When you are foreign, you need a work permit to work in South Africa and it can be a very painful quest to obtain it. If my own experience can help some people facing the same situation, I think it can be worth sharing:

- Where to start the procedure:  start the procedure in France rather than in South Africa if you can.  I was advised to apply at a SA embassy in France because it takes less than one month (since your application is complete) rather than 3 in South Africa.  However, if you start in France and experience a delay in your application, you take the risk of being blocked in the country as they hold your passport. It is also impossible to transfer your application from France to South Africa or from South Africa to France, in case you change your mind.

- Timeline: Contract signed on May 14th with my company. I started gathering all the documents needed for the application // Beginning of June I gave my application to the embassy but some documents were still missing (newspaper & SAQA) // I completed my application on July 13th // My Work permit was finally issued on July 15th.

- Document required: the application form your embassy will give you, a medical report and radiological report (the embassy will also provide you with the form to be filled by your physician), a cash deposit of equivalent value of your return ticket (I just gave proof that I already had a return ticket and it was ok), proof of financial means (I didn’t have to provide it as my salary was enough to cover living expenses in South Africa), a police clearance translated in English, your contract employment, a proof of experience in line with the job (a CV is fine), a proof of the qualifications evaluated by the SAQA, a salary benchmark for similar positions in South Africa (some agencies can provide it in a couple of days), an advert in a national newspaper (I published it in the Times. More information on the advert format are available on http://www.home-affairs.gov.za/ > Immigration services > FAQs), a list from your employer of all short-listed candidates that applied to the position and reasons why they didn’t fit the position, a letter of motivation from your company explaining why they hire a foreigner instead of a SA resident/citizen, a proof of company registration with the Registrar of Companies.

The full list of documents is available on the government website:http://www.services.gov.za/services/content/Home/ServicesforForeignNationals/Temporaryresidence/Generalworkpermit/en_ZA

The documents that take most time to be issued are the SAQA and the newspaper. You must try to get them as soon as you can.

- The newspaper is absolutely necessary even if your company already advertised the position on the Internet (they are very inflexible with that and I unfortunately realized it late). An advert takes a couple of days to be published but you will have to send the newspaper to France and also wait a little for potential candidates to apply (I waited for one week only but I think they did me a favour because my company had already been looking for candidates for 4 months on the Internet)

- The SAQA certificate is the most difficult document to obtain. It takes forever to get it. I sent my application on May 20th and now (on mid July) I still haven’t received it. I however had some problem in sending my application: If you send your application by Chronopost send it at the physical address and not at the postal address or they will send it back to you because they need someone to sign a receipt. Thankfully, the embassy was able to issue my permit without this SAQA certificate after I gave them documentary evidences of that I had already applied for it, as well as proof of my degree and school transcripts.

I hope these few advice will be helpful. If you have questions do not hesitate to contact me, I would be glad to help.


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  • Hi laura, i remember doing it in the Times as well, which cost me R2000 (I don't know why the price is so different now: I was in contact with Avusa media who managed their ads). The classified section should be fine. I haven't heard any bad feedback.  Good luck.

  • Please find below more advise on the medical insurance necessary for the permit (sent to me by Antoine Sébastien again):

    For the Medical Aid, you must absolutely have an English contract. You can use either a global insurance scheme or any other medical insurance that work abroad. What I did and seemed to be the cheapest option for me was the basic medical insurance offered by my credit card. This insurance covered basic Hospital and repatriation. The insurance is valid only for 3 months but you can easily extend it (300euros for the year extension). You must show a certificate with the extension and the detail of the options included.


  • I forward some more details on a SAQA procedure done last month (sent to me by Antoine Sébastien): 

    On the SAQA:

    1. Apply online at http://www.saqa.org.za/ 

    2. Necessary documents are:

    - the original of your diploma or a certified copy (in Paris, the service of the “apostilles du palais de justice” can do it). You will never get your documents back so you’d rather not send any original document.

    - the Original transcript of courses or certified copy (in English. If not in English you must translate it by a certified translator.

    - Your last diploma is enough. If you have more than 1 diploma I don’t advise to do the procedure for each. Just use the latest or the one that correspond most to your new position.

    - the online form

    - the Delivery option; you can choose the postal service (1 or 2 weeks or more) or fetch it in Pretoria via a courier service (http://www.fastway.co.za , DHL..)

    3. Payment: bank transfer or deposit - ( the high priority process is not much faster)

     4. Address: Postnet Suite 248, Private Bag X06, Waterkloof, 0145 

    or physical address: SAQA House, 1067 Arcadia Street, Hatfield 0083 <<< if you use a courier company like DHL use the physical address!!!!!!!!!


    -        Keep all copies of the documents you send + keep any receipt (payment, DHL, etc. ) you can use these at the ambassy to accelerate the process by showing that your SAQA is on the way.

    -        The French Diplôme Grandes Ecoles is often more complicated to be recognised by the SAQA. If you have an MBA or another Master it might be simpler to show this one

  • @ William, sorry for the late reply. Most of the French professionals that work in SA either have a rare skill (engineering, etc.), work for a French company or need to speak French as part of their mission. January of February doesn't seem too bad to me...

  • Really interesting post ! what kind of job have you found and was it easy to apply without THE work permit ? Only few ads seem to be dedicated to foreign people. I have found different ads but I will not be in CT before January 2014... so it often sounds to me innapropriate to apply. I am currently updating my CV in english. 

    If you have any tips or opportunities, you are really welcome ! 

    Last point : Is it a really lower activity period in january and february due to holidays ? Would it be more difficult to look for a job at this period ? 

    Thanking you,


  • Thank you very much !!

  • I am not sure about what to think of the third-parties that help people with the procedure. I know people who used an agency and still waited for their permit for months. However, an agency can help you not make silly mistakes like forgetting a document and having to reapply, etc. But if a lawyer can help for some other sides of creating a business in South Africa, it can be worthing it. Maybe contact some entrepreneurs in the network to ask them how they did. I am still waiting for someone to share his story on 'how to get a business permit' because this one seems even more tricky to get!

  • I am planning to emigrate with my family, opening a buisness is my goal. I heard it was possible to be helped by a lawyer, what do you think about that ?
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