Access to work

Can you work using an asylum seeker document? 

As a recognized refugee (section 24) you have the right to seek employment in South Africa, but differently to what was the rule in past, under the amended Refugees Act, as an asylum seeker (section 22) you do not automatically have permission to work in South Africa while you are waiting for the outcome of your asylum application.  

According to the new legislation, if you wish to work while using a asylum seeker (section 22) permit, you will have to apply to have your asylum seeker document ‘endorsed’ with permission to work in South Africa. Once you submit this application, the Standing Committee will assess whether to grant you permission to work while your asylum claim is being adjudicated. Part of this assessment is whether you have other means of support (such as friends and family or charitable organisations).  

If you are given permission to work, this must be ‘endorsed’ on your asylum seeker document. You will have to show that you are employed within six months of the date of the endorsement. If you cannot show that you are employed within six months, this condition may be removed from your asylum seeker document. 

UNHCR has shared some critical comments about the need to align these new provisions to the Refugee Conventions. 

if permission to work is endorsed on your asylum seeker document … 

  • After receiving an endorsement to work, a person with an asylum seeker document must produce a letter to prove that they are employed. This must happen within 14 days of gaining employment. 
  • This letter must be signed by your employer – and it should be written on Form 6 of the Annexure to the Refugees Regulations
  • Permission to work is endorsed on an asylum seeker document, the Standing Committee will determine any conditions or time periods. 
  • Conditions that the Standing Committee can determine includes in which sectors an asylum seeker may or may not be employed or study. 

ATTENTION! The practice outlined regarding the asylum seekers’ right to work has not yet been fully implemented. 

Are there organisations that support Refugee-Led Businesses & Access to Permits?

Hand-in-Hand: Livelihoods and Self Reliance Project

Hand in Hand Southern Africa - Home | Facebook

The Livelihood project will give support to refugees (section 24) through advocacy and lobbying interventions that promote social cohesion in targeted communities, self-employment and employment support.

  • Advocacy and lobbying to facilitate employment/self-employment of refugees  (section 24);
  • Self-employment support (focusing on businesses operating for at least one year, guidance on business market opportunities).
  • Mentorship and support to business owners; training opportunities (financial and digital literacy, business, life skills).
  • Employment support (facilitating access to skills and employment opportunities, registering at job placement agencies, opening of bank accounts).

 Services provided to refugees (80%) and South Africans (20%) in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal Provinces.

Who is eligible to participate?

 Any person interested in participating in the project must meet the following criteria:

  • Must have a valid Section 24 Refugee Permit and/or RSA ID issued by the Department of Home Affairs
  • Must be between 18 years and 45 years of age
  • Must be residing in Johannesburg or Pretoria for the duration of the project
  • Must not have been supported by UNHCR under the previous livelihoods projects
  • Must demonstrate commitment to fully participate in the project activities during the project implementation period
  • Persons with Asylum seeker permits or permanent residence permits do not qualify
  • For self-employment support, candidates must have been operating a business for a period of at least a year
Johannesburg GautengHomestead Office Park, 37 Homestead Road, Rivonia, Johannesburg,2128  Tel: +27 11 021 4535 e-mail: [email protected]          
Durban Kwazulu-Natal320 Dr Pixley Kaseme, Office 524, 5th Floor, Durban, 4001 Tel: +27 31 826 6667 Email: [email protected]
Blouberg LimpopoBochum Office park, Stand #526, Senwabarwana (Bochum), Polokwane, 0790 Tel:+27 11 021 4535 Email: [email protected]
Musina LimpopoNorth Gate Centre, Shop No 5, 1 Bachman Avenue, Musina, 0900 Tel: +27 11 021 4535 Email: [email protected]

Related information