Essential Employment Paperwork in South Africa



Working in South Africa can be any expatriate’s dream with the country's flourishing job market, pro-labour policies and competitive jobs in various sectors such as Information Technology, Engineering, Accounting and Finance, and Sales and Marketing. Foreign nationals that are bound to this flourishing country must first secure the relevant documents to ensure smooth employment. 

Anyone who is not a national or legal resident of South Africa and plans on getting employed is required to secure a work visa. Bear in mind that this country imposes strict rules when it comes to immigration and foreign nationals who will arrive without a visa will be denied entry and sent back home. Before, expats who wish to work in South Africa need to secure both a work visa and an employment permit. Now, the only vital legal document that foreign nationals must obtain is a work visa which will allow them to enter, work and stay in South Africa. 

"The South African bureaucracy is unbelievable slow and overly complicated. You have to keep asking if you want answers, and you’ll likely get a different one each time." - Sine Thieme, Expat in South Africa 

Types of Work Visa 

The South African work visa is usually issued with an initial validity of five years and is broken down into several classifications depending on the length of time the expat will work in this country. The types of work visa are listed below: 

General Work Visa 

This visa is the commonly issued to foreign nationals and will only be granted after the South African employer has provided substantial proof that no local applicant was found to fill the job post. In most cases, the vacancy must be advertised to the local media to ensure that all South African nationals have been informed about the job opening. 

Critical Skills Work Visa for Highly Skilled Migrants 

Some qualifications and skills are deemed exceptional or critical by the South African government. This type of visa will only be granted to foreign nationals that possess skills that fall under the South African shortage skills list particularly in several industries such as architecture, agriculture, specialised financing, information and communications technology. The Critical Skills Visa is valid for a maximum of five years. 

Intra-company Visa (ICT) 

The ICT visa is for expatriates that have been transferred to South Africa by a multinational company. An employee must have worked for at least six months in the employer’s foreign office before the intended transfer to the South African branch. This type of visa is valid for four years with no option for renewal. 

Application Procedure and Requirements 

Expatriates can apply for a work visa from the South African Consulate/Embassy in their home country. VFS Global is responsible for processing all applications while Department of Home Affairs is the one that assesses and decides if the request for a visa will be approved or denied. The list of documents that expats must submit during the application is as follows: 

  • Valid Passport with at least two blank pages
  • Medical Report
  • Police Clearance Certificate from all the countries that the applicant lived since he/she is 18 years old (for period of 12 months or longer)
  • Proof of Financial Means (bank statement)
  • A certificate issued by the Department of Labour. The certificate should confirm that there is no equally qualified South African national found to fill the vacancy and the foreign national has skills in line with the job. It should also state that the salary being offered to the expat is not inferior to the average wage of the local workforce that is employed in the same position.
  • Employment Contract approved by the Department of Labour
  • Proof of at least five-years experience in the position
  • Proof of qualifications. Must be evaluated by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) and translated by a sworn translator into the official language of South Africa.