South Africa is considered the commercial hub and gateway to the rest of Africa. As such, the government wants to utilise this advantage for foreign companies expanding into the country and foreign investors. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is considered the engine to power economic recovery and resurgence post-pandemic. The AfCFTA – the African Continental Free Trade Area – founded in 2018, provides a mutually beneficial environment for its members through trade and investment without tariffs or red tape and is expected to boost revenues in the area by US$450 billion, increasing exports and manufacturing by US$560 billion by 2035, growing jobs and raising income.
South Africa is renowned for tourism hotspots, from its many game reserves and National Parks to World Heritage sites such as Tabletop Mountain. The beaches are famous for windsurfing, and the warm Indian Ocean waters attract millions of tourists yearly. The government is aware of lousy recruitment practices in the country, which leave many employees working illegally, so employers should take care as the onus for compliance lies with them. Many companies use the expertise of a Professional Employer Organisation (PEO), such as Bradford Jacobs, who has 20 years of experience with recruitment and work documentation, moving on to their Employer of Record (EOR) services dealing with everything from visas to paycheck.
Foreigners (not visa-exempt) wanting to travel to South Africa for less than 90 days have around 12 categories of Visitor Visas to choose between, from tourism to sporting events and from business trips to conferences. They can be extended for a further three months. But this is not guaranteed, so applicants should consider if they can qualify for the Long-Term Visa before they travel to South Africa as they cannot apply for it while on a Visitor Visa, although there are exceptions.
There are Long-Term Visitor Visas in several qualifying categories for stays longer than three months. Categories include Study, Work, Treaty, Business, Relatives, Medical Treatment, Retirement, and Exchange permit.
Types of Temporary Work Visas (previously known as Work Permits)
Four types of Visas are available to those looking for employment in South Africa, and each has requirements and eligibility, so employees and employers must decide which one applies. These are also the equivalent of Temporary Residence Visas.
Note: The salaries and benefits offered to foreign workers should not be inferior to those of South African citizens and residents with similar jobs. Also, beware of employing illegal workers or bad recruitment practices, which the government is aware of and trying to deter. The onus is on the employer in the eyes of the law.
General Work Visa (GWV)
Critical Skills Work Visa (CSWV)
Intra-company Transfer (ICT)
Independent Financial Permit
For people wanting to live permanently in South Africa and set up a business. This permit allows applications for permanent residency without delay and will enable applicants to study, live, work and manage their own companies in the country. There are certain conditions and eligibility issues to be met.
Note: The Draft Bill for National Labor Migration Policy and Employment Services Amendment.
Legislation in early 2022 gave authorities the power to apply and determine QUOTAS for the employment of foreigners in specific sectors or occupations – nationally or regionally. Employees must be vigilant when or if it is brought into force.
First, employees and employers work together to determine which Work Visa is required. They produce the required documentation, and the employer confirms they are eligible to employ staff or operate in South Africa. The law surrounding immigration and work documentation is closing loopholes and may change intermittently. Both parties should be aware of how this affects their obligations.
Generally, the documentation is similar for all Work Visas:
Note: When a Work Visa is applied for through an employer who issues the employment contract, changing the employer requires a new visa application.
General documentation required for Work Visas
All submitted documents should be translated into an official language, notarized, and affirmed by an authorised translator.
For the General Work Visa – additional
For Critical Skills Work Visa (CSWV) – additional
Intra-company Transfer Visa – additional
A letter from the employer in South Africa stipulates the employee’s duties and length of employment up to a maximum of four years. It confirms the transfer from the home company to the affiliate or subsidiary in South Africa. The applicants are still on contract with the home company, are paid by them and report to them.