3 ways to go about hiring foreign skills for your SA startup

Passport stamps

Even before I was involved in the tech entrepreneur scene in SA and before I ran an immigration and visa services firm, I noticed during my tech recruitment days that companies simply didn’t understand how the work visa system in South Africa functioned. And because they didn’t understand it, they were afraid of it.

The plain truth is that it’s very simple. Either you can hire that foreign skill, or you can’t. But if you can, then there is no reason (unless perhaps financially) why you shouldn’t. In fact, the most recent visa regulations, which came out in May 2014, actually try to encourage companies to hire certain skills, which centre heavily around the technology (IT and Engineering) arena. In fact, I am proud to say that I’ve helped a number of SA tech startups (and those from other industries) to get the right person or a specific person on board.

Bringing on someone from outside the country can have massive benefits for your startup too. Quite aside from the skill-sets and experience they can bring in, adding a bit of international flavour to your team can expose it to different ways of thinking and tackling problems.

Read more: Why diasporas are emerging markets’ top assets when it comes to tech

So just what does it take to hire someone who is not a South African citizen or permanent resident? In short, there are three main visa types that will allow someone to work in SA. There are others, but let’s stick to these for now.

1. General Work Visa

This is the standard work visa type that most countries have. You will need to show some sort of proof that this applicant is filling a gap in your company that almost no other South African can. This is done through newspaper adverts and a host of other things and in short, yes, this visa type is the most costly, time-consuming and arduous of the three. Both the company and the applicant need to undergo effort in this visa’s process.

To name but a few of the 18 requirements, you’ll need a vaccination certificate, proof of financial means to cover envisaged living expenses, bank statements, and a certificate by the Department of Labour stipulating the salary earned by employees occupying similar positions in the Republic of South Africa.

2. Intra-Company Transfer Work Visa

This is only for those companies which have a branch in South Africa and abroad. An employee from Uber Germany, for example, could be transferred to South Africa for a limited time period. This option is not extendable and has many limitations, such as not counting towards the employee earning permanent residence. It is an easier process, yet requires that the employee has been working in the overseas branch for at least six months.

Intra-Company Transfer permits are only valid for two years and cannot be renewed or extended.

3. Critical Skills Work Visa

Here an applicant falls under one of the skills mentioned on South Africa’s critical skills list. By dint of having and proving these skills, the employee gets to start work immediately and is not tied to any one firm. This options is thus the most ideal in terms of speed, cost and timing.

There is, however, one very big thing you need to be aware of with this kind of visa: the employee is free to leave the employ of your company and join another.

Read more: 10 questions to ask before outsourcing work at your startup

Even with the very brief introduction to these three work visa types, it should be clear that it is possible to hire people from outside South Africa – and this can make a huge difference to your business.

Image by hjl via Flickr



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