How Can I Apply for a Work Permit in South Africa?

When we think about travelling to another country, most of us imagine it within the context of a vacation or a holiday. We usually dream of some well-deserved rest and relaxation, as we unwind on a beautiful tropical beach with a colourful drink in our hands. It sounds great, but there are a lot of other reasons to travel. You may be doing it to visit some relatives, or to attend an important event. Or maybe, you just need to do it for work. Regardless of the reasoning, you’ll want to make sure that you’ve got the right visa at hand before you start planning your trip. With that in mind, let’s go through a few vital questions that can help us on our journey. Most importantly – How do I apply for a work permit in South Africa? How much will it cost? And what are the different kinds of work permits available? How Can I Apply for a Work Permit in South Africa?

You can apply for a South African work visa at the foreign offices of the Department of Home Affairs. Usually, this involves scheduling an appointment at the Visa Facilitation Services Centres (VFS), or at your nearest embassy/consulate. 

The specific documentation that you will need to bring along will differ slightly depending on the type of work visa you’re looking for, so it’s worthwhile going through all these different versions first before we go into any more detail. 

How Can I Apply for a Work Permit in South Africa?
How Can I Apply for a Work Permit in South Africa?

How Many Types of Work Permits are there in South Africa?

There are 3 main types of work visas available in South Africa, they are – 

  • General Work Visas – These are the most common types of work visas, and will apply to most individuals. Generally speaking, they are issued to foreigners when their employers can prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that there are no South African citizens or permanent residents with the necessary skills or experience required to do the job. 
  • Critical Skill Work Visas – The Minister of Home Affairs will usually publish a list of critical skills which are of vital importance to the country, owing to their inherent qualities. Individuals whose qualifications are found on this list are able to apply for a critical skills work visa. 
  • Intra-company Transfer Work Visas – These visas normally apply to individuals who are being transferred within a company, from a foreign branch office to a South African one. That said, these visas only allow for transfers lasting a maximum of 4 years and cannot be renewed or extended. 

It’s vitally important that you understand which visa applies to your specific situation, and that you begin working towards the right one. 

Who Qualifies for a Work Permit in South Africa?

Each work visa has a long list of specific requirements which will determine who exactly qualifies in each scenario. Most of these qualifications are fairly similar and include things like a police clearance certificate, financial means to cover living expenses, and a cash deposit of equivalent value to a return ticket. 

However, there are particular qualifications which apply to each work visa, some of which we’ve already covered. Most notably, they include – 

  • General Work VisasYou must have an offer of employment within the country, and the position must already have been offered to South African citizens and permanent residents. 
  • Critical Skills Visas – You must prove that you have the necessary critical skills as noted by the Minister of Home Affairs. 
  • Intra-company Transfer Visas – You will need to be transferring between branches within the company. Unlike a general work visa, the company will not have to attempt to hire a South African citizen or permanent resident first.

How Much Does a Work Permit Cost in South Africa?

The application fee for a general work permit in South Africa is around R2870. 

Keep in mind though, that any spouse or child accompanying a worker will have to pay a separate application fee. This fee will usually cost R1350.

How Can I Apply for a Work Permit in South Africa?
How Can I Apply for a Work Permit in South Africa?

How Can a Foreigner Get a Work Permit in South Africa?

Foreigners wishing to acquire a South African work permit should – 

  • Schedule an appointment at the nearest Visa Facilitation Service Centre/Consulate/Embassy. 
  • Figure out what type of work visa they qualify for. 
  • Present all the required documentation. 
  • Complete all the necessary paperwork.
  • Make all necessary payments.
  • Wait to see if their applications are successful.


What Documents are Needed to Apply for a Work Permit in South Africa?

As mentioned, work visa applications require many different kinds of documentation, and the exact list will vary slightly depending on the specific permit in question.  

You can find the full list of requirements for the different work visas here – 

How Long Does it Take to Get a Work Permit in South Africa?

Work permits usually take between 2-4 months to get organised, however, this time frame can change depending on various factors. 

Most notably, this approval process may end up being longer or shorter based on the individual’s country of residence. 

Remember: only begin making your travel arrangements once your visa has been approved. Complications may arise unexpectedly, and this can negatively impact your well-made plans. 

Are Visas Available at Ports of Entry? 

No, they are not. You must apply for work permits and visas through the proper channels as specified above. 

Can You Travel To South Africa Without A Visa?

While there are some visa-exempt countries/individuals, most foreign visitors will need to present one when they arrive in the country. 

If you do not have a visa when you arrive in the country, an immigration official will be obliged to put you on a return flight to your country of residence.  

What Documentation is Required to Enter South Africa? 

To enter the country, you will need the following – 

  • A valid passport/travel document
  • At least one blank page in your passport for endorsements
  • A valid Visa
  • The financial means to cover day-to-day expenses during your stay
  • A return or onward ticket
  • Yellow Fever Certificates (depending on your country of residence) 

Can you Apply for a Work Visa Online?

While some parts of the application process can be done online, you will need to visit a Visa Facilitation Service Centre for certain things. For example, at some point, you will need to arrive in person to submit your biometric data. 

How Can I Apply for a Work Permit in South Africa?
How Can I Apply for a Work Permit in South Africa?

In Conclusion – How do you Apply for a Work Permit in South Africa and What Kinds of Permits are there?

Applying for a work permit can be a long and relatively expensive process. You will need to make an appointment at your local South African Visa Facilitation Service Centre, embassy, or consulate, and find out what exactly you’ll need to apply. 

There are 3 main types of work permits available, and the requirements for each one will differ slightly, so it’s important that you figure out exactly what kind of permit you need to apply for before you begin the process. 

These 3 permits are – 

  • General Work Visas – These are the most common and will cover the majority of applicants. 
  • Critical Skill Work Visas –  These are available to individuals who possess certain, valuable skills as identified by the Minister of Home Affairs. 
  • Intra-Company Work Visas – These apply to workers within a company who are being transferred from a foreign branch to a South African one. 

There is a long list of required documentation for each permit, so remember to find out exactly what you’ll need for the specific permit you’re after. 

There will also be generalised requirements such as a police clearance certificate, proof of funds for your stay in the country, and a deposit for a return ticket, amongst others. 

Work visas generally take around 2-4 months to acquire, and it is vitally important that you wait until your application has been properly approved before you start making plans for your trip. 

The application fee for a general work visa is R2870. Any additional travellers, such as spouses or children will have to pay separate application fees of R1350. 

Visas are not available at South African ports of entry, and individuals without valid visas may be placed on a return flight to their country of residence (with the exception of visa-exempt countries). 

To enter South Africa, you will need – 

  • A valid passport/travel document
  • At least one blank page in your passport for endorsements
  • A valid Visa
  • The financial means to cover day-to-day expenses during your stay
  • A return or onward ticket
  • Yellow Fever Certificates (depending on your country of residence) 

Disclaimer Finance101: All of our posts are for research purposes only. Finance 101 aims to assist its readers with useful information on the laws of our country that can guide you to make financial decisions that will enable you to become more financially independent in the future. Although our posts cite the constitution in many instances, they are intended to assist readers who are looking to expand their knowledge of the law & finance-related queries. Should you require specific legal/financial advice we advise you to get in touch with a qualified financial expert.

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1 Response

  1. September 8, 2022

    […] countries will also split their work visas up into multiple subsets or categories. As such, you’ll need to make sure that you’re applying for the right type of visa before you […]

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