Work permits: when, where & how to apply

Note: This article is currently under review as the regulations covering immigration and visas have been changed. In the meantime, please visit the Department of Home Affairs at for more information.



Note: This information is meant to serve as a guide only. Requirements for work permits in South Africa are subject to change, and each application is treated as an individual case. Always make enquiries before travelling to South Africa.

Get your permit before leaving for SA

You must apply for your work permit, and await the outcome of your application, before departing for South Africa. You will not be allowed to enter South Africa unless you are in possession of a valid work permit.

If you have entered South Africa on a tourist visa, you may not apply for a quota work permit inside South Africa. This would be in contravention of the Immigration Act.

Where to get your permit

Apply for your permit at your nearest South African Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. If South Africa is not represented in your country or a neighbouring country, you can also lodge your application at any Department of Home Affairs office in South Africa via a registered employment/immigration agent or attorney.

For more information, contact:

  • Home Affairs contact centre: +27 11 461 9252 (overseas callers), 0800 60 11 90 (inside SA)
  • Website:

Application forms

You need to complete Form BI-1738. However, permit application forms are not available online. Original copies must be collected from your nearest South African embassy or consulate.

Requirements for work permits

Listed below are the requirements for applicants seeking to take up temporary employment in South Africa. Requirements differ for applicants under other categories and enquiries should be made at your nearest South African office abroad or through the Department of Home Affairs.

  • You need to have your formal qualifications evaluated by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA).
  • Authenticated copies of academic certificates or degrees. If they’re not in English they must be translated by a sworn translator.
  • Testimonials or service certificates from your previous employees, indicating your skills and competencies.
  • If you’re professionally qualified, you must first register with the appropriate South African bodies (for example, chiropractors, homeopaths, naturopaths, osteopaths, and western herbalists must be registered with the SA-associated Health Service Profession Board).
  • Complete application form BI-1738. Only original copies will be accepted.
  • Documents you need to submit include:
    • Valid passport and two passport-sized photographs
    • Medical certificate and radiologist report
    • Marriage certificate or proof of relationship, if applicable
    • A divorce decree or court order, if applicable, as well as proof of maintenance paid to family members (also in the case of separations).
    • The full birth certificate/s of your children, if applicable.
    • Police clearance certificates for all countries in which you have resided for a year or longer.
    • Vaccination certificate
  • The prescribed application fee.

The completed form must be submitted to your local South African mission if you are outside South Africa; or at a regional office if you are inside the country.

How long does it take?

It takes six to eight weeks to process a quota work permit. If you are successful, you must report to your nearest Home Affairs regional office within 90 days after having entered South Africa.

When you are issued with your work permit, you will be required to make a cash deposit or bank guarantee covering you and your family for repatriation purposes. This will be refunded on your final departure from South Africa, or if you are granted permanent residence, unless you contravene the conditions of your permit.

Your quota work permit is valid for as long as you are employed within the area of expertise. Permit holders are required to report to the Department of Home Affairs on an annual basis to confirm that you are still employed in your designated profession.

Based on information from the Department of Home Affairs

Reviewed: March 2014

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