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.