As a nation with a diverse economy, experienced foreign nationals are needed to fill critical skills gaps in the South African job market

The first thing you need to be aware of when planning your job hunt in South Africa is that entering the country without a job offer is not permitted. This makes finding a job trickier, but by no means impossible.

Foreign job applications from skilled people in areas that suffer shortages are welcomed by the South African government, so don't be discouraged by the prospect of going through the visa process if this is where you want to be.

Job market

Finding employment can be difficult for non-South African graduates as, unless you are already in the country, you must have a job offer to gain entry. This can be hard to obtain as employers must prove that they have tried and failed to employ a South African citizen before they employ a foreign worker.

However, the South African government has put in place the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (ASGI-SA) to ensure the country's economy continues to grow.

The plan requires skilled foreign workers with formal qualifications and a minimum of five years' practical experience to be recruited in key areas. This means that you may need to spend time building your experience in the UK or elsewhere before you apply for a critical skills work visa.

At present, there are nearly 35,000 positions, spanning 53 categories, where scarce, critical and special skills are required every year. Here are some of the areas where there are skills shortages:

  • agriculture;
  • architecture and the built environment;
  • business, economics and management;
  • engineering;
  • health professionals and related medical sciences;
  • information, communication and technology;
  • life and earth sciences.

A full list of skills and occupations can be found at South African Department of Home Affairs - Critical Skills Visa.

Job vacancies

There are a number of South African job sites which you might find useful. These include:

In addition to the above, established UK recruitment specialists Reed also advertise positions in this country. You can browse the latest vacancies at Reed - Jobs in South Africa.

Teaching in South Africa

To teach abroad in South Africa you'll need a relevant TEFL certification and some previous experience. However, as English is one of 11 official languages in the country, there isn't a lot of paid TEFL work available. Many of the positions advertised are offered to South Africans with native English skills.

Despite this, you shouldn't rule out the possibility of teaching in South Africa entirely. Students in more rural, underprivileged areas are in need of teachers to assist with their education - especially in key subjects such as science, mathematics and technology. So, if you have specialist skills and are comfortable venturing away from the more urbanised communities, this is certainly something worth looking into.

Visit these organisations for more details on teaching in South Africa:

Internships and work experience in South Africa

Work placements are readily available in South Africa, with plenty of opportunities to work in such a thriving and lively environment - although you may have to fund the opportunity yourself.

For internships in a range of sectors, including journalism, law, ecology, wildlife sciences and marine research, visit:

Alternatively, internships and summer work placements can also be arranged by:

For projects in the following areas of interest, you may also like to take a look at Projects Abroad - South Africa:

  • conservation;
  • general care;
  • medicine and healthcare;
  • teaching.

Volunteering in South Africa

There are many opportunities for volunteers to travel to South Africa. It is worth noting that the majority of positions are unpaid and you will usually have to fund the experience yourself.

If you are interested in teaching literacy and numeracy to children at a Cape Town primary school, visit Global Vision International (GVI) - Volunteer Teaching South Africa.

Volunteering opportunities in the country can also be found with other organisations, such as:

Language requirements

Most people speak English in South Africa, with the language commonly used in the workplace.

South African visas and immigration

Foreign workers in South Africa will need to apply for one of three different work permits:

  • Critical skills work visa - for highly skilled foreign nationals with a minimum of five years' practical experience and is valid for the period of employment, subject to annual reviews.
  • General work visa - issued to foreigners with general qualifications and is valid for the duration of your contract.
  • Intra-company transfer work visa - handed to those who are being transferred to a South African branch by their multinational company and valid for two years. It can be extended to four years from within the country.

To discover more about the different types of visa and to access the most up to date information on immigration policy, go to SAvisas.com - Work Visa South Africa.

How to explain your UK qualifications to employers

Employers usually understand UK qualifications, but you will still need to clarify that this is the case before submitting your application.

You, or your employer, can find out more at South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA).

Working conditions

The majority of employees work Monday to Friday from 9am-5pm. The maximum normal working time permitted on a weekly basis is 45 hours, although voluntary overtime can be agreed with an employer to a limit of ten hours per week. This is in accordance with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA).

More information can be found at the South African Department of Labour.

Overseas workers will have to register as a new taxpayer with the South African Revenue Service.

Once you've registered on the website, you can use the system to apply for income tax and keep your details up to date.

According to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (2002), workers are entitled to 21 consecutive days' annual leave, in addition to public holidays.

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