Overseas opportunities for South Africans

south african green passport

Upon deciding that I wanted to work overseas, I was surprised to learn just how difficult that can be for us South Africans, with our limiting green passports.

We do not have access to working holiday visas like many first world countries do. Most working holiday visas schemes are under reciprocal agreements between two countries, because these countries want to encourage travel and the exchange of culture between their citizens. Unfortunately, this is an(other) area that Zuma hasn’t focused on.

This means that we cannot just show up in a country, find a casual job and legally earn money there. In order to work in most countries, you need a letter of employment and working visa supplied by a company, before you can pitch up.

To make this life-changing information more accessible and digestible, I have compiled a summary of overseas work opportunities available for South Africans. Please spread the love (share!) and let me know of any opportunities that I may have missed.

This is exactly where and how I started my journey of living my dream life, I hope the same for you!

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone – My story

I started by asking myself 3 important questions: what do I want, why do I want it and how am I going to get it?

1. What do I want?

journal desk write nails book
Spill some ink! The pages of a journal know all of the answers.

Firstly, ask yourself what exactly you want out of an overseas opportunity, both financially and non-financially.

All I knew for sure was that I wanted to travel the world, most preferably take a long break (or ‘gap years’, yes years) from the corporate world and spend more time pursuing and aligning with my higher self (ie. freedom!).

I didn’t have enough for the amount of places I wanted to see and time I wanted to spend there, so I knew that I would have to work overseas, as a 2 week holiday just wouldn’t suffice.

For me, the most important factors were:

  • financially, to be able to save as much as possible (Ideally, as much as I would have as a Chartered Accountant in London or Cape Town)
  • while still having a relaxed lifestyle (No stress and as few working hours as possible so that I can daily pursue writing, yoga and whatever else my heart desires)
  • and a rewarding job
  • with enough time off and savings to travel and really experience other parts of the world
  • as a couple, to be able to get a job in the same city

2. Why do I want it?

The why question helped me to clarify the what question, thus getting closer to what I really wanted.

In my journal one day, I asked myself,why should I continue Auditing for the next 3 years?

Then and there, I realised that it would be solely to stay within my comfort zone. But the only thing was this – my comfort zone was not that comfortable!

In the end, I realised that not even living the Chartered Accountant lifestyle in Cayman Islands or London, with some of my closest friends, would make not following my heart bearable for even a little while longer.

This seemed impossible at the time, however, I can safely say that this dream has become my reality. (Thank you, Universe!)

travel work south africans
Embarking on our recent 2 month school Summer holiday

“You are 42% more likely to achieve your goals and dreams if you write them down.” – Dr. Gail Matthews

3. How am I going to get it?

Only once I knew exactly what I wanted and why I wanted it, could I clearly assess how the different opportunities measured up to my wishes.

And with that, I was finally ready to get down and dirty with my good friend, Google. Below is my 6 months of research!

Here are the overseas work options:

  • A job in your current field:

Ask your boss to forward your CV to international contacts (branches, clients, suppliers or customers) or ask around, and Google, for contacts in the international industry. Going directly through your current or a potential employer is the easiest way since the employer arranges and facilitates everything for you (job offer, employment letter, work permit, relocation costs, etc).

  • Study abroad with a scholarship:

There are so many different scholarships available for South Africans to study all over the world! Here are a few of them:

  • There are different levels of study scholarships: Diplomas, Undergraduate, Graduate, Master’s, PhD, or Post-Doctoral degrees.
  • There are many different fields of study.
  • Scholarship benefits vary, but can cover the following: tuition fees, passport/visa, inoculations, living stipend, travel expenses, school supplies, and accommodation.
  • Application deadlines dates vary.
Options & helpful linksSalary and Living costs (per month)ProsCons (& once-off upfront costs)Contract length & Start dates
USA country clubs

Salary, at 40 hrs per week:
$1400 –1900 (depending on position)

This is after tax of 7.65%, some of which can be claimed back.

Living costs:
Housing of $640.
Food & drinks of $300.

See detailed calculations here
• Well-run program
• Assistance with visa application
• Orientation in SA & in USA upon arrival
• Flight to & from USA provided
• Optional pre-arranged furnished accommodation
• A guaranteed 80 hours over 2 weeks which is paid biweekly
• No minimum qualification requirement specified.
• Irregular, long working hours
• Have to work overtime to earn a substantial salary
• Other taxes (such as local or state)
• Tips are prohibited
• You are not allowed to travel in the USA after your contract, you must immediately return to your home country
Attend presentation and apply in May

Interview in July

Start in Aug/Sept

6-7 month contracts
Cruise ship

Cruiselines jobs


Princess cruises



Wandering Earl blog
$1500 - 5000
(depending on position and tips)

Living costs:

All living costs are provided, so majority of the salary can be saved.
• Airfare & transport to the ship is provided
• Food & accommodation is free
• Salary is not subject to US or UK tax
• Depending on your position, most crew members are allowed to get off the ship and explore, when the ship is in port.
• Previous cruise ship experience is not required
• Wide variety of positions available, including non-skilled workers.
• Approx. $160 visa costs (US or UK Schengen, dep. on your ship)
• Living conditions are not ideal – you must share a small cabin with fellow crew members.
• 9-13 work hours a day, 7 days a week for 4-9 month contracts.
• It’s difficult for couples to get accepted onto the same ship. (See this recommendation).
• Salary can be dependent on tips (depending on position)
• You are not allowed to travel in the USA after your contract, you must immediately return to your home country
4-10 month contracts

Year-round vacancies

4-9 month contracts
USA and Canada travelling amusement parks or carnivals



Minimum $1320 before taxes.

Living costs:
Approx. $300 food & drinks and $120 tax.
• Airfare provided
• Housing provided
• A Grade 10, 11 or Matric certificate is the minimum qualification needed.
• You can explore the town after hours.
• $275 visa costs
• Irregular, long working hours
• Hard, physically taxing work
• You must return home straight after the contract has ended
5-10 month contracts
Au Pair

Carlas aupairs



Biancas aupairs

US: $800
Netherlands: $320
Sweden : $380
Italy: $340
France: $425
Belgium: $480
Germany: $370

Living costs and taxes
are dependent on country.
• Accommodation & food is provided, so other living costs are minimal
• 2 weeks paid vacation
• Airfare is provided for US (Not Netherlands)
• 30 days to travel the US after completing a year contract
• Matric or equivalent minimum qualification
• About $485-600 registration & program fees and $160 visa fee
• 1.5-2 days off a week and 1 full weekend off a month
• 8-10 hours per day
• Not an ideal situation for couples, as you are required to live with your host family
Year-round vacancies

12 month contracts
Flight attendant





R4000 - 6000 (Regional airlines)

$1000 - 1400 (International airlines)

General living costs and possible training & uniform costs.
• Matric or equivalent minimum qualification
• Certain locations accommodation and meals are provided
• You may get cheap flights
• For some flight attendants, with long haul flights, you often stopover in the country you are flying to and may have some time off there
• Competition for flight attendant jobs is tough, typically only 10% of those who apply will be offered a job.
• Minimum height 1.58m SAA (Emirates: 1.60m). Height and body weight must be proportionate. Reach 212cm without shoes on tiptoes.
• Long working day - you have to be at the airport 2 hours before departure and flights can be delayed
• Irregular shifts (overnight flights) and off days
Year-round vacancies
USA summer camps

$1200 - 1700 (before taxes) total for 9 - 11 weeks.

American-style camp in Croatia:
1300 Euros (before taxes) for 10 weeks.

Living costs:
See Cons - not a financially viable option.
• Free meals and accommodation• $275 upfront fee, approx. $900 flight ticket cost, $160 visa, other local taxes.
• These costs outweigh the 10-week salary! Therefore, it’s not worth it for South Africans.
• I have only included these details to help those who are considering overseas work to see that it is actually not a financially viable option.
May/June – August

9-11 week contracts
Work in Dubai, UAE



$2500 - 7000
(depending on industry and position)

Living costs:
$1000 - 2500
(depending on lifestyle)
• No tax
• Salary packages can include 21 days paid leave, visa and airfare.
• Higher salaries than South Africa across almost all fields of work
• End of contract bonus
• There is a wide variety of jobs available such as hospitality, education, retail, management, construction and the Emirates crew.
• Living costs are high, especially accommodation.
• Rent is usually required in advance for a year!
• Salary is based on negotiation.
• For entry-level and non-management positions, it can be more difficult to save money.
• Strict laws and dress codes, with Dubai being much more liberal than the rest of the UAE.
12 months contracts
(with 3-6 months probation period)
Teach English

(I will provide a detailed breakdown by country, with helpful links, in the near future)
Middle East: $2.5-7k
Japan: $2-4k
South Korea: $2-4k
Vietnam, China: $1-3k
Turkey, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Taiwan: $1-2k

(dep. on qualification and experience)

Potential savings (pm):
$500 – 3000
(depending on country and lifestyle)
• Depending on country and contract the following could be provided: Furnished housing, airfare, medical costs, bonuses and visa.
• Working hours: 15 – 25 average working hours per week, depending on country and contract.
Dependent on country and contract 3 – 24 month contracts

Year-round vacancies

Shoo, this was a mouthful! A digestible one, I hope 🙂

Happy journeying, beautiful people.


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