South Africa: Perfect Destination for Expatriates  

It’s no secret that South Africa is considered to be one of the top destinations of choice for an expatriate, thanks to the country’s natural beauty, ideal weather, strong economy and diverse and rich culture.

Working and Living in South Africa Guide for ExpatsWhether you’re looking for a bustling city of skyscrapers, white sandy beaches or an adventure in the great outdoors, South Africa provides an expat with the chance to enjoy all of this in one place, and at a cost of living that is much lower than many western countries.

The problem is, you can’t move to the country and search for a job unless they have a job offer in hand because a work permit is required before an expat can begin living and working in the country and the only way to apply for a work-seeker’s permit is to have an offer or two already. Only then will a potential expat be allowed to visit the country and attend interviews or search for other offers—though the permit does not allow you to enter the country simply to search only.

To take the next steps, contact the embassy or visa facilitation center in your home country as early as possible and hand in your firm job offer and all the other necessary documents relating to a work permit there. Once a valid work permit is obtained, and the job accepted, an expat can apply for permanent residency, though he or she must first present proof of a satisfactory work record while employed in the country.

How to Find a Job

One challenge for expats searching for jobs is the stringent Affirmative Action policy the country follows, placing women, those with disabilities and people of color above any foreigners for new job opportunities. This makes locals much more likely to find work than someone entering the country for the first time with hopes of calling South Africa home.

However, skilled workers are always in demand in sectors such as engineering, education, executive management and information technology, so embarking on a career in South Africa is possible and those with top skills and experience should have no problem finding employment with the Zigo job search engine. lists every job in South Africa in one place so candidates can do one search and find every applicable job.

Recent employment data from the country shows that engineers, teachers, medical staff and IT specialists will find great job opportunities in South Africa as there is great demand and low supply for these occupations. There’s an increasing demand for these occupations to keep up with the strong economic growth of the country. Additionally, Clements Worldwide lists the top 10 portable careers that may be golden opportunities in South Africa.

Sources for Jobs

Whether you are looking for an NGO job, a career in IT, or even work for the government, there are plenty of ways for expats to find opportunities in South Africa. Clements Worldwide offers international guides for expats searching for work overseas, filled with lots of valuable practical advice.

There are also numerous websites that list job opportunities in the country. Some of the more popular websites include:

Another good idea is to read newspapers from the country and check out the job ads so you know the skill sets companies are looking for. Online papers from the country include the Mail & Guardian South Africa ( and The Times South Africa (

Make sure to examine the South African business associations and professional organizations in your business sector and always contact international headhunters to discuss how your skills and qualifications make you an ideal candidate for a career in South Africa.

A quick web search for South Africa’s various professional associations can also yield a long list of possible opportunities and give an expat an idea of what’s happening in the business climate of major cities like Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Be Aware of Business Customs

If working in South Africa is your dream, a good strategy is to research the country’s business customs and become familiar with its top industries. 

South Africans are said to be reluctant about dealing with those people they haven’t met before, so obtaining introductions from a mutual contact is the best way to begin any business relationship, so try to obtain letters of introduction from mutual contacts.

Another good tip is that a first business meeting should be more about getting to know one another than simply a strict discussion of business matters. South Africans are more likely to do business with expats if they like and trust you as a person, so don’t rush into business speak.

Appropriate business attire includes suits and ties for the men, dresses and skirts (though not too short) for the women, and light colors are usually preferred. 

Be aware that South Africans are very friendly and slaps on the back and even hand-holding (instead of a customary handshake) is a sign of trust and respect.


Expats are drawn to South Africa for a variety of reasons and those moving there will be an exciting adventure. The country offers an extremely diverse place to live—from language to religion to multiple ethnicities unified in one nation.

The weather in South Africa is ideal most of the year: hot during the European winter, while warm over the summer, lending ample opportunities to visit the country’s numerous wineries, hike its mountains (such as the 11,320 foot-high Mafadi), relax at the beaches of Cape Town, and enjoy the wildlife-filled Kruger National Park.

If working in South Africa is your dream, take a trip there and start talking to expats who have resided there. Keep in mind, if you’re planning on moving abroad, be prepared with Clements’ international moving checklist and be sure to check out South Africa country risk assessment guide to make sure your journey is safe and secure. 

Call us today at +1.202.872.0060 or 800.872.0067 or e-mail to discuss your needs.

Risk Assessment in South Africa