Paid Internships

Paid internships in South Africa:  The Facts!  

South African law on any form of paid work


In South Africa today, the only way someone who does not hold citizenship or permanent resident’s status, can do any form of paid work, is to obtain a work visa.  Due to the current economic situation in the country and the lack of job opportunities, especially for semi and un-skilled workers, the government have made it extremely difficult for foreigners to do any form of remunerated work. The priority is to lower the unemployment rate among local South African citizens.

Accordingly, work permits are not issued to people who follow an occupation for which there are already suitable people available to meet South Africa’s requirements.  However, a key element of the current government’s economic growth plan is to employ foreigners with scarce, critical and special skills in certain key areas.  The government allows a certain number of critical skills work permits to be issued to foreign nationals who are qualified to fill specific positions.

However, for foreign nationals who are qualified in professions outside of the critical skills list, it is still possible to obtain a work permit. It is necessary for an applicant to gain sponsorship from a local South African company in order to be able to apply for a work permit in the country of origin.  The South African company in question also has to prove that they have advertised the post to local people, and that there were no suitable candidates to fill the position.  Although possible, this is a very long and challenging process.

Under the current visa regulations, for any foreign national travelling to South Africa to pursue a paid internship, it is necessary to obtain a standard work permit.  Due to the length and difficulty of the process of obtaining a work permit, it is not possible for us to offer any paid placement opportunities in Cape Town.

Our defining values as an organisation

As well as the restrictions surrounding work permits for foreign nationals travelling to South Africa, another reason we do not offer any paid placement opportunities is because of the core values upon which Bridging Gaps was founded.  One of the fundamental reasons Bridging Gaps was started was to support and assist local organisations.

While securing professional, meaningful internships that enable our participants to gain valuable work experience, we also want to introduce the local organisations with whom we collaborate, to skilled, passionate and motivated interns who will directly assist them in their initiatives and projects. Our interns and volunteers make an important contribution to South Africa’s aim of achieving an equal, successful and sustainable economy and society, without compromising employment opportunities for local South Africans.  By only offering unpaid internships, the organisations and companies we collaborate with are able to continue offering local people internship and employment opportunities, at the same time as hosting our foreign students.

    Frequently asked questions

    As far as we are aware, in Cape Town none of the other internship or volunteering organisations similar to ourselves, offer any paid placement opportunities.  Due to current visa regulations, all placement providers for international students in Cape Town, can only offer unpaid internships.
    A few of the local organisations and companies we collaborate with here in Cape Town, offer paid internship placement opportunities to local people.  None of the organisations we work with offer paid work experience opportunities for international students, because they reserve those positions for locals.  The only types of companies that offer paid internships in Cape Town are banks, engineering companies, financial service providers and legal firms.  We partner with about 10 different local companies that have paid internship schemes, but there are no positions available to foreign nationals, because they only want to invest their finances in training local people who will contribute to South Africa’s economy.
    Although this is rare, it can happen.  Completing an internship or volunteer placement at an organisation is no guarantee that you will be offered a paid position at the end of it. However, if you make a great impression and really add value to the organisation, there is no reason why this should not be possible.

    If you are looking to make a more permanent move to Cape Town and experience what life in another country is all about, pursuing an internship in a local organisation is your first step.  In the past we have had two Bridging Gaps interns that have been offered permanent positions in the local organisation they interned at, and they are now enjoying life in Cape Town!

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