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How to Get a Work Permit in South Africa

Any foreign national wishing to reside, work or study in South Africa for over 90 days needs a work permit. There are several different types of work permit which act as a temporary residence permit for foreign nationals.

It is necessary to apply for a work permit if:

  • Intending to temporarily work in South Africa, paid or unpaid
  • Intending to set up or run a business in South Africa
  • Transferring to a South African branch or affiliate as an employee of a foreign company
  • Recruited to work temporarily as an employee or consultant for government even if part of an intergovernmental agreement
  • Visiting a company which you have more than a 25 percent control share
  • Intending to visit South Africa and make a film, documentary or TV programme/commercial
  • Volunteering to work in South Africa on religious grounds
  • Intending to work as an au pair as part of a cultural exchange programme
  • Intending to acquire or rent fixed assets in South Africa

Work permits may be issued to potential employees or to those who wish to set up their own business in South Africa. Work-seeker permits may also be issued to those planning to seek work in South Africa. However due to the high unemployment rate in South Africa, work permits are not issued to any foreign nationals seeking unskilled or semi-skilled work which could be filled by a South African national.


General requirements for being issued with a work permit:

  • Work permits must be made in the applicant’s home country
  • Applicants must be between 18 and 51 years old
  • Work permits are initially granted for a year but may be extended
  • All individuals must apply for a work visa, regardless of whether employment has already been found. In the case of Corporate Work Permits, applications are first made by the employer. Individuals accepted for these positions may be entitled to have their work permit application fast-tracked.

The relevant work permit application form should be completed and submitted with the following:

  • A valid passport
  • Two passport photos
  • The prescribed fee
  • An employment contract stating details of employment such as salary and length of contract
  • Proof that the prospective employer has undergone the necessary steps for the position to be filled by a South African national
  • A curriculum vitae
  • Proof that the applicant’s skills, qualifications and experience meet the necessary requirements for the position offered. This includes proof of qualifications and, for applicants who are professionally qualified, registration with professional bodies in South Africa
  • References from previous employers regarding the applicant’s skills and experience
  • A medical certificate
  • Marriage or divorce certificates, if applicable
  • Full birth certificates for any accompanying children
  • Police clearance certificates for all countries in which the applicant has resided for over a year

All documents should be supplied in English, translated by an approved translator if appropriate. Once the work permit has been issued a deposit or bank guarantee is needed in order to cover the applicant and any family members accompanying him/her for repatriation purposes. The deposit is refunded on leaving South Africa or on becoming a permanent resident.

Application forms and fees

Application forms are available from any regional office of the Department of Home Affairs or at South African Embassies, Consulates and High Commissions abroad.

  • To download a copy of the application form: Click here (PDF)

Application fees vary according to the country where the application is made. For details about fees and waiting times consult the South African Embassy, Consulate or High Commission in the country where the application is submitted.

  • For a list of South African representations abroad: Click here



Written by How South Africa

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