While laws mean securing employment may pose challenges for internationals, South Africa offers workers a blend of natural beauty, cultural diversity, and endless opportunities for exploration

South Africa has one of the highest global unemployment rates at 31.9%. Due to an abundance of semi-skilled and unskilled labour, employers in South Africa often prioritise hiring native citizens.

In industries that are experiencing a shortage of skilled workers, South Africa encourages international applicants who possess high-level skills. The country also encourages foreign workers to establish their businesses, especially when such ventures could attract foreign investments or create employment opportunities for local citizens.

If you are planning to work in South Africa, there are numerous activities that you can indulge in during your leisure time. The beautiful city of Cape Town offers breathtaking views from the summit of Table Mountain. Additionally, there are several sandy beaches and cultural hotspots, such as the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art, that you can explore.

In your leisure time, venture beyond the cities and embark on a safari expedition through the renowned Kruger National Park, marvel at the breathtaking Maloti-Drakensberg Park, or dive headfirst into the adrenaline-fueled world of cage-diving with great white sharks. South Africa offers workers a blend of natural beauty, cultural diversity, and endless opportunities for exploration.

Jobs in South Africa

South Africa has one of the largest economies on the African continent, second only to Nigeria. South Africa's economic success is evident through its worldwide recognition in mining, auto manufacturing, finance, and banking, as well as its well-established legal, energy, and transportation industries.

There are job opportunities in South Africa with global companies, especially in densely populated and developed areas such as Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Durban. Notable multinational companies with a South African presence include:

  • Barclays
  • BMW
  • Dell
  • Deloitte
  • GlaxoSmithKline
  • L'Oreal
  • McDonald's
  • PepsiCo
  • PwC
  • Toyota.

If you work for a multinational company in your home country, you may have the opportunity to work in South Africa through a placement or secondment with your current employer.

Skills shortages

According to the Critical Skills List 2023, workers are needed in the following roles:

  • architect
  • chemist
  • civil engineer
  • dentist
  • electrician    
  • management consultant
  • multimedia specialist
  • software developer
  • university lecturer
  • web designer.

This is not an exhaustive list, so be sure to refer to the list to confirm the skills and qualifications required for an in-demand role.

How to get a job in South Africa

BAccording to South African law, all job openings must be advertised nationally. International workers will only be considered for a role if there are no qualified South African citizens available for the job.

One of the easiest ways to find work in South Africa is through a company you already work for in your home country. If this is not an option, most foreign workers find work before arriving in the country. You can start your job search at home using search engines, or consider the following job boards:

Alternatively, look to the classified adverts from online publications of South African newspapers:

You could also consult the South African Yellow Pages, also known as Yep! to find a recruitment agency. If there's a particular company you'd like to work for, consider sending them a speculative application.

Summer jobs

The number of paid summer jobs available in South Africa is limited compared to the UK. However, if you possess specific skills required for certain jobs, you may be in luck. For instance, if you have experience working with children, you could consider spending your summer as an au pair.

South Africa is also a popular tourist destination, which means you can find temporary roles in the hospitality industry.

If you're willing to self-fund a summer experience, there's plenty on offer. Oyster Worldwide offers voluntary summer roles in veterinary and sports coaching among others, while Enkosini specialises in wildlife conservation projects.

Teaching jobs

To teach abroad in South Africa, you'll need the relevant Teach English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) qualification and previous teaching experience. As English is one of the primary languages in the country, there is not much paid TEFL work available. However, in rural areas, where there is a rich mix of languages spoken, there's a growing need for teaching assistants who are fluent in English.

Candidates with qualifications in math, science, and technology are particularly in demand. If you possess these skills, you may be able to secure a teaching position in South Africa.

For more information on TEFL opportunities in South Africa, visit:


There are plenty of internships and placements available in South Africa that offer a chance to explore the country while pursuing your area of interest. However, most of these opportunities are unpaid for international applicants and you'll likely have to cover the costs yourself. There are only a limited number of paid internships available for international applicants.

For internship opportunities in sectors including social work, medicine, animal science, engineering, finance and PR, visit GoAbroad - Internships in South Africa.

South African visas

Non-citizens or non-permanent residents who wish to work in South Africa must obtain a work visa.

There are four categories of work visas allowing foreign candidates to work in the country:

  • General work - the most common type of visa, covering the majority of applications and valid for up to five years. You'll need to submit a signed permanent contract of employment as part of your application.
  • Critical skills - for workers in professions the South African government deem to be critical. Valid for up to five years, you won't need confirmed employment in South Africa - however, you'll need to provide written proof of your skills and/or qualifications to apply.
  • Intra-company transfer (ICT) - if you've worked for a multinational company in your home country for a minimum of six months, you can apply to relocate to its South African branch. The ICT visa is valid for a period of up to four years.
  • Corporate visa - you'll need this if you're planning to start a business in South Africa. To apply, you'll need to provide a detailed business plan, and proof that your business is compliant with company law and at least 60% of your workforce is South African.

You can take an assessment to determine which visa you'll need at Work Visa South Africa. For a detailed checklist of what you'll need to include in your application for each type, see the Department of Home Affairs - Visas and VFS Global.

It'll cost you around £80 to submit a work visa application. As well as a completed application form, this submission needs to include a valid passport, full details of your accommodation and financial arrangements for the trip and two passport-sized colour photos. You'll need to send these to your local South African embassy or consulate.

It's crucial to keep in mind that you must possess all the required visa documents while boarding your flight to South Africa. In case you fail to do so, the authorities in South Africa may deny you entry and send you back on a return flight. To avoid any inconvenience, be sure to apply for your work visa at least six weeks before your scheduled departure.

Language requirements

In South Africa, all 11 official languages are recognised as equal by law. However, English is the primary language used for education, media, and political broadcasts. If you are fluent in English and have a good understanding of Afrikaans, you should be able to work in South Africa. Nonetheless, it is common to hear the other nine languages being spoken in everyday conversation.

Omniglot has a page dedicated to basic Afrikaans phrases which you may find useful.

How to explain your UK qualifications to employers

If you have completed your education in the UK and plan to work in South Africa, you do not need to worry about your qualifications being accepted. The South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) guides applicants to verify their international credentials and ensure that their educational institution is recognised and accredited.

What's it like to work in South Africa?

The typical working hours in South Africa are Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm. Workers have the option to work up to ten hours of overtime per week, with double pay on Sundays.

South Africa introduced its first-ever minimum wage in 2018, which is currently set at R25.42 (£1.06) per hour. This rate is aimed at providing workers with a fair living wage.

Workers in South Africa are entitled to 21 consecutive days of leave per year, in addition to 12 public holidays. You'll have to register as a new taxpayer with the South African Revenue Service once you're in work. The tax you pay is based on your residency - as a non-permanent resident of South Africa, you will only be taxed on the income you earn in the country.

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