Not only as an Immigration Service Provider, but as an employer ourselves, we understand the importance of attracting the correct skills for a specific role within an organisation.

Many of our clients form part of leading international brands, and as such rely on us to provide the correct advice and guidance in obtaining work permits for foreign employees they wish to attract to their operations in South Africa. The need for foreign skills has become more and more prevalent due to skills shortages experienced globally.

We often recommend pursuing a work visa in the Critical Skills category due to the range of occupations currently on the critical skills list.

So how do you determine if an employee qualifies for a Critical Skills Work Permit?

A candidate’s eligibility can best be determined after conducting a thorough assessment of their CV, experience, qualifications and the skills they will contribute to South Africa.

The process may seem simple at the on-set, however there are a few tricky factors to take into consideration before qualifying a candidate for a Critical Skills work permit.

Experience comes in handy during this process and we share with you below our top tips –

  1. Know the basics 
  • Familiarise yourself with the Critical Skills list.
  • Understand the requirements and ensure 100% compliance on each item, unless you are able to provide a compelling motivation.
  • If a foreign candidate does not hold a South African long-term work permit, they will be required to file the application at the South African High Commission/Embassy within their home country.
  • Know your timeframes – This is a process that requires sufficient time to be completed correctly. Applications that are not prepared properly incur unnecessary delays that could easily have been avoided. Expedited delivery is however possible where there are real business urgencies and these can be motivated.
  1. Ensure the occupation is on the Critical Skills list

Prior to qualifying a candidate for a Critical Skills work permit, it is imperative to ensure that the position the candidate will take up in South Africa, is on the Critical Skills list. This assessment does go a lot deeper as the position title may not match the one on the Critical Skills list and it is therefore important to review the candidate’s experience as well as the job description of the role in South Africa and ensure that the two goes hand-in-hand. After such a determination has been made, it will be easier to pin down the correct category on the list.

  1. Qualifications are so, so important

Although the Immigration Act states that qualifying for a Critical Skills work permit may be based on skills, qualifications and/or experience, in practice the qualifications a foreigner holds will impact on the application. Further consideration must be given in terms of occupation the applicant will be working within and whether the qualification they hold, matches their occupation.

It is important to note, the adjudicator at the South African Embassies and the Department of Home Affairs consider the qualifications and subsequently the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) Certificate, as a tick box item that must be provided. If you are unable to provide same, the application carries a high risk of being refused and may as such require a waiver application to formally approve the exclusion of this requirement. This is not strictly correct in law as the Act clearly states “and/or” however our recommendation would always be to comply with the requirements and requests made by the Department of Home Affairs as issuing authority. Where true merits do exist for exclusion of the requirements, the Department can always be approached to gain their support.

  1. Timing

Now that you have determined the foreign candidate qualifies for a visa in the Critical Skills category, and the corresponding occupation on the Critical Skills list matches the applicant to a T, how long will it take to secure the visa?

Timing is a challenge for most organisations as the foreign employee is usually needed in country “tomorrow”. The planning phase is often done to the exclusion of consideration of work visa timeframes or the business need for a certain individual is crucial and cannot wait – time is money.

When we tackle a visa application, one of our first questions (if not an initial statement from the company) is “When do you need the expat in country?”. The process is then streamlined according to the requirements of the business and it is vital to plan the process with the company, and give realistic timeframes on what is possible. Always take into consideration the time it takes to collect documents from third party processes (this includes SAQA, professional bodies and police clearances), reviewing all documents received for accuracy and compliance, compiling a legal and fully compliant work visa application and lastly the processing times of the South African Embassies/Missions abroad or the Department of Home Affairs head office where applications are filed in country.

Below a guide on a few work permit related items that do take time –

  1. Evaluation of foreign qualifications (SAQA)
    • Processing time: 3 weeks on average (may take longer dependent on University)
  2. Registration with professional bodies – important to note that many professional bodies require the SAQA Certificate prior to being able to process registration
    • Processing time: 1 month on average (up to 6 months dependent on occupation)
  3. Police Clearance Certificates
    • Processing time: 1 – 8 weeks (varies based on if you apply in country or via a foreign mission)
  4. Processing of application by the South African Foreign Embassy/Mission
    • Processing time: 4 weeks on average (a select few countries take 8 weeks)
  1. South African Foreign Embassies/Missions Abroad

An applicant will be required to apply at the South African Embassy/Mission within their home country or country of temporary residence (where they hold a temporary residence visa). Applicants are only permitted to apply in South Africa if they hold a long-term visa.

It is always best to contact the Embassy/Mission prior to the submission to ensure all the requirements are met. Yes, you may have a fully compliant application as prescribed by the Regulations, however some Embassies have their own specific documents they request for the Critical Skills work permit application and or a preferred format. Contacting the Embassy ahead of time will prevent any unnecessary delays where the candidate may be required to travel back-and-forth to the Embassy to provide additional documentation not in hand.

For more information please email us on contact@xpatweb.com


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Our top tips for companies to secure a critical skills work visa


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