It’s a common misconception that one can travel to the UK to live and work if they have a secure offer of employment from a UK employer. This is not the case. Current UK immigration law states very strict guidelines and qualifying factors for applicants wishing to come to the UK to work.
If you are looking for work in the UK from South Africa, you will likely be turned away from UK recruitment agents as they usually require the applicant to already be in the UK or have an immediate route in. However, getting an actual Tier 2 work permit, as a South African passport holder, is not an easy feat.
Firstly, the UK Company who wishes to hire the applicant needs to be a Tier 2 sponsoring employer and must have a sponsorship license. These sponsoring companies are given a certain number of sponsorship certificates to issue to appropriate candidates each year. Should the number of certificates run out, that company may no longer hire foreign employees under the Tier 2 category for that year.
So for South Africans corresponding with UK employers, your first question to them would be "Does your company have a Tier 2 sponsorship license and can you issue me with a sponsorship certificate?" If they do not have a license, they are not permitted to hire foreign workers and must either hire locally or apply for a sponsorship license.
Secondly the applicant needs to have a minimum of a degree level qualification, needs to be able to speak and understand proficient English and must have a certain amount of money to take with them. Tier 2 work permit applicants are also permitted to bring their family members over with them to the UK.
Another common misconception is that South Africans can still apply for the 2 year working holiday visa. The working holiday visa is NO LONGER available for South Africans and was abolished a few years ago, though is available for some other countries. This visa category is now referred to as the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme.
The only ways in which a South African passport holder can live and work freely and legally in the UK is if they qualify under the Tier 2 work permit category, have rights to apply for a UK ancestral visa through a British born grandparent, have rights to apply for settlement through a British spouse, fiancé or partner, if they qualify for a Tier 4 student visa which entitles them to work for 20 hours per week part time or if they themselves have the right of abode in the UK. The other way is if your partner/spouse holds a valid EU passport such as Spanish, Italian, French etc.
There are also other visa categories like the entrepreneur and investor visas which would allow one to work in the UK.
At the end of the day working visa options for the UK are very limited for South African passport holders so it is very important to get your facts straight before you plan your life around living and working in the UK.
Beware of scams and fake offers of employment. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.