Navigating an Application for a Critical Skills Visa

A critical skills visa is ideal for an individual who has both academic and work experience which fall under a set list of critical skills issued by the Department of Home Affairs, which can be updated at any time through the Government Gazette. It is interesting to note that the critical skills list at the moment has not changed since June 2014, when critical skills visas came into law and replaced exceptional skills permits.

If you are a first time applicant and currently do not hold a long term visa for South Africa, you must make your critical skills application abroad in your country or citizenship and/or residency, either through a South African mission abroad or VFS Global, depending on the country from which you must apply.

Before making an appointment for submission, make sure all your application documents are prepared and ready to submit, that you have paid the necessary fees and that you have your original passport with you – as your passport will be handed over when you submit and will only be handed back to once the application has been adjudicated. Adjudication times vary depending on the country in which you apply – with a minimum turn-around of ten working days and an average of 20 working days.

Of utmost importance with a critical skills visa application are both your SAQA certificate and professional membership. Which professional body you must apply to and what they need to verify your work experience will vary depending on which critical skills visa you intend on applying for. The duration of processing with a professional body will also vary – from two weeks up to four months.

This means that from start to finish an application for critical skills can be as short as three months and take up to six months to finalize. This is an important timeline to keep in mind, especially if you have a job waiting for you in South Africa.

Without a job offer and undertakings from an employer (and assuming all other requirements have been met) a critical skills visa will be issued for a period of twelve months – allowing you an opportunity to find a job in your critical skills category and resubmit to extend your visa for an additional four years.

If you have a job offer and undertakings you will be entitled to a critical skills visa of up to five years maximum (the duration of the visa is dependent on the job contract). The critical skills visa will be based on both the critical skill you hold and the employer. Thus, if you change employers you must resubmit your documentation (which can be done from within South Africa) and re-apply for a new critical skills visa endorsed with your new employer. Any such change will take between eight and ten weeks if done through VFS Global in South Africa.

We have successfully assisted a myriad of applicants navigate critical skills visa applications – both abroad and within South Africa based on all occupations – from corporate general managers to PhD holders.

If you need assistance applying for a critical skills visa or are not sure if you would qualify, contact us for an initial assessment.