South African Immigration: Permits & Visas

HFI is an industry leader in South African immigration. A team of registered South African immigration practitioners with extensive experience with the Department of Home Affairs and years of experience of working together with corporate clients mean only one thing for you: effective immigration solutions on a consistent basis.

We understand that your company is unique and has unique immigration needs. With years of experience backing us up and immigration research being done on a continuous basis, we have the ability to provide your company with tailor-made solutions to these needs and make the process of transferring or employing employees from abroad a seamless and hassle-free one.


New Legislation Changes

With a lot of new legislation changes that came into effect in June 2014 the SA immigration arena has become a minefield, but with our experience and knowledge of the new legislations you can rest assured that we will guide you through all the obstacles during any visa application process.

South African Work Visa Application Process & Service

After you’ve received our information pack with fee list and made payment as per the fee list, or in the case of a corporate client have accepted our quotation. Then HFI will send out a detailed checklist of all the required documents and letters needed from you as well as your prospective employer to open a file and start the application process.

All documents and letters from the checklist has to be emailed to us from which we will compile the application, and if in the case of a general work visa the application to be submitted to The Department of Labour first or the waiver application via VFS. And then once the outcome of Department of Labour or the waiver outcome has been obtained, then the work visa application can be submitted via either one of the following options:

The Online Application

We’ll do the online application and payment process with VFS – if the application is to be submitted in SA, or compile the application in the format to be submitted abroad at an SA Embassy

The Finalised Application

The finalised application pack will be sent via courier to the applicant to either submit at a VFS office in SA or at an SA Embassy abroad.

Applications Done In Person

In both instances (submission in SA or abroad) must all applications be done in person either at VFS or an SA Embassy

Processing Time

The estimate processing time once submitted in SA or abroad can vary from 4 to 8 weeks.

Applications submitted via VFS

Applications submitted via VFS will be updated via a sms service and can also be tracked via their website via a reference numbers which the applicant will receive once he has submitted with a VFS office.

Applications Done at an SA Embassy

Applications done at an SA Embassy will be notified of its outcome via a sms or a phone call from the Embassy. Processing times vary from 2 to 4 weeks – some Embassies – 8 weeks.

New Legislation

New legislation unfortunately prohibits any third party or agent to make enquiries on any applications that has been submitted either via VFS or abroad.

The Outcome of an Application

HFI can collect the outcome of an application once the notification has been received that it’s ready for collection (VFS offices JHB and PTA only (Authorisation letter required from applicant – HFI will assist))

Important Notices About South African Work Visas

With new legislation in force from 26 May 2014 – no visit visas may be changed over to any of the work visa categories whilst the applicant is in SA
An application for any of the work visas must – in case of the above – be submitted abroad at an SA Embassy in the applicant’s home country.
This rule does not however apply to spouses, relatives or children of SA citizens or foreigners on work permits in SA – HFI can assist with this process.
Applicants with work visas in South Africa may change over to other work visas (General or Critical skills only) and also extend whilst in SA via the VFS application process.
All applications to be done in SA via VFS or abroad at an SA Embassy must be submitted by each applicant in person – including spouses and children of all ages.
All General Work Visa applications (new and extensions) need a recommendation from Dept of Labour. It takes approximately 60 days to obtain this requirement – please allow enough time for this in order to have a Work Visa application submitted timeously

We Assist With The Following South African Visas

General Work Visas
A General Work Visa is a document issued to foreigners by the Department of Home Affairs. It is issued to foreigners who intend on taking up employment in South Africa. A General Work Visa is issued for a specific position and company. It will be issued for the time period that the employment contract is valid for, e.g. if the contract of employment states that the assignment is for three years, the work permit will be valid for a period of three years, but with a maximum of five years per visa application.

HFI can assist the company to apply for a waiver of the above requirements to the Department of Home Affairs. The work permit can then only be applied for once the waiver has been granted.

How to qualify for a General Work Visa

Your application (in addition to the general requirements) must provide evidence of the following:

  • That you have the relevant qualifications, skills and experience for the position.
  • A SAQA evaluation of your foreign qualifications are necessary.
  • Provide proof that the employer (for whom you propose to work) has taken all the relevant steps to obtain the services of a South African citizen or Permanent Resident.
  • An explanation of why the services could not be obtained from a South African citizen or permanent resident.
  • A written job offer from the employer offering you this position.
  • A certificate from the Department of Labour is required that will confirm all the steps above and will issue a recommendation that the General work visa be issued.
Critical Skills Work Visas
A Critical skills work Visa may be issued to a foreigner who possesses skills and or qualifications determined to be critical for South Africa. This critical skills list is determined from time to time by departments such as Trade & Industry, and Labour. Critical Skills Work Visas are less common than the other categories and applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis. A key requirement would be for the individual to have at least a degree or similar qualifications as well as testimonials.

The main qualifying requirements for most of the occupations listed are: (HFI to confirm specifics after assessment has been done).

  • Confirmation in writing from the relevant professional body, recognized by SAQA or any relevant Government Department confirming the skills and or qualifications of the applicant, as well as relevant post qualification work experience.
  • Proof of application for certificate of registration with Professional Body.
  • SAQA evaluation of foreign qualifications (Translated if not in English)
  • Proof of employment within 12 months after obtaining Critical Skills Work Visa in the form of an employment contract specifying occupation and capacity in line with applicants skills and qualifications as per critical skills list.
  • If a post Graduate Doctorate obtained in SA – please inform us if you are in this category for different requirements.
  • A Critical Skills Work Visa may be issued for a period not exceeding five years at a time.
Work authorisation Visit Visas – Section 11(2)
Foreigners who intend to work in the Republic of South Africa, with or without remuneration or reward, must apply for a work visa. However, in the case of a short term or urgent need of specific skills for a limited duration (not exceeding three (3) months) of work activities that cannot be met by an application for a work visa, the foreign person can apply for a short term work visa at a SA Embassy abroad.

The Director-General of the Department of Home Affairs has recently delegated authority to the South African missions abroad who may – at their discretion- consider applications for authorisation to conduct work on a visitor’s visa in terms of section 11(2) of the Immigration Act, as amended.

This means that all applicants for short-term work visas will have to apply for these visas from the SA Embassy in their home countries. Should the Section 11(2) Visa be approved for Visa exempt passport holders then a authorisation letter will be issued to the foreigner which he should then produce to the entry clearance officer when arriving in SA. The Entry clearance officer will then endorse the foreign person’s passport accordingly.

For visa restricted passport holders the SA Embassy abroad will issue the short term visa to work in the foreign person’s passport with which he can then proceed to enter South Africa.

Accompany Spouse/Life Partner Visas
Within the South African Immigration rules and regulations (Immigration Act) a person has a claim   to an Accompany Spouse Visa or Relatives Visa if they can prove that they are:

  • In possession of a current, valid passport
  • The applicant is married with a South African National / Permanent Resident Holder / Work Permit Holder
  • No restrictions on previous visas or permits

Within the South African Immigration rules and regulations (Immigration Act) a person has a claim to an Accompany Life partner Visa (Homosexual or Heterosexual relationship) if they can prove that they are:

  • In possession of a current, valid passport
  • Have a notarial agreement attesting that the relationship has existed at least 2 years before the date of application, and that the relationship still exists (only applicable to Life partners where one is a SA citizen or SA Permanent Resident)
  • Official recognition from authorities abroad to confirm Life partner relationship (for couples who are both foreign citizens)
  • Neither parties is a spouse in an existing marriage or relationship
  • No restrictions on previous visas or permits
Own Business Visa
A person may qualify for a Business Visa when he/she intends to establish, or invests in a business registered in South Africa and in which he/she may be employed. This could be a newly formed business or a partnership.

How to qualify for a Business Visa

The following criteria need to be met:

  • At least R5 million in cash, or a capital and cash contribution of at least R5 million business plan outlining feasibility
  • Proof or an undertaking that at least 60% of the total staff compliment will be SA Citizens or permanent residents employed, investing in an existing business needs to provide in addition to the above financial statements of the preceding financial year as well as a partnership agreement

The Department of Home Affairs may reduce or waive the capitalisation requirements (section 15(3) of the Immigration Act 13 of 2002) for businesses which are prescribed from time to time to be in the national interest or when so requested by the Department of Trade and Industry. The capital contribution can also be waived if you are married to a SA citizen or in a life partner relationship with a SA citizen – provided the life partner relationship stays intact for the duration of the visa.

Own Business Visas from an immigration perspective does not limit the business, but the individuals when employed in the business. The individual is limited to work related to the relevant business activities.

Intra-Company Transfer Work Visa
International concerns with branches, offices or affiliated to companies in the Republic of South Africa may from time to time, apply to transfer key employees from a foreign office to South Africa, on condition that such employees are in fact key personnel such as managing or financial directors, chief executive officers, managers in key positions or specialized technical personnel,required in the manufacturing or production process.

Key personnel earmarked for secondment to the SA office has to be in the employ of the foreign company for at least 6 months to be eligible to apply for this type of work visa.

The Inter-Company Transfer Work Visa will be granted for the secondment period to SA, but not for more than four years and cannot be extended. Provision has recently been made that if you have a ICT work visa which was issued under the old legislation for two years, then you can extend for another two years under the new rule. If a longer term is desired then it is advisable to apply for a general work permit.

Corporate Visa
This permit is issued to companies who wish to employ a certain amount of foreigners on a certain project for a certain period.

Applications have to be submitted to The Dept of Trade and Industry and to the Dept of Labour for approval of the Corporate Visa. Once this has been issued an application for a Corporate Visa has to be submitted to the Department of Home Affairs.

Upon approval of the Corporate Visa will the Department of Home Affairs issued a Corporate visa to the company concerned. With the Corporate visa certificate will the work authorisation certificates also be issued which will be used for each applicant under the corporate visa certificate to apply for his or her Corporate worker certificates.

  • The DHA may withdraw or amend a corporate permit for good and reasonable cause
  • The DHA may after discussions with Dept of Labour, and or Agriculture and or Trade and Industry reduce or waive certain requirements.
Study Visas
A study permit may be issued to a foreigner intending to study in South Africa for longer than three months. The holder of a Study Visa for studies at a higher educational institution may conduct part-time work for a period not exceeding 20 hours per week. Such work may include temporary or full time work during the academic vacation periods. The Department may, in appropriate cases, authorise the holder of a study permit to conduct work as practical training in a field related to that of his or her studies.

  • Permits issued for studies at schools shall be valid for the duration of the period of study
  • Permits issued for studies at other recognised institutions of learning shall be valid for the duration of the course for which the applicant has registered.
Accompany Parent Visas
Within the South African Immigration rules and regulations (Immigration Act) a person has a claim to an Accompany Parent Visa if they can prove that they are:

  • In possession of a current, valid passport
  • The child of a South African National / Permanent Resident Holder / Work Permit Holder
  • No restrictions on previous visas or permits
  • Not yet of school going age
Extension on Work and Accompany Visas
A work visa can be extended if your current work visa / permit is still valid and you have a signed renewal employment contract from your employer. An addendum to stipulate the extension of a current employment contract will also be accepted.

Permanent Residency South Africa

In South Africa, there are several categories under which to obtain permanent residency can be obtained. We also understand that each individual’s situation is different. Our consultants are registered South African Immigration Practitioners who are educated in the required criteria for either permanent residency and or citizenship. If you would like to discuss the options available to you, please contact our office to find out if you qualify for permanent residency in South Africa.

South African Visa Application