In order to apply for a Work Seeker’s Permit, you have to be outside the country (specifically, at your nearest South African embassy or consulate). The practical problem most people encounter with this fact is that they also need to be in possession of at least one job offer.
Obviously the process of procuring this first offer would be expedited by actually being in the country and being able to show up for interviews, as opposed to just e-mailing your CV, calling around, and hoping to get hired sight unseen. If you can afford the expense, visit Cape Town and see what you can do to find employment, but be aware that you’ll have to return home before you can legally start working.
The documentation you’ll have to submit, aside from application forms BI-1738 (Application for Temporary Residence) and BI-159 (Application for Work Seeker’s Permit), will include certified copies of your highest educational qualifications, as well as any additional qualifications, along with testimonials and certificates from your previous jobs. These you should attach to the space allocated on the BI-159 form, along with the other documents it specifies:
- A medical certificate, showing you aren’t suffering from any infectious diseases (those listed included venereal disease, tuberculosis or leprosy) or mental disorders (including epilepsy, mental retardation or any addictions, psychoses, neuroses or ‘behavior disturbances of childhood’).
- A radiological report (in which the radiologist must insert the names of every person examined by him for that purpose, with all other spaces crossed out).
- In addition, you’ll require a valid passport, to be presented on application (the official should sign indicating that you presented this), and a valid ticket number to prove that you’ve already booked your flight to South Africa.
- If you’re married to a South African, you’ll also need to provide a valid marriage certificate.
To view the form, visit http://www.home-affairs.gov.za/documents/bi-159a.pdf. For more information, go to http://www.home-affairs.gov.za/documents.asp.
South Africa suffers from a large-scale unemployment problem, and even technically skilled professionals are having trouble finding work. In addition, the BEE (Black Economic Empowerment) initiative issues businesses with tax breaks if they hire Africans. As such, there’s no special drive to attract foreign workers to the country. Quite the opposite – your application is going to be evaluated in conjunction with the Department of Labor. The Department will have to verify that there’s a shortage of skilled workers in your field, as well as verify that you could potentially qualify for permanent residence. You’ll need to specify that you intend to work in Cape Town, as the department will need to consult with its regional offices.
Remember: once your application has been accepted, the ‘Field of Employment’ area indicated on your permit cannot be changed without a return to your home country. Be very sure to state this correctly. Also keep in mind that Work Seeker’s Permits are only granted for a period of three months at a time, and that extensions are a rare thing indeed.
Once you’ve received a firm offer, it’s time to approach the Department of Home Affairs for a Work Permit. Note that only after you’ve received your permit can you begin working, and then only for the specific purpose and within the specific time-frame indicated by your permit. For details on applying for a Work Permit, see the next section.