South Africa is renowned for its rich cultural heritage and beautiful landscapes. It offers a myriad of attractions for its visitors. From tourists looking to soak up the African sun on safari, to businessmen and businesswomen looking for new opportunities within the hubs of Africa’s leading emerging market. Whatever the reasons for visiting South Africa, the country certainly does offer it all.
There are some very specific requirements for entering South Africa. It is important to ensure that before booking your flights, you have successfully completed the correct South African Visa application which will grant you access into the country. It is also important that you understand the purpose and extent to which your Visa allows you to visit or even conduct business in South Africa.
Visas do not grant you permanent access into the country and are generally only valid for a period of ninety days or less. You should take note that the completion of a South African Visa Application Form does not guarantee your eligibility to enter the country. All applications will undergo a review process at a South African embassy or consulate and only once the consular officer has determined eligibility, will your visa application be considered successful. You will be restricted to the activity or reason for your visit.
That being said, it is important to take note that there are many different types of visas that one can apply for with the intention of visiting South Africa. Whether you intend to visit family or friends, study, conduct research, attend a conference or event, work on a tv show or movie or even for medical purposes. Each visa has its own prerequisites and requirements upon application.
If you intend to visit South Africa and conduct business meetings as well as partake in tourist activities, you will be required to apply for a South African Visitors Visa. This visa is not the same as a Tourist Visa which only allows you to visit the country as a tourist and not conduct any business. It is also different from a South African Business Visa which you would need should you wish to work or invest in the South African economy. For example, if you wish to start a business. However, the Business Visa will only grant you a stay of no longer than 90 days. Should you wish to work in South Africa for a prolonged period of time, you will need to apply for a South African Work visa often referred to as a Work Permit. Work permits are generally valid for the contracted period of employment not exceeding 5 years.
If you are planning on studying in South Africa, you can apply for a Study Visa which is valid for the length of your studies in the country. However, this is only applicable if you plan on studying on a full-time basis. You are not permitted to work while in the country on a study visa. That being said, should you wish to study in South Africa, you will be required to provide proof of funds, medical coverage and if you are under the age of 18, proof of consent from a parent or legal guardian. This differs from the South African exchange visa which is for individuals under the age of 25 who want to visit South Africa to participate in exchange programs organised by a public institution.
If you seek medical treatment in South Africa, you will be required to apply for a Medical Visa which will grant you up to a 6 month stay in the country but will require the successful completion of a specialised form with a statement or letter from your doctor stipulating the reason for which you require the medical treatment in question. You will also need to provide proof that you are able to cover all your medical expenses and the treatment itself in addition to affording your living expenses.
A Relatives Visa will only be granted if you have immediate family members who are South African citizens or legal residents. The maximum stay on a Relatives Visa is 2 years. Should you wish to retire in South Africa and have proof of fixed retirement income from your country of origin, you may apply for a Retirement Visa.
Diplomats may apply for a Diplomatic Visa and if you are subject to an international treaty and require temporary residence in South Africa, you may apply for a Treaty Visa.
If you intend to apply for a South African Visa;
- You must have a valid passport or travel document that will still be valid for at least 30 days after your visit.
- Your passport must have at least two unused pages to allow for entry and departure endorsements at South Africa’s entry and exit ports.
- You will need a completed South African Visa Application Form BI-84 .
- You will be required to pay the prescribed cost of a South African visa.
- Where required, you will also need to present a valid International Certificate of Vaccination.
- It is also required that you present a statement or documentation confirming the purpose and duration of your visit.
- You will need two colour passport photos.
- You will also be required to show proof of a return or onward ticket.
- If you have children who are minors travelling with you to South Africa or joining you in South Africa, you will need to present proof of guardianship or custody or, in the case of an unaccompanied minor, consent from the parent or legal guardian.
- You will also need to provide proof of financial means to show that you are able to afford to pay for your living expenses while you are in South Africa. This proof must be in the form of bank statements, salary advances, undertakings by your South African host, bursary, medical cover or cash available including credit cards and travellers’ cheques.
The requirements for entering South Africa are;
- A valid and acceptable passport or travel document for your intended stay.
- At least two blank pages in your passport for endorsements.
- If required, a valid visa.
- Proof of financial means.
- A return or onward ticket.
- A yellow fever certificate if your journey starts or entails passing through the yellow fever belt of Africa or South America.
Other Permits Required in South Africa
With the introduction of specific measures that have been put in place in light of the global COVID-19 pandemic, there are additional requirements for entering South Africa. You may be required to produce additional permits in order to gain access into the country. Under the adjusted Alert Level 1, all international travellers arriving at any of South Africa’s major airports will be required to present, in addition to an International Certificate of Vaccination and/or yellow fever certificate, a negative COVID-19 test certificate, recognised by the World Health Organisation, which was obtained no less than 72 hours before the date of travel. Without this, you will be required to do an antigen test on arrival. If you test positive, you will be required to go into isolation for 10 days at your own cost.
Frequently Asked Questions About South African Visa Requirements
What is the difference between a South African visa and a South African Passport?
A visa allows you to enter and leave South Africa and is an endorsement on your passport. A passport is a document issued by the South African government to South African citizens. The two are not interchangeable.
How much does a South African Visa Cost?
The cost of a South African visa depends on the type of visa that you are applying for and is subject to change from time to time and may be less or more depending on the required supporting documents and forms.
|Visa Type||DHA Application Fee|
|Transfer and Rectification of Temporary Resident Visa||R 0|
For updates on these figures, fees and accompanying application and document fees, please contact The Department of Home Affairs.
How long does a South African visa take?
This will depend on the category or visa type which you are applying for. The Department of Home Affairs cannot guarantee the outcome or the length of time an application takes to process, nor can it guarantee the return of decision within a certain timeframe. This is due to the fact that applications are assessed individually. The minimum processing time is 8 to 10 weeks.
What type of permits do I need to visit South Africa?
As a requirement for entering South Africa, apart from a successful visa application, you will need an International Certificate of Vaccination and/or yellow fever certificate, as well as a negative COVID-19 test certificate, recognised by the World Health Organisation.
Which countries are exempt from South African visas?
Here is a list of countries that are exempt from South African visas for visits to the country up to 90 days:
|Andorra||Chile||Ireland||Monaco||Russia||Trinidad & Tobago|
|Argentina||Czech Republic||Israel||Namibia||Saint Vincent & The Grenadines||Tunisia|
|Austria||Denmark||Jamaica||Netherlands||San Marino||United Arab Emirates|
|Australia||Ecuador||Japan||New Zealand||Sao Tome & Principe||United Kingdom|
|Botswana||Germany||Luxemburg||Panama||Seychelles||United States of America|
Please note all information in this article is correct at time of publishing and is subject to change without notice.