What Is It Like To Work In South Africa? (Visas And Tips)

Updated 23 March 2023

With a fast-growing economy and a diverse population, South Africa is an appealing choice for Indians looking to work overseas. Emerging sectors like IT, engineering and medicine provide numerous career opportunities for qualified candidates. Knowing more about the country and available jobs can make relocation more straightforward and hassle-free. In this article, we discuss what it is like to work in South Africa, provide an overview of the job market, skill shortages and popular sectors, explain how to convert your local qualifications to South African equivalents and share a few tips to improve your chances of relocating to the country.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are associated with Indeed.

What Is It Like To Work In South Africa?

Knowing more about work timings and professional culture can help you decide whether to relocate to and work in South Africa. As in most countries, most employees in South Africa follow a Monday-to-Friday structure with work hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Employees can also agree to 10 hours of overtime per week in addition to regular working hours. Employers pay one-and-a-half times the regular pay for overtime and two times the hourly pay for employees working on Sundays.

Employees receive an annual vacation of 21 consecutive days, including weekends, usually between mid-December and mid-January. The annual vacation is in addition to the 12 public South African holidays that all employees receive. The South African labour law prevents employers from persuading employees to forego their annual leave with extra compensation. International employees in South Africa pay taxes to the South African Revenue Service based on income and residence status.

Overview of The Job Market In South Africa

According to the Department of Statistics South Africa, the unemployment rate was 32.9% in the third quarter of 2022. Due to the high unemployment rates, employers typically prioritise South African citizens during recruitment. Jobs are available to international candidates only when employers cannot find qualified local citizens for open positions. Despite the high unemployment rate, South Africa's developed infrastructure and diversified economy offer numerous opportunities for talented and experienced international employees in several sectors.

With a high unemployment rate, low-skilled and temporary positions are challenging to find for international candidates. With many South Africans moving overseas, there is a severe skill shortage in critical sectors like engineering, information technology, finance, medicine and manufacturing. International candidates with appropriate degrees can find well-paying jobs in South Africa in the sectors facing a skill shortage.

Related: How To Show You Are A Quick Learner While Applying For A Job

Popular Sectors And Industries

South Africa is the third-largest economy in Africa and is a highly industrialised and diversified country. It is the world leader in mining and mineral processing operations. Other key sectors that contribute to the national economy include agriculture and fisheries, financial and business services, energy, telecommunications, food processing, vehicle manufacturing and assembly, transportation, tourism, real estate and trade. Immigrants are likely to find job opportunities in the urbanised and populous cities of Johannesburg, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban. In addition, several multinational companies have branches in South Africa and employ international candidates.

Related: 11 In-Demand Tech Careers: With Salaries And Skills

Skills Shortage

South Africa is experiencing a critical skills shortage across several sectors. The Ministry of Home Affairs publishes and updates the critical skills shortage list periodically in a government gazette and some of the industries included in the latest list, as of February 2023, are:

  • Agriculture, agricultural sciences and related operations

  • Architecture and the built environment

  • Business, economics and management

  • Information and communication technology (ICT)

  • Engineering and related sciences

  • Health professions and related clinical sciences

  • Life and earth sciences

  • Trades

  • Business process outsourcing

  • Academics and researchers

International candidates with a relevant degree and a minimum of 12 months of professional experience in jobs listed on the critical skills list are given priority for jobs in South Africa.

Related: 16 In-Demand Tech Skills To Have For Technology Careers

Converting Your Degree To Equivalent South African Qualifications

When applying for jobs in South Africa, it is essential to get your educational qualifications evaluated by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA). The SAQA compares foreign degrees and certifications with equivalent local qualifications and determines if international candidates can practise their skills in South Africa. Most South African employers require you to provide a SAQA certificate of evaluation as part of the job application. Additionally, professional bodies like the South African Medical Association (SAMA) require eligible candidates to provide the SAQA certificate before they can begin working in the country.

You can follow these steps to obtain the SAQA qualification certificate:

  • Create a profile on the SAQA website.

  • Complete the online application by providing the required information and uploading certified copies of your degree.

  • The SAQA website requires a sworn translation of certificates issued in languages other than English.

  • Upload other supporting documents and complete the payment.

  • Share a copy of a legitimate government-issued identification document.

  • Submit the application.

If the provided data is correct, the SAQA certification reaches you within 10 to 30 days.

Related: List Of Online Professional Courses And Certifications

Types Of Work Visas In South Africa

The Department of Home Affairs (DHA), South Africa, issues three types of temporary residence and work visas to overseas nationals. They include:

General work visa

This is available to anyone looking to work for a specific employer in South Africa. You are eligible for this visa only if you have a job offer from a South African company. The employer is responsible for justifying the reason for offering the job to an immigrant by demonstrating that they could not find a suitably-qualified local candidate. The general work visa is valid for the duration of the employment contract and the maximum length is set at five years. You are eligible for permanent residence in South Africa after five years in the country.

Critical skills visa

The DHA issues the critical skills visa to candidates trained in specific industries experiencing a labour shortage in South Africa. Unlike the general work visa, the critical skills visa is issued to qualified candidates for a maximum of one year, even when they do not have a job offer. You can use this time to search for jobs in South Africa that align with your skills. Once you receive the offer, you can extend the visa to match the length of the employment contract. This visa is valid for a maximum of five years.

Related: What Is Upskilling? (With Benefits And How To Upskill)

Intra-company transfer work visa

This visa is suitable for employees relocating to South Africa as part of a job transfer or promotion within their current company. Candidates are eligible for this visa if they have worked in the current company for at least six months before applying for the visa. The intra-company transfer work visa has a maximum validity of four years and is not eligible for renewal or extensions.

Related: How To Write A Transfer Request Letter (With 10 Examples)

Language Requirements

South Africa has 11 official languages and a multilingual population who are often knowledgeable or fluent in at least two official languages. English is primarily used in workplaces, education, media and political discourse. Initially, English fluency is sufficient to help you interact and engage with other employees. Knowing a few commonly-used phrases in different local languages like Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa and Sotho can help you carry on day-to-day conversations with the locals and other community members outside of work.

Related: How To Improve Speaking Skills In English (With Tips)

Tips For Finding A Job In South Africa

Here are a few tips to improve your chances of securing a job in South Africa:

  • Request an intra-company transfer. Due to the high unemployment rate and priority for South Africans, it is easier for international candidates to relocate to South Africa with an intra-company transfer. Once you are in the country and have gained sufficient experience, you can look for other opportunities.

  • Begin your job search before moving to South Africa. It is easier to relocate when you have a guaranteed job offer. You can use local classified advertisements or online job portals to find jobs that match your skills and experiences.

  • Update your resume. As English is the primary language used in business environments, you can use your regular resume written in English. Ensure you update it to highlight your experiences and skills relevant to the role.

  • Include a cover letter. While a cover letter is not mandatory, sending one along with the resume can help to differentiate your profile from other candidates. Use the cover letter to explain how you add value to the employer and describe significant achievements and accomplishments in your previous roles.

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