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Visas and Permits for Johannesburg Expats

It is always wise to take some time to plan and prepare before diving in to the moving process. Our expat guide to Johannesburg introduces you to the city’s main expat hotspots and lists some of the relevant residency visas and their requirements.
Proximity to the Gautrain network might be one of the more interesting factors when choosing a place to settle.

Getting a First Impression — Visitor’s Visa

Many expat stories begins with a visitor’s visa — it is not uncommon for people to decide they’d like to spend time working and living abroad after visiting the glorious city of Johannesburg.  If you too are considering making the move and first want to see for yourself what the place is all about, a good idea is to look into getting a visitor’s visa. Chances are you might not even need to deal with all the hassle and ted tape, as a fairly large number of countries are exempt from requiring one. To find out if this applies to you, the Republic of South Africa’s department of home affairs has a fully compiled list of exempt countries and territories. If your home country is on the list, you will be able to visit Johannesburg on the grounds of tourism for up to 90 days.

Temporary Residence Visas

So you have made your choice and are going to relocate to Johannesburg? Congratulations! However, moving to the city is obviously not as simple as visiting it. The South African government has established a total of 11 temporary residence visas tailored to fit the needs of various groups of people interested in spending a prolonged stretch of time in the country. Please note that you cannot apply for any of these visas from within South Africa — you need to direct your applications (and any open questions) to the South African representation in your home country. Below, we have listed the expat-relevant residence visa categories.

Work and Business Visas for Expats

General Visa Requirements

All of the following work and business visas share these common requirements:

  • at least two blank pages in your passport (the passport must be valid for at least 30 days after your intended return date from South Africa)
  • application form DHA-1738
  • medical report BI-811
  • radiological report BI-806
  • proof of financial means (usually in the form of three recent bank statements stamped by your bank)
  • birth certificate
  • police clearance certificate
  • proof of round-trip ticket or a deposit for a return ticket

Business Visas

If you are thinking of moving to Johannesburg to establish a new business, you will need a business visa. Some of the prerequisites include

  • a detailed business plan specifying the nature of your upcoming venture;
  • an investment of more than 2.5 million ZAR;
  • a plan on how you anticipate employing a work force consisting of at least 60 percent of permanent residents of South Africa.  

Furthermore, you must be registered with the respective board or council of the trade you want to start your business in and register with the South African Revenue Service.

General Work Visas

Obtaining a general work visa takes a lot of work, so being organized is the key to a successful application.

You will not only need the aforementioned general requirements, but you will also need your credentials to be translated and confirmed, then later verified by the Qualifications Authority. You will also need to supply a signed work contract, documentation on the purpose and duration of your stay, and proof that no South African citizen was qualified to fill the position in which you will be employed.

Critical Skills Work Visas

Like the title suggests, you must have exceptional skills or qualifications which are hard to come by in South Africa, to obtain the critical skills work visa. Proof of your skills must be provided in the form of letters from your former employers, or testimonials from an acknowledged South African academic or cultural institution. To find out whether your skill is currently in demand, visit the DHA’s critical skills list.

Intra-Company Transfer Visas

Just like the category above, this one is also rather self-explanatory. If you are interested in working in a Johannesburg-based subsidiary or branch of your current employer, this is the visa you will require. According to new immigration laws, the visa lasts for four years and cannot be extended. To apply, you will need to include your original employment contract, as well as written confirmation of your transfer and your future position in Johannesburg from both parties.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

If there’s something you’re still not sure about, check out the InterNations Forum.

Claude Maurin

"After I followed my wife to Johannesburg, InterNations and its expat circles helped me find free-lance work with South African clients. "

Rikke Johansen

"The InterNations community is just so large that you can easily find a like-minded expat sharing professional or personal interests."

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