Company structures | South African Business Visa

Company structures  South African Business VisaPart of applying for a South African business visa is deciding on the type of company you’ll run. In order to for the application to be successful, your business must fit one of the prescribed company structures for a South African business visa.

What business structures are available?

Sole Proprietorships

The sole proprietorship is the simplest and most common form of business. It’s a business structure that is owned and run by one individual. The company may however have employees and it is allowed to conduct most types of business.

With sole proprietorships, the business does not have its own legal entity. This means the income of the business is all for the owner, as are the taxes and any liabilities.


A partnership is a business jointly owned by between 2 and 20 people. The partners would each make a contribution towards establishing the business and contractually agree to operate the business together and to split any profits in a fair manner.

As with sole proprietorships, the business is not a separate legal entity, leaving the partners liable for debts.

Private Companies (Pty Ltd)

Most foreigners choose to set up private companies in South Africa. It is most likely because the private company structure does not place any prohibition on foreign shareholding. Setting up is further simplified in that only one shareholder and one director is necessary.

Private companies are seen as separate legal entities and as such are taxed in their own right. This offers shareholders protection against liabilities.

Public Companies (Ltd)

Public companies are mainly set up to offer shares to the general public for the purpose of raising capital. Such enterprises should have a minimum one shareholder and three directors.

Like private companies, public companies have their own legal identity.

Personal Liability Companies

In personal liability companies, directors and past directors are jointly and separately liable, together with the company, for any debts and liabilities of the company. This would be for the time that the directors are or were contracted by the company.

State-owned Companies

A state-owned could be a company defined as a ‘state-owned enterprise’ in the Public Finance Management Act 1 of 1999 or it could be a company owned by a municipality.

The majority of the stipulations of a public company will apply to state-owned companies too.

Non-profit Companies (NPC)

A non-profit company is a trust, company or other association that is established for a public purpose, such as cultural activities or supporting disadvantages people.

Stakeholders in a NPC do not receive property or income from the company, apart from reasonable compensation for services rendered.

Foreign and External Companies

External companies are foreign-owned companies, incorporated outside of South Africa but trading in South Africa. As such, this type of company structure is used by foreign companies to set up a branch in South Africa.

Foreign-owned companies must register as an external company with the CIPC (Companies and Intellectual Property Commission). Another major stipulation for external companies is that they may not offer securities to the South African public.

Let us help you set up your business

Intergate Immigration has helped thousands of foreigners set up a business in South Africa. We can do the same for you. Our services include but are not limited to:

  • A comprehensive consultancy. This will help us determine which company structure is most appropriate for you.
  • Setting up your business in South Africa.
  • Setting up a bank account for your business.
  • Registering your company for income tax.
  • Acting as Public Officer where required.

Get the ball rolling by speaking to one of our consultants today. You can reach us at +27 (0) 21 424 2460. If you’d like us to contact you instead, simply complete a free online assessment or request a call back. As soon as we’ve received your request, we will endeavour to contact you within 24 hours to discuss your business idea.


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