lodged. E.g. The South African High Commission in the US charges USD $72, in the UK it costs GBP £35, in Australia it is AUD $167.
Renewable: No but it may be possible to change to a temporary residence permit provided the conditions are met.
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