Work, Study and Other Permits | Western Cape Government

Work, Study and Other Permits


Before you can enter South Africa, you need to have a visa. At the port of entry, your visa will be replaced with a temporary residence permit which states how long you may stay and for what purpose. You need to apply for specific permits before you come to the country.

There are various types of permits, depending on why you want to come to the country:

  • visitors permit - for people visiting South Africa.
  • diplomatic permit - for diplomats.
  • study permit - for people wanting to study in South Africa.
  • treaty permit - temporary residence permits for people who need to be in South Africa in terms of an international treaty.
  • business permit - for people who want to invest or buy into a business into South Africa.
  • crew permit - for ship's crews.
  • medical treatment permit - a three-month permit for people seeking medical treatment in South Africa.
  • relatives permit - for people with South African relatives.
  • retired person permit - for people who have a fixed retirement income from their country of origin.
  • exchange permit - for people participating in cultural, economic or social exchange programmes.

You are not permitted to study on a work permit, and vice versa.

You cannot enter the country until you have the valid permit attached to your passport, unless you already have a permit and you want to change it to another one.

Permit applications are governed by the Immigration Act, 2002.
The objectives of the Immigration Act, 2002 (Act No 13 of 2002), which was implemented on 7 April 2003, include:

  • Facilitating and simplifying the issuance of permits.
  • Regulating the influx of foreigners by facilitating foreign investment and attracting skilled and qualified foreigners to South Africa.
  • Promoting tourism to South Africa.

The Act and Regulations are comprehensive in so far as the requirements to obtain a residence permit are concerned.


There are different types of work permits:

  • quota work permit
  • general work permit
  • exceptional skills work permit
  • intra-company transfer work permit
  • corporate work permit

The Department approves applications for work permits based on whether or not a South African is available to fill the position applied for. If there is, it's unlikely that the work permit application will be successful.

The Department readily approves work permit applications for key personnel (for e.g. a CEO) of foreign companies investing in South Africa.

The Immigration Act introduced a quota system for work permits.



You need to submit an application on form BI-159 via the South African diplomatic representative in the country where you normally live or the country of which you have a passport.

You can also apply through a South African attorney or agent who has power of attorney for you.

Your application needs to be accompanied by:

  • a firm offer of employment
  • a letter from the prospective employer stating the date that the position became available, how it was advertised and why it's necessary to employ a non-South African.

The fee for each work permit application is about US$186 and generally takes eight to twelve weeks. Applications for key personnel however generally take about two weeks.

Once your application has been processed, the outcome is faxed to the SA representatives at the country where you applied.


You first need to apply for admission to the higher education institution you want to attend. When you receive a letter of provisional acceptance you can apply for a study permit.

You need to go to the SA Mission to apply for the permit. You will need to complete the application form, B1-159. This needs to be accompanied by:

  • The prescribed fee.
  • A provisional letter of acceptance from the higher education institution.
  • Details of your accommodation arrangements.
  • Proof that you can pay your tuition and accommodation fees and support yourself.
  • A cash deposit or bank guaranteed cheque equivalent to the cost of a return air ticket.
  • A written undertaking that you will return to your country of residence or origin when you have completed your studies.
  • A doctor's report or letter from your doctor saying that you are in general good health.

If your application is successful, you will be given a multiple re-entry visa.

It can take up to eight weeks for an application to be processed. You cannot enter South Africa until this permit is finalised.

Provided At: These facility categories:
Provided by:
Government Body: (The Government of South Africa)
The content on this page was last updated on 6 November 2013