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How You Can Get a Work Visa for South Africa

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Taylor D.
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With this continent as the 2nd fastest growing region for tourism, it's no wonder many people are coming to explore the countries of Africa.

My first trip out of the United States was actually here in Eastern Africa, Tanzania. Since then I've traveled to many countries but something has always called me back to this continent. I revisited in 2018, this time traveling to Cape Town, South Africa. I quickly fell in love with this vibrant town, so much so, that I decided to move here 9 months later.

While obtaining my visa wasn't the most well thought out plan, I am now a three-year resident here in Cape Town.

My story isn’t the typical visa process. 

Looking for a more straightforward visa process? Consider Working Holiday Visas to live for a year in Australia, New Zealand or Japan.

expat living in Cape Town enjoying the views of the ocean
Enjoying the stunning views of my home abroad

Finding a job to sponsor me, saving money, applying in my country. All the responsible things I did before moving to Thailand and Malaysia. However, this time around I decided to take a chance and hope for the best.

With my lucky stars and the universe on my side, I just happened to be in the right place at the right. 

Five months into my stay I met a recruiter from a model agency at a day party. From there things happen pretty quickly, I was signed on to the agency, had to return to the US to apply and was granted the visa in about a week’s time.

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While time was on my side, the costs hit hard. 

This is why it’s better to apply for any visa before leaving your home country. Keep in mind though, Americans get 90 days visa-on-arrival and there are options to extend this visa within the country. 

Before moving abroad tips: 

  • Based on the country’s average salary or monthly upkeep, you should save at least 4 months before taking off on your trip
  • Finding a job before you leave will always make things easier 
  • Research your visa options before you leave your home country: Each nationality will have its own set of requirements. 
  • For more tips about deciding where to move and what job to do abroad, check out A Way Abroad's exclusive course on Skillshare. Free to new users! 

Here’s what it takes to apply for a South African work visa as an American.

General Work Visa Requirements:

  • Radiology Report (X-Ray for TB)Medical Certificate
  • FBI Background Check (state isn’t sufficient)
  • Application fee in cashiers check for $37 USD to: Consulate General of South Africa
  • Print the last 3 months bank statements
  • Prepaid UPS next day air postage (Essentially they’ll send out your paperwork then send your passport back to your home address with your visa)
  • A copy of your flight itinerary (must have a return trip ticket)
  • 3 Up to date passport photos to submit with your application
  • Fill out all the DHA - 1738 paperwork

Keep in mind that these requirements are subject to change based on your nationality. If you are not an American, I highly recommend you research the requirements based on your nationality. 

a group of penguins in South Africa on the beach
Hard to beat these guys as neighbors

I’d also like to note that there are a few other types of visas possible for those aiming to work in South Africa.

There are visas for those with “critical skills,” meaning applicants who work in an industry that the South African government deems as “scarce” within the country. For this visa, you do not have to land with a job offer but instead are given a year to get hired. 

Two other common visas are “intra-company transfer,” meaning your current company is transferring you to a South African branch. This visa is pretty straight forward and your company should handle it for you.

Lastly, there is an opportunity to gain a visa to start a business in South Africa but the business will need to be approved prior and you will need to have sufficient funds to start your company. 

While these three visas require pretty strict requirements, the general work visa is more lenient and open to a wider range of candidates, in comparison.

If you're interested in moving abroad on a work visa but aren't too particular where, check out how you can land a work & holiday visa in Australia and Japan.

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What it's like living as an expat in Cape Town

Cape Town is one of the most stunning places in the world.

I know it gets a bad rep around the world as far as safety issues but I'm here to tell you at no point in time have I felt unsafe in this country. Although, there are always some good tips to keep in mind when you're traveling alone. Unfortunately, it's better to err on the cautious side when you're new in a foreign country.

Cape Town is a city for everyone, meaning whatever you're into, there is a group for you. If you love surfing and being in nature there are plenty of beaches and so many trails to hike in this town. If you are a self-proclaimed wine connoisseur, you’ve lucked up, as there are over 140 wine farms in just one part of Cape Town. If you are into the arts and love dancing, theatre shows and stand-up comedy, there are plenty of venues that cater just for your crowd.  

The sunsets here are unbelievable and you can catch them on mountain tops, near the beach, from the rooftops and I'll tell you, it never gets old.

I decided to start this chapter in Cape Town because it reminded me so much of the two cities that I lived in in Asia.

The lighthouse at Cape Point, South Africa with girl posing in front of it
Exploring the lighthouse at Cape Point
It is a nice fusion between Kuala Lumpur and Phuket.

Kuala Lumpur is a big cosmopolitan city whereas Phuket is beach life. Here in Cape Town I get the best of both worlds.

My advice is to ignore the things that you have heard about the city and come experience it for yourself. If you want to be in shorts and flip-flops, this town is perfect for you. If you want to dress up, wear high heels and eat at a five-star restaurant, this town is perfect for you.

Cape Town is a gem that should be experienced by many more people.


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