Citizens of the USA, Canada, the UK, most EU and EEA countries, Australia, New Zealand and many countries in Africa can visit South Africa for up to 90 days, for tourist or business purposes, without a visa. If you wish to stay longer, or to work there, the regulations can be more complicated. Wherever possible, South African applicants are given first preference for employment, and work and business visas are subject to time limits and strict regulations. You may be expected to provide a considerable amount of detailed paperwork, and the same goes for any prospective employer. If you wish to retire to South Africa, you must meet a minimum guaranteed income requirement.
A variety of visas are available. A full list of these can be found on the South African Department of Home Affairs’ website.
There are different types of work visa, but in most cases, they are available only when no South African is available to fill the role. Critical skills visas are for people who possess skills and qualifications that are currently in high demand and where there is a scarcity of local workers. At the time of writing, the South African Department of Employment and Labour is revising the list of these skills, with the new one expected in April 2020. It will likely include IT and communication specialists and programmers, most engineering specialisms and materials scientists, some health professionals, architects, surveyors, and scientists of chemistry, physics and biology. However, since professions are sometimes added or removed, it is best to check when the list is published.
If you possess a critical skill, you may apply for a critical skills visa via the South African embassy or consulate in your home country (or country of legal residence) or at the nearest Visa Facilitation Service Centre within South Africa. Your application must be include:
• Your completed and signed application form
• A valid passport
• A vaccination certificate (if you have travelled through or come from a country where Yellow Fever is present)
• Proof of your ability to sustain yourself financially until you begin receiving a salary (in the form of bank statements, cash or travellers cheques)
• A recent medical report and a radiology report
• A certificate from the police attesting you have no criminal record – if you have lived for more than 12 months in more than one country since the age of 18, you must supply a certificate for each country of residence
• Proof that your relevant qualifications have been evaluated by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), translated into one of the official languages of South Africa
• Proof that you have applied for membership or registration by the appropriate council, board or professional body recognised by SAQA
• Proof, within 12 months of acquiring your critical skills visa, of an employment contract matching your skills and occupation, including descriptions
• Relevant documentation relating to your spouse and dependent children, if they are accompanying you
Critical skills visas are issued for a period of up to five years. If you have not received an employment contract at the time of application, they are valid for one year. Your spouse and any dependent children will be issued with visas for the same duration as yours.
If you do not possess skills on the current critical skills list, you must apply for a general work visa. You will need to have received an employment contract before you can apply. In addition to all the items listed above, when you apply for a general work visa, you must support your application with:
• A written undertaking from your employer to pay for any costs arising should you or your dependent family be deported
• A certificate from the South African Department of Labour
An employment contract signed by you and your employer
• Proof that your employer is registered with the Registrar of Companies
• An undertaking from your employer to inform the Ministry of Labour if your role changes within the company or you cease to work for them
• All relevant paperwork for dependant family members who will be accompanying you
General work visas are issued for the duration of your employment contract or for a maximum of five years. You are advised to allow at least four weeks’ processing time for work visas. At the time of writing, fees for both critical skills visas and general work visas are $127/£105.
If you wish to set up a business in South Africa, or to invest in an existing business, you will need a business visa. To apply, you must invest a prescribed minimum amount, and obtain a certificate from a chartered accountant, who is registered with the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants, to prove that you possess the necessary resources. You must guarantee to employ a minimum of 60% South African citizens or residents, and register with all the relevant authorities and professional bodies (for example, Revenue Service, Unemployment Insurance and Injuries’ Compensation Fund). You must also acquire a recommendation from the South African Department of Trade and Industry, demonstrating that your business is feasible and in the national interest. You must also supply all the usual official documents, including the relevant police and health certificates.
At the time of writing, the prescribed minimum investment is ZAR 5 million. This may be reduced for certain business types, such as, currently, metal and mineral refining, automotive manufacturing, textiles and IT. A business visa requires a fee of $127/£105.
South Africa is an attractive destination for retirees, and, if you meet certain minimum income requirements, you may apply for a retired person’s visa. At the time of writing, the income requirement stands at ZAR 37,000 per month ($2477/£1900) from a pension fund or annuity, or as a result of equivalent net assets. There is no minimum age requirement and you may apply for either a temporary or a permanent visa. You will be expected to supply all the usual official documents, together with proof of your retirement income, and all documents relating to your spouse, if relevant. At the time of writing, the fee for a temporary retirement visa stands at $36/£28.
For more information, visit the following websites: