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

how long does it take to get a south african visaOne of the questions we get most often, per email, phone and even on Facebook, is ‘How long does it take to get a South African visa?’

You might have been wondering this yourself.

Here’s our answer to you and everyone else asking this question:

There is no standard processing time for South African visas. Each South African visa works on its timeline.

The only way to know how long your visa would take to process would be to know which visa you’d apply for.

But seeing as many of our clients come to South Africa for work and business, let’s look at realistic timelines for the:

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

General work visa

When we tell people how long it could take to finalise a general work visa, the standard reaction is disbelief and shock.

Unfortunately this is a visa that’s work and process intensive so it takes a while to process.

The application process not only involves the applicant and employer but also the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) and Department of Labour (DOL). Plus each party has their own set of responsibilities that has be taken care of in order for the application to move forward.

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

Up to a year. Yes, that’s right – 12 months.

We’ll explain where this time goes 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 phase involves the applicant and employer and includes:

  • The advertising of the 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.
  • Interviews with South African candidates.

All of these requirements are in place to prove that a suitable South African could not be found to fill 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).

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 send a recommendation to the Department of Home Affairs for their consideration before the visa application can be submitted.

Recruitment + SAQA Evaluation + DOL Evaluation

DHA Phase

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

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 qualifications.

Key to this process is the need for the applicant to register with an applicable professional body, board or council. This could either be a:

  • Statutory body:

  • or on-statutory bodies:

Non statutory bodies

Business visa

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

The dti must make a recommendation to the Department of Home Affairs on the suitability of the applicant and the application.

Let’s break it down in phases again:

dti Phase:

The dti procedures are extensive and includes:

  • An area/site visit; and
  • Sector reports

to ensure that all businesses operating in South Africa are:

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

Once the dti has issued a positive recommendation, and the documents for the business visa has been obtained, the application can go to the DHA for consideration.

DTI Phase

*While the dti is supposed to only take 20 working days, this is no longer the case due to backlogs and system changes.

DHA Phase

This phase is when the visa application is submitted to the Department of Home Affairs. The DHA will now review the application to reach an outcome.

DHA Phase Business Visa

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, again up to a year for critical skills visas (especially if you have to register with statutory bodies) and up to 8 months for business visas.

To find out how long application processes are for any of the other South African visas are, don’t hesitate to call us and find out. You can reach our Cape Town team at +27 (0) 21 424 2460 and our Johannesburg team at +27 (0) 11 234 4275.

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