How long does it take to get a South African visa?

how long does it take to get a south african visa

One of the most common questions we get asked is: ‘How long does it take to get a South African visa?’

You might have been wondering this yourself.

Unfortunately there is no simple answer to this question. Reason being is that each category has its own set of criteria, process and timeline. It’s therefore difficult to provide a standard answer across all visa categories.

The only way to know how long the process could be for you is by doing an eligibility assessment with one of our experts to know which visa you’re able to apply. Your consultant will  be happy to provide a rough guideline of timelines once your options have been established.

Critical skills work visa, general work visa and business visa

Many of our clients come to South Africa for work and business purposes. These categories are a bit more complex than the other categories mentioned above. Let’s look at realistic timelines for the below temporary residency visas:

  • Critical skills work visa
  • General work visa
  • Business visa

1) Critical skills work visa

The critical skills work visa is for foreigners whose skills and qualification are in line with the critical skills sectors which appear on the South African critical skills list.

Foreign qualifications must however be evaluated and confirmed by the South African Qualification’s Authority (SAQA). This is so that the applicant can prove that their qualifications are comparable to South African educational standards.

The next key requirement for the critical skills work visa is registration with a professional body, board or council.  You can two types of professional bodes and the timelines differ significantly:

  • Statutory body: Up to 6 to 12 months.
  • Non-statutory bodies: 8 to 12 weeks.

Once the SAQA evaluation and professional body registration have been completed, you can submit the final application to either the Department of Home Affairs or the relevant SA mission in your home country.

2) General work visa

When we tell people how long a general work visa takes, the standard reaction is disbelief and shock. Unfortunately this is a visa that is work and process intensive so it takes a while to process.

The application process not only involves the applicant and the employer, it involves other external parties. This includes the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) and the Department of Labour (DOL). It’s important to note that each party has their own set of responsibilities and duties that form part of the entire process.

So how long could you expect to wait for your general visa?

You can wait up to a year. Yes, that’s right – 12 months!

We’ll explain how this time is allocated by breaking the application into four phases:

  • The recruitment phase
  • SAQA evaluation of foreign qualifications
  • The DOL Evaluation phase
  • The DHA (Department of Home Affairs) phase

Recruitment phase:

This first phase involves the employer because they must advertise the available position. South African immigration legislation requires that the position the foreigner wants to fill must have been:

  • Advertised nationally through prescribed mediums for a 2-month period. At the very minimum, the advertisement needs to be in a national newspaper, however, other online adverts are also encouraged.
  • Interviews need to be conducted with shortlisted South African citizens or permanent residents.

These requirements are in place to prove that a suitable South African could not be found for the position.

SAQA evaluation phase:

It is required that the applicant must have the skills and qualifications required for the position. Foreign qualifications must be evaluated and confirmed by the South African Qualification’s Authority (SAQA). This process is around 30 working days.

DOL Evaluation phase:

The DOL has to ensure that requirements have been met. As such the DOL will conduct a thorough assessment of:

  • The recruitment efforts made by the employer.
  • The motivation behind offering a foreign applicant the position.
  • The foreign applicant’s skills and qualifications.

The DOL will also visit the employer to confirm compliance with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, including Health and Safety regulations, as part of the assessment.

Upon completion of the assessment, the DOL will issue an outcome which is either chooses to recommend the foreign candidate for the role or not. It is only once this has come through as positive that the next phase can take place.

The recruitment, SAQA and DOL evaluation phase can take up to 8 months. 

DHA phase:

This phase takes 8 to 12 weeks for processing. It is when the visa application is submitted to the Department of Home Affairs for consideration. The DHA will now review the application (provided it was decided that the applicant can submit an application) to reach an outcome.

3) Business visa

The Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) are involved in the business visa aplication.

The crux of the entire business visa process is the DTI application and obtaining a letter of recommendation from them. The following is required for their evaluation:

  • A comprehensive business plan.
  • Applicants resume.
  • Proof that you have sufficient funds to invest.

Should the DTI issue a letter of recommendation, an application for the business visa can be lodged with the Department of Home Affairs.

Let’s break it down into phases again for ease of reference:

DTI phase – Between 3 and 4 months

The DTI procedures are extensive as mentioned above. A committee at DTI will review documents submitted to them and do a thorough assessment such as:

  • An area/site visit; and
  • Sector analysis

to ensure that the intended business in South Africa will be:

  • Feasible; and
  • Will contribute to the national interest of South Africa.

Once DTI has issued a positive recommendation, you are able to proceed with the next phase.  This is the submission to DHA for consideration.

DHA Phase – Between 3 and 4 months

After you have submitted your visa application to the Department of Home Affairs, the Department will review all the paperwork included in the application and issue their decision.

All other visa categories

The rest of South Africa’s visas don’t involve multiple stages and processes and therefore have shorter turnaround times than the three visa discussed above. These are the visas we’re referring to:

  • Spousal Visa
  • Life Partner Visa
  • Relatives Visa
  • Retired Visa
  • Study Visa
  • Work Exchange Visa
  • Intra-company transfer visa
  • Volunteer Visa
  • Medical Treatment Visa

Four to 12 weeks, depending on where you submit

When you submit your application abroad, you’ll wait approximately 4 to 8 weeks on an outcome. This waiting time increases to 8 to 12 weeks if you submit your application in South Africa.

However, if you are applying for either of the short-term visas below at your nearest South African mission, processing times are approximately 10 to 15 working days:

  • Visitors Visa (To visit family/friends or for tourism purposes)
  • Business Visa (For short-term work/business assignments)

With reference to visitors visas, please check if you are from a visa exempt country before travelling to South Africa. It varies from one nationality to another.

Let’s recap…

There isn’t one answer to the question ‘how long does it take to get a South African visa?’

Each visa runs on its own timeline and those with multiple role players involved take longer than other visas.

You can expect to wait up to a year for general work visas, up to a year for critical skills visas (depending on the  professional body) and finally, up to 8 months for business visas.

Get in touch with one of our consultants!

Give us a call on +27 (0) 21 424 2460 or email us at

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Our team looks forward to hearing from you and assisting you with your immigration related matters!