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HR 101 – Check the Work Permit – Part 1

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Please note that this pertains to South African Labour Relations and Best Practice requirements.

We have probably all been in the position where we have hired a gardener or a domestic helper, who it turns out, is an illegal alien.

The problem is when we have foreigners working for us, who have the incorrect (or worse no) documentation or work permits is that the consequences to them (and you particularly if they bring a specific skill with them) can be quite serious.

Here in South Africa, there are a whole host of different types of work permits – some of these are (but not limited to):

– Quota permits
– Intra Company permits
– General permits
– Exchange permits
– Exceptional skills permits
– Business permits
– Retired persons work permits

Even some of the ‘visitors’ permits allow foreigners to work here for a while. The challenge of course, is to ensure that they have the correct permit.

In my experience, most foreigners who come to South Africa, get their permits by getting a written job offer first and believe me this is not a new thing – when I came to South Africa in 1977, this is exactly how I got my work permit – I got a written job offer and based on that, my work permit and resident’s permit was granted. This is a general work permit and the prospective employer needs to evidence that they have tried unsuccessfully to employ a South African with the necessary skills. This is usually done by advertising nationally.

A ‘quota’ work permit is one that is available for foreigners, whose work skills fall into a particular category. This category is determined by whatever skill shortage is currently prevalent in the country at that particular time – so last year it may have been engineers and this year it may be accountants (just to give an example). The categories that are nominated are chosen by the Minister of Home Affairs who also decides on the number of quota permits that will be issued, and to which category they will be issued. Here’s the thing though – only about 20% of the quota permits are ever actually filled as Home Affairs does not actually market and recruit for these particular skills or requirements outside of South Africa (makes me wonder what the point then is actually). It is also very difficult for foreigners, who are based outside of our borders, to apply and go through the application process themselves.

In many, if not most of these cases, it would be a good idea not to even try and process these applications yourselves, but to rather get the services of the right Professional Immigration Practitioner.

Next time, we will have a look at some of the other types of permits in a little more detail.