Critical Skills Work Visa

The Immigration Act contains a work visa scheme, consisting of 3 individual work visa categories.

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​Critical Skills Work visa South Africa

On 2 February 2022 a new Critical Skills List has been published replacing the previous List. This amendment in conjunction with the publication of Immigration Directive 1 of 2022 and the concurrent withdrawal of the Ministerial exemption granted to foreign graduates to apply for permanent residence came into immediate effect with no notice. On 2 August 2022 the List was further amended to re-introduced specialist medical practitioners and nurses, 38 additional professions, all of which relate to specialist medical practice, have been added to the List.

What is a critical skills visa?

It’s a work visa based on compliance with the Critical Skills List.

A critical skills work visa allows its holder to work in South Africa within a specific occupation listed and pertaining to a specific sector.

Where can I find the South African critical skills list?

The Critical Skills List is published in the Government Gazette.  You may download the PDF version of the list at this link.

How can I apply for a critical skills work permit in South Africa?

A foreigner in possession of a long-term visa who doesn’t’ have a visitor visa or a medical treatment visa may apply for a critical skills work visa from within South Africa.

The person must meet the minimum NQF level set for the skill he/she is seeking to be recognized to possess and must comply with the Regulatory requirements associated to the specific skill and sector of employment

What are the South African critical skills work visa requirements?

The Critical Skill List makes provision for a number of skills deemed critical in respect of the South African labor market and specific positions and roles.

The requirements applicable to each critical skills work visa application will, to some extent, vary and be determined by the specific skill and the sector the skill is recognized to be critical to.

Do I need to have my qualifications evaluated by SAQA?

Yes, all foreign qualifications need to be submitted to the South Africa Qualifications Authority to be evaluated within the National Qualifications Framework Act.  The new Critical Skills List of 2022 is qualification oriented and a minimum NQF level has been determined to apply for each listed skill.

The NQF level of a qualification may be relevant in terms of the necessary membership registration with the SAQA recognised professional body related to the specific skill a foreigner is seeking to be recognized to have.

critical skills work visa south africa

If I have studied in South Africa do I still need to obtain a SAQA evaluation?

No, only foreign qualifications need to be evaluated by SAQA  for the purpose of a critical skills work visa application.

As of the withdrawal of February 2022 of the Ministerial exemption granted to foreign students who graduated in South Africa in a critical skills area, holding a South African degree in a critical skills areas doe no longer qualify on its own merits a foreigner to apply for permanent residence in terms of section 27(b) of the Immigration Act.

Can I study with a critical skills visa?

A critical skills work visa allows a foreigner to study part time in South Africa, not full-time.

How do I know which professional body or council or board recognised I need to register with?

The professional body must be registered with SAQA in terms of the specific skill and sector.  SAQA publishes on its website a list of registered professional bodies.

How long does it take to get a critical skills visa?

For applications submitted from within South Africa the average processing time is 4-6 weeks or sometimes longer.  The Department of Home Affairs has recently implemented new efficiencies to allow for these visas to be issued within a reasonable timeframe.

South African foreign missions abroad may have different processing timeframes.  Foreigners submitting their critical skills visa from a foreign country, need to take into account that their travels and intended travels may be affected by the retention of their passport for the duaton of the processing of the visa.  As of March 2022 all visa applications submitted overseas are being sent for processing and adjudication to Head Office in Pretoria. This may further affect processing time-frames.

How long before I intend to work in South Africa should I apply for a critical skills work visa?

Applicants are advised to be prepared well in advance when they intend to apply  for a critical skills work visa to South Africa. A number of administrative processes extraneous to the DHA, such as the evaluation of foreign qualifications and the application for a certificate of membership with the relevant professional body, may impact the ability of a foreigner to be in a position to submit his or her application.

Can I apply for a critical skills visa without a contract of employment?

With the publication of the new Critical Skills List and the implementation of Immigration Directive 1 of 2022, a critical skills work visa is no longer issues to a foreigner without a supporting contract/offer of employment in South Africa.

Can I be employed with a critical skills visa?

A critical skills work visa has as its primary objective having the ability of being employed in South Africa within the ambit of that critical skill.

Can my employer apply for my critical skills visa on my behalf?

No.  The application needs to be done individually and in person by the foreigner.

What happens if my employment is terminated?

A foreigner who is in South Africa on a critical skills work visa needs to be aware that his or her compliance with the conditions of his or her visa needs to remain in place.

Termination of employment will require immediate action on the part of the foreigner in order to obtain a valid status to remain in South Africa.

Can I renew my critical skills visa?

A critical skills work visa is renewable, as any other visa, upon demonstration by the foreign applicant of continued compliance with its conditions.  The holder of a critical skills work visa must ensure to have complied with the employment conditions of his or her visa in order to qualify for the renewal of his or her visa.

Can I change employer or job with a critical skills work visa?

A critical skills work visa which was issued on the basis of a supporting contract of employment may reflect in its explicit conditions (as endorsed on the visa) the employer’s details.  In these instances, a change of employer constitutes a change of condition and a foreigner must formally submit an application to the Department of Home Affairs to change the condition of his or her visa.  This is a fresh critical skills work visa application which can be submitted from within South Africa.

If possess more than one critical skill can I apply under two critical skills categories at the same time?

No.  An application for a critical skill work visa needs to target a specific skill and sector.

Applicants who may qualify under more than one category should choose carefully the skill they intend to target.  The prospective employment and the business sector of the prospective employer need to be aligned to the specific skill.

Can I get a critical skills visa to work in my own business?

No.  The foreign applicant may not own the business that is extending him or her the offer of employment in support of his or her application for a critical skills work visa.

Do Doctors qualify for a critical skills work visa?

With the publication with no notice of February 2022 of the new Critical Skills List, medical doctors were no longer deemed to be critically skilled and no longer qualified for a critical skills work visa nor for permanent residence.  However, on 1 August 2022 an Amended List was approved and published on the Government Gazette.   38 medical specialist professions have been recognized to be critical to the South African labour market.  Dentists, Anaesthesiologists, Cardiothoracic Surgeons, Dermatologists, Diagnostic Radiologists, Neurologists, Neurosurgeons, Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Ophthalmologists, Orthopaedics , Paediatricians, Pathologists, Plastic Surgeons, Psychiatrists and Radiation Oncologists and Industrial Pharmacists are  now in a position to apply for critical skills work visas and, where applicable, for permanent residence. Applicants need to have completed a Medical degree and a Master of Medicine in the field of their specialisation to qualify.

When I was younger, my license was suspended twice for DUI.  Will that affect my critical skills work visa application?

Police Clearance Certificates, not older than six months, from every country an applicant has resided over the age of 18 need to be included in the critical skills work visa application.

Should an applicant have any concerns in respect of any criminal convictions reflecting on his or her criminal records they are advised to seek professional legal advice on whether the record might prejudice his or her application.

Can my immediate family accompany me on my critical skills work visa?

Yes.  Immediate family members who simply wish to accompany you on your critical skills work visa to South Africa may apply for specific long-term visitor visas for this purpose.

If I have a critical skills work visa can I get permanent residence?

The holder of a critical skills work visa who has accrued at least five years of post qualification professional experience qualifies to apply with his or her immediate family for permanent residence in terms of section 27(b) of the Act.

Do I need to wait five years to apply for permanent residence as a critical skills visa holder?

No.  As long as the foreign applicant can demonstrate to have no less than five years post-qualification professional experience he or she may apply with no delay for permanent residence.  Professional experiences will be vetted and verified by the independent bodies appointed by the DHA for these processes.

Can a candidate Engineer apply for a critical skills work visa?

Yes, a candidate engineer, who has been successfully registered as such by the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA), may apply for a critical skills work visa subject to ECSA issuing the candidate an endorsement letter confirming and supporting his/her possession of the skill.  ECSA’s requirements to issue such letter are subject to ECSA’s rules.

 What does “BPO” mean?

“BPO” stands for Business Process Outsourcing.  In terms of current South African immigration BPO is restricted to Call Centre Management operations.  For eligibility related queries related to skills listed as critical in respect of the BPO sector please contact us.

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