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Finding your new position in South Africa

Securing employment and a work visa isn't always an easy process for the foreigner.

The South African government is naturally eager to support its economy with skilled workers from within its borders first, but there are skill gaps that they want to fill, and opportunities for overseas workers to complement and support the existing workforce.

The important thing to note before launching into your research about employment in the country is that you cannot convert a visitor visa to a work permit while you're there: the application process must take place outside of the country. Do your homework first, before planning your move, or you'll find yourself having to come home before you're able to start work. Bear in mind you cannot apply for a visa at the border — this must be done in your country in advance.

It’s also important to consider that the requirements for entering and leaving the country with your children have changed recently. You must have a full, unabridged birth certificate (the type that shows the names of both parents) or a certified copy for each child — uncertified copies are not acceptable. If you are travelling as a lone parent, or the children are not related to you, there are additional requirements, like proof of parental consent or legal guardianship. The South African department of home affairs has a helpful leaflet with more information, which can be accessed here.

When thinking specifically of employment, there are different work visas available:

Business visa — South Africa welcomes investors in the economy by granting temporary residence to those who want to set up an enterprise but you must:

  • Prove that you have at least R5,000,000 (South African Rand) in cash (or cash and capital) to invest.
  • Demonstrate that your business proposal is feasible and benefits the Republic.
  • Commit to ensuring that at least 60% of your staff will be South African citizens.
  • Register with the relevant professional body and Companies and Intellectual Properties Commission (CIPC).

General work visa — for foreigners who have found a job and who are looking to relocate:

  • To protect the job prospects of South African citizens, the employer has to prove beyond doubt that they have not been able to find someone with the skills and qualifications required before looking to recruit outside of the country.
  • The prospective employee must have the correct qualifications and experience as approved by the South African Qualification Authority (SAQA).
  • There are controls in place to make sure that the position does not offer a lower standard of benefits and salary than it would have, had it been taken by a South African citizen. The company must be properly registered, and it must conform to employment law.

Intra-company transfer work visa:

  • The company must have employed the employee for at least six months.
  • Valid for a maximum of four years — after this time a new application will have to be lodged from the employee’s home country again.

Critical Skills Work Visa (please see information about the list itself below), which replaces the former Exceptional Skills and Quota work visas. From time to time, the Minister for Foreign Affairs will release such a list looking for particular specialisms and trades. If you can choose this route, an application must be submitted online, and there are a number of conditions which much be met including:

  • An application must be made through visa application specialists VFS Global.
  • Your passport must be valid for no less than 30 days after the date you intend to leave.
  • Medical and radiological report less than six months old, and a yellow fever certificate if applicable.
  • Proof of relationship to any family who will be with you.
  • Your employer (if you have one) must ensure that they have the means to pay for your deportation if this is necessary and that you have a full, valid passport.
  • If you don't have an employer, you must prove that you have the means to finance your deportation, if the situation were to arise.
  • Proof that your skills fall within those listed and that your qualifications have been certified by the SAQA.
  • Payment of the applicable fee.
  • Completing the appropriate application, submitting the correct documentation, and meeting the necessary criteria can extend the visa.

Critical skills list

As discussed above, the list serves to fill areas of national need and helps to support the government’s programmes for growth and economic development. Subject to change as the country’s needs evolve it is diverse and includes professions such as:

  • Agricultural engineers and forestry technicians.
  • Supporting South Africa’s infrastructure development, planners, architects, and surveyors are required.
  • In business and IT, computer specialists, financial managers, and advisers.
  • Engineering is also represented, with a need for professionals from some backgrounds including mining, the chemicals industry, and the civil sector.
  • Nurses, public health managers, veterinarians, GPS, specialist doctors and veterinarians to support the nation’s health.
  • Scientists across many fields from biochemistry to archaeology, food science to geology.
  • Technicians and draughtspeople across some areas as well as industrial engineers, landscapers, and scientific practitioners.
  • Some practical trades are represented, from pipefitters and millwrights to riggers and welders.
  • Specific academic and research areas including cosmology and computing science.
  • Find the full list here.

There are some other visas available for visiting, studying, and tourism. The system stipulates that you must provide accurate information on why you are visiting the country and you must stick to this while you're there, or you could be detained or deported. There is plenty more information about the types of visa and how to apply on the South African Department of Home Affairs' website.

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