Assessing travel and visa obligations in South Africa

When traveling to South Africa, your nationality and the types of activities you will conduct during your trip will determine whether you may travel lawfully as a business visitor or if you require work authorization. Please seek advice from your immigration counsel if you are uncertain about the specific types of activities that constitute business or work.

Traveling for business

What types of activities may I engage in as a business visitor?

As a business visitor to South Africa, you may engage in the activities below. While this list is not exhaustive and other activities could qualify as business, you may:

  • Attend business/board meetings
  • Attend conferences, conventions, trade shows or workshops as a participant
  • Tour a company facility
  • Sign contracts

In most cases, foreign nationals are advised to only engage in business activities for up to 10 business days in any 90-day period. In some cases, activities may be conducted for a longer period of time. An individual assessment is recommended prior to travel to determine the advisable period of time that the activities may be conducted.


If I qualify as a business visitor, do I need a visa for South Africa?

Nationals of Canada, the United States, and other select countries are eligible for a visa waiver and are not required to obtain a visa to enter and conduct business activities in South Africa.

Foreign nationals who are not eligible to enter South Africa on visa-waivered status must obtain a Visitor’s Visa with an endorsement permitting business activities from a South African Consular Mission prior to travel. Please obtain an individual assessment before traveling to determine your eligibility for a visa waiver.

Working in South Africa

What types of activities require work authorization?

The activities below, whether paid or unpaid, generally constitute work under South African law. This list is not exhaustive, and many other professional activities are considered work in South Africa, even if conducted for a short duration.

  • Providing training
  • Auditing
  • Consulting


If I am traveling to South Africa for work, what type of work authorization do I need?

The requirements for work authorization depend on your qualifications, on the nature and duration of your work and on whether your employer has an entity in South Africa. The most common work authorization types for South Africa are:

  • Visitor’s Visa Section 11(2) Authorization (short-term work authorization for assignees)
  • General Work Visa (long-term work authorization for direct hires)
  • Critical Skills Work Visa (long-term direct-hire work authorization for professionals with in-demand skills and/or experience found on the Critical Skills List)
  • Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) Work Visa (long-term work authorization for the temporary transfer of a foreign national employed by a foreign company operating a branch, subsidiary, or affiliate company in South Africa)


Is it possible to be exempted from work authorization requirements?

South Africa offers special permits for select nationals. Holders of these permits may be exempt from obtaining a Work Visa. Please consult with your immigration counsel to determine eligibility.

What else should I know?

Inevitably, the legal and strategic considerations impacting visa selection, as well as visa waiver and work authorization eligibility, entail the careful consideration of many factors. We recommend that you consult with your immigration counsel before taking any course of action.


Copyright ©2024 Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. Government immigration agencies often change their policies and practices without notice; please consult an immigration professional for up-to-date information. This document does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. BAL maintains comprehensive immigration information and processing specifics for our clients.