A Southern Girl in South Africa

A Southern Girl in South Africa

The Chronicles of a Southern Girl's Adventures of Living, Loving, Learning, and Traveling in Africa

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It’s hard out here for…

May 9, 2012 , , , , , , , , , ,

an immigrant (a little homage to the 2008 Academy Award winning Three Six Mafia song).  As I’m writing this post, I am actually A Southern Girl in Alabama.  I’m in the U.S. applying for a work permit.  You have to have a work permit in order to be allowed to work and open a bank account in South Africa.   It’s quicker to apply at the A) South African Embassy in the U.S. (6 weeks) vs.  B) at the Embassy in South Africa (6 months) so of course I’ll take Option A for $500 Alex ala Jeopardy! Once again, in all fairness, I have to share the not-so-fun parts of moving to South Africa. I understand that countries want to monitor and manage the foreigners that are living within their borders but for someone who is going through the process, it can be quite daunting.  But before I get into the ins and outs of the process, there’s a few things I need to clear up:

1) Fungayi can’t help me in this process.  Fungayi (despite what his name may imply) is an American citizen – born in Queens, NY and raised 30 minutes outside of New York City.  He is in South Africa on a work permit just like me and he had to go through a similar process as I did to be able to work and live in South Africa.  Being his wife allows me to apply for a spousal permit which would allow me to stay in the country past the 90 day visitor’s visa that all Americans get when they come to South Africa; however, a spousal permit does not allow me to work in South Africa.

2) Even if Fungayi was South African (which he is not, he’s Zimbabwean-American), he still couldn’t help me (at least not in the short term).  We would have to be living in South Africa as a married couple for 5 years before I could apply for permanent residence which would allow me to work anywhere without having a work permit.

3) There’s one other small catch: You have to have a job offer before you can even apply for a general work permit.  South Africa has laws that strongly encourage companies to hire the coloured, black and Indian people that were discriminated against for so long via the apartheid system.  Companies have to prove that they advertised the job and seriously considered hiring someone from the disadvantaged groups.  If the company chooses not to do that, then the company has to show extensive documentation outlining why each of the people from the disadvantaged groups was turned down.  Needless to say, most companies don’t want to go through that hassle so they’d rather not fool with foreigners, especially ones like myself that don’t even have a work permit.

OK, now I’ve cleared that up, let’s move on.   I started this process in Atlanta and it took me several tries to even figure out where to go to get the fingerprints.  I thought you could just walk into a police station and get them done like in Hill Street Blues or Barney Miller.  Negative.  (Yes, I know I’m dating myself by mentioning those shows).  Once I figured out where to go and I arrived there only to find out that the fingerprint center is only open between 9 AM – 2 PM Monday through Friday (those are worse than bank and library hours).  I went back the next day only to find out that you have to have a $20 money order to pay for the fingerprints.  I left and called my husband in a panic fit of rage to find a post office near the fingerprint center.  I went and got the money order and came back a 3rd time and finally got them done.  Now, let me remind you that was only one part of one part of the 15 step process (see below).  But you get my drift, right?   I still had to go to the post office, get another money order for the application and mail the FBI clearance application off.  

This experience has made me think about the entire immigrant debate in the U.S. and how hard we make it for immigrants in the U.S.  I wonder if government officials lived abroad in a less-than-immigrant-friendly country, would they be so tough on immigrants in the U.S. especially in light of the fact that most U.S. citizens are descendants of immigrants? But I  digress…

I won’t bore you with the drama I went through once the SA Embassy actually got my application.  Ok, well I can’t resist one quick example:  You have to mail your passport off with the application which is akin to mailing off your firstborn since you can’t leave the country without it.

The guy from the Embassy calls me: Where is your passport?

Me: You have it. (I am having a mental and physical breakdown at the mere thought that they have lost my passport)

Embassy guy: We do?  Let me look around for it.

Me: OK

He calls me back a few hours later and lets me know he has it.  But all’s well that ends well and I got a 3 year work permit!  Rush hour traffic and taxes here I come!!  Woohoo!!  Seriously speaking, I’m excited about starting my new job and I’m grateful to have gotten a job with a wonderful company despite my foreigner status.

Requirements for Applying for a General Work Permit in South Africa

  • Valid passport with at least two (2) unused (blank) visa pages when presented at the Embassy or Consulate; one page for affixing the visa or permit by the embassy/consulate and the other page for endorsement of entry/departure stamp by the South African Immigration Services. Passport must be valid for 30 more days after the intended return date from South Africa
  • Fees payable to the appropriate South African representative office.
  • Prescribed form BI-84
  • Medical Report BI-811
  • Radiological Report BI-806
  • Police Clearance Certificate from all countries where the applicant resided for 12 months or longer since 18 years.
  • A vaccination certificate, if required;
  • Proof of financial means in the forms of
    • Bank statements
    • Salary advices;
    • Undertaking (commitment) by the South African host;
    • Bursaries (grant awarded as part of a financial assistance package);
    • Medical coverage;
    • Cash available, including credit cards or travelers’ checks to cover
      expenses related to the visit;
    • Deposit
  • Marriage and birth certificate
  • Applicants traveling by air must be in possession of round trip tickets, or proof of sufficient funds or lodge a cash deposit of equivalent value to such a ticket;
  • Statement and/or documentation confirming the purpose and duration of visit.
  • An offer of employment;
  • Certification by a chartered accountant detailing the following:
    • Describing the job description;
      • Certifying that the job position falls within a relevant category;
      • Certifying that the position exists and is intended to be filled by such foreigner;
      • Certifying that such foreigner possess the legal qualifications required for the performance of the tasks called for by the job position, taking into account any applicable requirement of the South African Qualification Authority.
      • Commitment by the employer to pay training fee in respect of each employee, amounting to 2% of such foreigner’s taxable remuneration to be paid quarterly and in advance.
      • Certification by the chartered accountant detailing the fact that no South African can fill the post in question.

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Love the blog sands!!!


May 9, 2012

Thanks sands for reading and commenting on the blog! I’m enjoying reading yours as well!

Wow! What a tale! Good information to know, especially if you’re planning on pursuing work in another country. Just good to know, in general, really. Thanks for sharing your experience

Debra Stokes

May 9, 2012

Thanks Aunt Debra for reading and commenting! I’m glad you found the information to be useful. Fungayi has made my transition so much easier. He had a much harder time than I did since he came here by himself 7 years ago. It’s definitely made me appreciate living and working in the country in which I am a citizen. On the flip side, the experience of living and working abroad has definitely broadened my horizons and perspectives. All in all, the good far outweighs the bad. 🙂

Hello, just stoping by to see how you are doing. Your name came up in our natural hair conversation today. You are missed here at FCBOE!!!


May 21, 2012

Hey there Charlette! I’m glad y’all haven’t forgotten about me. I miss y’all too! I’ve learned a lot since I’ve been off work and watching YouTube all day. LOL! Aywho, tell everyone I said Hello!

I am catching up on the blog. Who knew there was so much that goes into the process.


July 26, 2012

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