SA General Work Permit / Visa Requirements: How To Apply

If you are a foreign national with a keen interest to live and work in South Africa you may apply for a general work permit / Visa. However there are a vast array of categories to consider before filing a formal application.

South African work visa and permit categories cater for a range of workers, professionals and individuals, from persons with skills listed on the critical skills list to those married to South African citizens who want to apply for spousal visas to live and work in the country. It is therefore important to assess your individual situation with the help of an immigration expert who can best advise you which work permit or visa application is most likely to succeed in your case.

The various broad visa categories you will need to consider before applying include:

General Work Visa

Critical Skills Visa

Corporate Visa

Spousal Visa

Intra-Company Transfer Visa

Permanent Residence Permit

Business Visa

Study Visa

Visitors Visa – Section 11 (2)

Retired persons Visa

Relatives Visa

Volunteer Visa

Each of the above visa categories has its own list of special requirements that you will have to meet upon application and more information can be found if you follow the above  above for each visa type.

How do I get a General Work Permit in South Africa?

The General Work Permit in South Africa is officially known as the South African General Work Visa.

In order to apply for a South African Work Visa, or in this case, the South African General Work Permit, one has to obtain certification from the Department of Labour (DoL) in order to prove that your prospective employer is unable to fill the job position, that has been offered to you as a foreigner, with a similarly qualified South African citizen.

The amendment of the Immigration Act in 2014 (“the Act”), saw the introduction of a Department of Labour (“DoL”) Certificate as a necessary prescribed requirement for a General Work Visa application and subsequent renewal applications, which has caused many disappointments for foreigners and their future or existing South African employers.

Since the introduction of the certification requirement, General Work Visa applicants and their employers have been following a lesser-known procedure, offered by the Department of Home Affairs (“DHA”) that allows them to surpass the certification requirement, especially where urgent project work is required. This involves an application to the DHA for a waiver letter that in effect substitutes the DoL certificate requirement for the visa application.

In terms of section 31(2)(c) of the Act, the Minister of DHA may for good cause waive any prescribed requirement or form. A waiver application is a formal written request to the DHA to set aside certain prescribed requirements for a visa in any category, in this case, the General Work Visa. This means that companies or individuals may for good cause be exempted from certain prescribed requirements, where sufficient motivation is provided.

DoL Certificate versus DHA Waiver for the General Work Visa Application

The DoL Certificate is a recommendation to the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) regarding the suitability of a foreign candidate for a job position in a local company and/or the company’s compliance with relevant legal employment requirements before they may employ foreign nationals holding a General Work Visa.

This General Work Visa application requires a company to submit proof that typical recruitment processes have been followed when considering prospective job applicants for the position they want to fill. Some of these requirements include the submission of copies of Curriculum Vitae’s and the firm’s interview notes of South African candidates that may have been identified as potentially suitable for the position.

Conversely, a DHA waiver application requires a firm to provide the relevant supporting documentation and motivation as to why a foreign national has been selected to fill the position, rather than a South African candidate with similar skills and qualifications.

The waiver option is far more appealing and effortless than the DoL application, however, it is most often considered based on the merit and credibility of both the foreigner and the South African company, and it cannot be misused simply due to the perceived relaxed legal requirements for the General Work Visa.

If a waiver application is to be considered, proper motivation covering the DHA’s required specifications, must be supplied and outlined within the application. Once a positive waiver outcome has been received, this must be submitted with all the other required documents so that the DHA can process the General Work Visa application, hopefully with a positive outcome.

There’s a catch when applying for the General Work Visa in South Africa

The General Work Visa aims to cater for individuals who do not qualify to apply for other categories of work visas, providing them with the opportunity to work and live in the country.

However, in order to apply for this visa the candidate must have an offer of employment from a South Afriacan employer that needs to fill a position that requires  a critical skill, which does not reflect on the current critical skills list.

In most instances and despite its name, the General Work Visa unfortunately does not cater for unskilled or semi-skilled workers, unless the employer can demonstrate an imperative need to fill the position.