Answer to a question from a reader

Are foreign nursing diplomas valid in South Africa?

The short answer

It depends. The South African Nursing Council will recognise your qualification if it meets certain criteria.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

I am an asylum seeker with a nursing diploma from my country of origin. Does my diploma have any value in South Africa? Can I work here? Can I go to university?

The long answer

In the first place, asylum seekers do have the right to look for work in South Africa. But as to what value your diploma has in South Africa, that is a question that can only be settled by the South African Nursing Council (SANC).

The SANC is the statutory body that regulates the nursing profession in South Africa. It sets standards for nursing education and training as well as standards for practising nursing. It is the body that registers all learner nurses/midwives as well as trained nurses, which includes foreign nurses. Thus, SANC processes applications from foreign nurses and midwives who hold qualifications from a foreign country. Asylum seekers have the right to apply to the SANC for registration.

The SANC must evaluate the foreign qualification in terms of the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) and the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). The SANC will recognise the foreign qualification after it has conducted the evaluation and the foreign qualification has met all the required verifications.

South Africa has three categories of nurses: professional (registered) nurses with four years of training; enrolled nurses with two years of training, and nursing assistants or auxiliaries with one year of training.

A diploma is NQF level 6 and in nursing means that a person can go on to register as a general nurse.

The Western Cape government says that “The Diploma in General Nursing (R171) is a three-year programme, leading to registration with South African Nursing Council as a General Nurse. The programme consists of a theory and clinical component which must be completed in each academic year.”

The SANC website says that for foreign nationals, the following documents must be submitted when applying for registration:

  • Letter of intent/application;

  • Curriculum Vitae;

  • A letter of support to write examinations in South Africa from the National Department of Health (NDoH) and Foreign Workforce Management (FWMP);

  • A certificate of English Language Proficiency obtained from an accredited institution (only for applicants whose nurse education was not done in English). The acceptable band for International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is 6. Only certificates from international recognized testing centres will be considered;

  • Evaluation certificate of foreign educational qualification by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA);

  • Certified copy of official passport or South African identity document (except refugees who will submit the permit from Department of Home Affairs);

  • Certified copy of registration certificate of the Regulatory Body from the country of origin;

  • Certified copy of qualification certificate;

  • Valid license to practice as a nurse from the nurse’s Regulatory Body where the applicant’s nursing qualification is registered;

  • Record of education and training (transcript) from the Nursing Education Institution in the country of origin;

  • Verification certificate from the Regulatory Body of country of origin confirming that the applicant is in good professional standing and has no professional cases pending against him/her (except for refugees);

  • Application form duly completed by the applicant himself/herself which can be downloaded at;

  • The applicable non-refundable application fee;

  • Certified copy of marriage certificate where applicable;

  • Letter of competence from the last employer;

  • Police clearance letter from country of origin.

(Presumably in the case of asylum seekers who may well not have access to all these documents, sworn affidavits must be made.)

SANC goes on to say that “It is the responsibility of each individual to approach SAQA and NDOH for SAQA evaluation certificate and the endorsement letter from NDOH.”

In terms of studying at university:

To upgrade from a diploma to a degree: “Students who successfully complete a National Diploma course can enrol for a Bachelor of Technology (BTech) degree in the same field of study. Duration of study: Full-time 3 years / Part-time 4 years.”

The SANC says that refugees and asylum seekers who wish to undergo post-graduate studies will first be examined by the SANC as General Nurses for the R683 programme. The R683 programme is a bridging course for enrolled nurses leading to registration as a general nurse (SANC regulation no. 683).

University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) says that “International students are required to obtain Limited Registration with the South African Nursing Council before they are permitted to commence with any practical requirements. The Department of Nursing Education will facilitate the process with the South African Nursing Council on completion of registration.” For further information regarding Limited Registration with the South African Nursing Council refer to

Wits also says: “The University has an International Office which offers assistance to international applicants and helps them with the procedures they need to follow. In order to register at the University, please check all requirements on the International Office website.”

Tel: +27 11 717 1054

These are the contact details for the South African Nursing Council (SANC):
Address: Cecilia Makiwane Building,
602 Pretorius Street,
Arcadia, Pretoria,0083.
Telephone (Call Centre): 012 420 1000, 012 420 1000

You can find more information on the registration process on the Nursing Council website or contact them at 012 420 1000 or

Wishing you the best,

Answered on Aug. 2, 2022, 3:15 p.m.

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