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Posted on: Wednesday, 26 February 2014

A South African working holiday

Posted to: Travelling Tips
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Exploring South Africa and appreciating the many different facets of this prime destination takes time. While many visitors come year after year to experience the real allure of this country, there is also the opportunity to work here for a few months, even years, and get to live the real South African life amongst real South African people.

There are a number of programmes that invite tourists from all over the world to volunteer their services at no charge during their stay. These include crèches, vegetable farms, schools, animal sanctuaries, and far more.

However, for those who want to work in South Africa on a more formal basis, there are a few basic requirements. Of course, the requirements to work locally may differ depending on your country of origin and on the nature of the work.


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Prepare Before Leaving

Make all of the necessary enquiries before purchasing your airline tickets or making any accommodation plans. Arriving in the country without a valid work permit will not be allowed, and those who attempt this will be sent home without leaving the airport. You are not able to apply for the work permit once you have already entered the country on a tourist visa.

Obtaining the Work Permit

Work permits can be obtained from the South African Embassy or Consulate closest to you. To find out where the closest embassy is, no matter where in the world you are situated, click here. However, if there is not one in your country of residence, you should consult an attorney or an immigration agent, who can then liaise with the South African Department of Home Affairs. More information directly from Home Affairs can be obtained by calling them on +27 11 461 9252 (for those outside SA) or 0800 60 11 90 (inside SA). Alternatively, visit their website: www.home-affairs.gov.za.

The official work permit (Form BI-1738) is only available in hard copy from a South African Consulate or Embassy, and not online.


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Requirements for Obtaining Work Permits

The following requirements are not ‘cast in stone’, so to speak. Rather, they are basic guidelines.

  • The original versions of your completed BI-1738 form
  • A valid passport and two passport-sized photographs
  • Certified police clearance certificates from any countries in which you have lived for one or more years
  • Certified copies of any and all academic qualifications. These need to be in English. If you have had to have them translated, the translator must be authenticated
  • References from your most recent employer, testifying to your competencies
  • A medical certificate as well as a report from the radiologist
  • A marriage certificate, proof of relationship, divorce decree or court order (as applicable)
  • Birth certificates of your children, if applicable
  • Vaccination certificates
  • The application fee required

Expect to wait for between six and eight weeks for your application to be processed. If you are accepted, you will be required to visit the closest Home Affairs regional office within 90 days after your arrival in South Africa.

Once you receive your work permit, you will need to make a deposit, which will be refunded when you leave the country. This is simply to ensure that you are able to cover yourself and your family financially for repatriation.

The quota work permit applies to and is valid for the entire period of your employment in your area of expertise. Every year, you will be required to visit Home Affairs so that local authorities are able to confirm that your employment is still within the industry and profession designation.

Happy holiday planning!


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Amelia Meyer


Amelia is a freelance writer and editor with a passion for all things travel-related. She is based in Knysna, but has studied, lived and travelled further afield. She studied Film, Media and Literature at the University of Cape Town. She began her solo career in the form of Voxate Writing & Editing in 2008 and loves every minute of it. Amelia believes in silver linings, lessons learnt and the responsibility to do what’s right. When she is not writing, she can frequently be found at the local animal shelter, on the bicycle trails of the nature reserves or sampling new restaurants with her family.

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