Permanent Residence Permits
Foreigners must obtain either a work permit or a permanent residence permit from the Head Office of the Department of Home Affairs in order to work in South Africa.
If an employee expects to work for a period in excess of twelve months, it is advisable that he/she applies for permanent residence, although temporary permits can be extended. Foreigners seeking employment in South Africa should visit the South African Embassy or Consulate- General in their own country of residence.
Persons entering South Africa under a permanent residence permit are considered to be immigrants. No customs deposits are necessary on furniture and personal effects and the immigrant is allowed to import one car per family free of duty (although VAT will be payable). A foreign driver’s license is valid in South Africa for a period of six months, provided the license is in English and contains a photograph of the license holder. The holder of a foreign license may, within the six month period, exchange it for a South African driver’s license.
For some time, permanent residence applications have taken many months to be finalized.
Business Permits (Entrepreneurs)
A business permit may be issued to any foreigner intending to establish, invest in or who has established or invested in a business in which he or she may be employed, provided a number of criteria are met. Full details are available from the Department of Home Affairs. The business permit is granted for 24 months at a time and may be extended for that same period on application.
Special mention needs to be made of the fact that apart from having sufficient funds to support themselves and their family, the applicant must be able to invest in the business. The funds must originate overseas, be transferable to South Africa and belong to the applicant (i.e. emanate from the applicant’s own bank account). Certification by a chartered accountant that at least ZAR 2.5 million is available to be invested (as part of the book value of the business) must be obtained. The amount may be reduced or waived on recommendation of the Department of Trade and Industry or when it falls within one of the prescribed sectors, which are in the national interest.
In addition, after 6 months to a year, proof will have to be submitted that the business is employing five South African citizens or permanent residents, excluding family members of the employer.
Work permits are a form of temporary residence permit. They are issued for a maximum period of one year after which, on application, they may be extended.
You should apply for a work permit if you are:
Taking up temporary employment in South Africa, with or without reward, and whether for your own account or not.
Setting up or running a business temporarily in South Africa.
A key employee of a foreign company that wants to transfer you temporarily to a branch or affiliate of the company in South Africa.
Recruited to work temporarily in South Africa as an employee or consultant for government in terms of an intergovernmental agreement.
Visiting a company in South Africa in which you have more than 25% control share.
Acquiring fixed assets in South Africa for speculation or rent.
Visiting South Africa to produce a feature film, documentary or TV commercial.
A priest or religious worker volunteering to work temporarily at a religious institution in South Africa.
An au pair intending to work temporarily in South Africa as part of a cultural exchange.
In considering whether or not to grant a work permit the Department of Home Affairs will evaluate the validity of the offer of employment by checking:-
Whether the Department of Labour has been contacted,
Whether the position has been widely advertised, and
Whether the prospective employer is able to prove that he or she tried to find a suitably qualified local employee,
That the prospective employee is appropriately qualified and has the relevant experience.
Conversely, applications for work permits from people who are in a position to contribute to the broadening of the South African economic base will be welcomed. Close family members will receive favourable consideration, for example, a father wishing to employ a son.
A person who comes to South Africa for a holiday may not apply for a work permit or a permit for self- employment in South Africa. He or she would have to return to their country of origin and apply for these permits at the South African Consulate.
There are different categories of work permits:
General Work Permit
Intra Company transfer
General Work Permit
A work permit in this category may be issued to an applicant, in possession of a written and time specific work offer, in line with his/her skills and qualifications. Applications for work permits for self-employment can only be lodged at the South African Consulate in the applicant’s country of origin.
Listed below are the requirements for applicants seeking to take up temporary employment in South Africa (SA). Requirements differ for applicants under other categories. Inquiries should be made at your nearest South African office abroad or through the Department of Home Affairs.
You must be between 18 and 51 years old.
A work permit application form, obtainable from your nearest SA office abroad along with a valid passport and two passport photos.
The prescribed permit fee.
An employment contract, signed by all parties involved, specifying your occupation, the capacity in which you are to be employed, the maximum duration of your employment, and your remuneration.
Your prospective employer must provide substantive proof that steps have been taken to ensure employment for SA citizens or permanent residents - for example, press clippings of advertisements placed for at least a month in national newspapers - along with motivation for why the post cannot be filled by a South African citizen or permanent resident.
Curriculum vitae. The position offered must be commensurate with your qualifications, experience and skills.
If you're professionally qualified, you must first register with the appropriate SA bodies (for example, chiropractors, homeopaths, naturopaths, osteopaths, and western herbalists must be registered with the SA-associated Health Service Profession Board).
Proof of your qualifications - evaluated by the SA Qualifications Authority, in the case of doubtful qualifications - especially if you're a technician or engineer.
Testimonials or service certificates from your previous employees, indicating your skills and competencies.
A medical certificate.
Your marriage certificate, if applicable.
A divorce decree or court order, if applicable, as well as proof of maintenance paid to family members (also in the case of separations).
The full birth certificate/s of your children, if applicable.
If you are 18 years or older, you must supply police clearance certificates for all countries in which you have resided for a year or longer.
English translations of any documents submitted in another language.
The applicant would also have to lodge a repatriation guarantee with the Consulate equivalent to the price of a one-way flight from South Africa back to his or her country of origin. This guarantee is refundable once the applicant has either left South Africa permanently or obtained permanent residence unless you contravene the conditions of your permit.
A limited number of applicants with special skills or qualifications within a certain category may obtain an exceptional skills permit based solely on these skills or qualifications, even if no employment offer is submitted. However, 2% of the taxable remuneration paid to the foreigner will be payable to the Department of Home Affairs as a training fee. A three-month work seekers permit, whereby they can look for employment will be granted. Once employment is found, Home Affairs must be notified.
Inter-Company Transfer Permit
A work permit may be issued in the case of a secondment or transfer of an employee from a foreign company to their South African branch or otherwise-affiliated company. Such a permit, if and when approved, can only be for 2 years.
Other Available Permits
Retired person's permits