Work Visa in South Africa

General Work Visa

This visa type still continues to exist under the Immigration Regulations 2014, amended in 2018 and 2024, but it has in the meantime become even more tedious and it takes far more time to apply for than before.

The current regulations require not only a SAQA (South African Qualification Authority) Certificate for every applicant, even for those without qualification, section 18(3)(b), they also require a registration of the employer or the project with the Labour department’s ESSA database and subsequently a certificate by the Department of Labour (DoL) confirming in accordance with section 18(3)(a):

  1. the unsuccessful search of the employer to find a citizen or resident with the required qualifications; and
  2. that the applicant possesses said skills and experience in line with the employment offer; and
  3. that the salary and other fringe benefits are not lower than the average for the same position in South Africa (Salary Benchmark); and
  4. that the letter of employment is signed by both parties, in line with labour standards and conditional upon the General Work Visa to be issued.

With the amendments in the Second Regulation Amendment Act 2024 the adjusication is now also including a point-based credit score. This takes into account:

  1. Age;
  2. Language Proficiency;
  3. Qualifications;
  4. Work Experience;
  5. Employment Offer;
  6. Salary; and
  7. “further criteria”.

Registration with ESSA and the confirmation letter by the DoL currently take up to a year. Please note that no repatriation deposits are payable anymore, but that after having been in possession of a General Work Visa for five years or longer, a permanent residence permit may be applied for.

Intra Company Transfer Work Visa

The Intra – Company Transfer Work Visa (ICT Visa) enables a company to transfer an important employee from the foreign company holding to their South African branch, subsidiary or otherwise affiliated company for a maximum period of 4 (four!)

Provided good reasons can be brought forward, an ICT Visa can be applied for – again – for another four years. Please note, that this is not an extension but an application for a new ICT Visa and that it is currently often rejected by the embassies for the reason that the candidate had with the first four years ample time to train and up-skill a local successor!

The applying employee, however, has to be employed abroad at the seconding company holding for a minimum of six months before he or she can receive an ICT Visa. The receiving company in South Africa needs to accept the secondment and to undertake the cover for all repatriation costs AND the company has to show a Skills Transfer Program, by means of which the seconded foreign employee needs to up-skill and train a South African or permanent resident in South Africa in the skills set needed for the position occupied.

Visa Extensions until 31 March

Quota Work Permit

The Quota Work Permit used to be granted to a limited number of applicants with proven knowledge, skills or experience and qualifications within determined categories, which are not sufficiently provided for in South Africa. This permit has been abolished in 2014.

Exceptional Skills Work Permit

A foreigner with exceptional skills or qualifications used to be able to apply for an Exceptional Skills Work Permit based solely on their skills or qualifications. This permit has been abolished in 2014.

Critical Skills Work Visa

This visa replaces both of the above mentioned work permits and is based on the General Work Visa with identical requirements, but requires in addition  a certificate of registration with the professional body allocated to the skill by SAQA the South African Qualification Authority, and a letter confirming the foreign academic or educational credentials.

The skills of the applicant have to be rated as “critical” in terms of the  Critical Skills List, which was gazetted by the Minister in February 2022 and thereafter amended again in August 2022.

There are no repatriation fees payable anymore, the visa can be issued for up to five years and is easily extendable subject to what was stated above.

It used to be free from any employer as the previous Exceptional Skills Permit, and was then only issued for 12 months in form of a “Job Seeker Visa”, but this option has been abolished in 2022. Therefore a Job Offer offer or an Employment Contract have to be provided to qualify for this visa type. Please note that any holder of a Critical Skills Work Visa may at any time apply for a permanent residence permit based on the same skills.


The new, significantly shortened (from 215 down to 101 occupations), Critical Skills List published by the Minister of Home Affairs (amended August 2022) applies with the main changes from the Shortage Occupation List 2014 being:

  • All medical doctors, pharmacists, veterinarians and nurses are removed
  • Multimedia specialists and designers now included
  • Corporate treasurers, tax specialist, internal auditors are added
  • Supply and distribution managers added
  • Now only directors of large and medium-sized companies qualify
  • Investment managers and analysts, business development officers are added
  • Market research and forensic accountants added
  • Boiler makers, fitters and turners, automotive mechanics, pressure welders, toolmakers and structural plasterers have been removed
  • Some skills now require a Master’s degree with a bachelor or diploma not sufficient, mainly engineering and management positions
  • Call Center agents with foreign language proficiency have been re-introduced
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