Many young students are looking at doing a practical terms and thus gaining international work and life experience during the very pleasant South African summer. This is a desire of many interns around the world, but we need to look at the current permit status, which unfortunately changes all the time.
Much has been discussed, experienced and speculated, various orders were issued by over-ambitious Home Affairs officials and yet the only result is confusion and uncertainty. Eight weeks ago without any reason it wasn’t possible to get the short term work permit (11 (2)) anymore, many people were rejected. Now they open the doors again and the interns can work for three month in South Africa. Although there has been some abuse of this type of permit, it still seems silly to kill the opportunity for students to gain some valuable international experience. Most visitors to SA become ambassadors of the country, especially if they got to know its beautiful people, which happens in a work environment so much better compared to a normal tourist experience.
Industries such as tourism and hospitality, wine and advertising but also the legal sector are hurting the most. With this behavior Home Affairs officials take the chance away for the South African economy to attract future qualified employees.
As you can see, unfortunately we are not in any position to give any reliable advice. The South African embassies abroad do not issue any visas upfront for visa exempt countries, which most European countries are. The only chance for interns is to fly to South Africa with a very strong motivational letter from the South African company or branch and show it to the immigration official at the Airport. The letter should explain, why he or she is needed for the company. The department within Home Affairs, which should give letters of authorization has never became functional. So effectively, both the intern as well as the employer will only know upon entering the country and meeting the immigration official in Johannesburg or Cape Town on arrival, if the permission to work for 90 days will be granted or not.
A very frustrating situation especially for young people who do not wish to do harm to anybody nor to take jobs away from any local people. As I said, their contribution to the economy should not be under-estimated. Luckily, if the permission to work is not granted, a normal visitor permit (section 11(1)) is usually issued and they can at least enjoy a stay in South Africa.
11 (1) = Tourist Visa for 90 days, not allowed to work
11 (2) = Working Permit for 90 days, possible to extend it once for max 90 more days