New Business Visa rules for South Africa

New Business Visa rules for South Africa
New Business Visa rules for South Africa

The business visa rules for South Africa have, mostly, worked very well.

Yes there has been processing delays on occasions but the system was simple to work with and understood.

The New Business Visa rules seem anything but and already industries are feeling the negative effect of them.

New Business Visa rules for South Africa – So what’s changed?

Applicants for a business visa would previously obtain a letter of authorisation from the Department of Home Affairs Head Office. With the new Business Visa rules for South Africa, this will no longer be the case. The Director General has with immediate effect, and obviously with no consultation as usual, delegated this function to officials responsible for adjudication of visa applications at the Missions abroad.

What was the letter of authorisation?

A letter of authorisation would be used in 2 ways:

  1. For nationalities of visa exempt countries it meant they could arrive in South Africa (a port of entry), present the letter of authorisation and the official would put the appropriate endorsement in their passport and allow entry. This will no longer be an option.
  2. For nationalities of countries requiring a visa to enter South Africa, the letter of authorisation would be submitted to their local South African mission (embassy / consulate or appointed application centre) with their business visa application. Not accounting for any queries the applicant would then be granted or denied a business visa. Again, now no longer the case.

So what’s the effect?

If you are from a visa exempt country you would now have to travel back to your home country and make an application for the letter of authorisation there.

If you are from a non visa exempt country you will no longer obtain your letter of authorisation from the Department of Home Affairs head office, but from the mission.

So what’s wrong with the New Business Visa rules for South Africa ?

There is a profound effect on those applicants from visa exempt countries.

As an example, South Africa, in particular Cape Town, has risen in prominence as a favoured location for international film shoots. Theresa Ryan-van Graan, head of production at Moonlighting Films SA was quoted last week as saying:

”Many of these actors simply cannot leave their current locations and go back to the UK or the US and wait for an unspecified period in London, because the requirements and process are unclear to official and applicants alike. The previous process worked well,’ van Graan said in Cape Town on Thursday.

The report further details the potential loss of the Homelands planned shoot and the wider repercussions of the loss of 1 billion in investment and 1600 local jobs.

Anything else?

Unfortunately, whilst the Department of Home Affairs in South Africa has implemented the new Business Visa rules with immediate effect, it has seemingly failed to inform various missions about it. Intergate Immigration have contacted many missions abroad and only 2 were aware of the new process. So applicants at these missions will be met with a bewildered look from officials who will probably refer them back to the old process, and tell them to apply for their letter of authorisation from head office in South Africa. Upon doing so, they will no doubt be referred back to their local mission.

Leaving the business visitor with no where to go!!
Is there any good news?

Yes its not all gloom and doom with the New Business Visa rules for South Africa:

  • Once all the missions ‘are in the know’ applicants will no longer require authorization from The Department of Home Affairs head office any more but from the local missions – this in our experience will be a quicker process.
  • The process becomes very clear as clients arriving can not be issued with a section 11 (2) at the airport unless they have the required prior authorisation from abroad.
  • In the past airport officials have been known to issue the wrong visa. Even if this is the case under the new Business Visa rules, the client will have the required authorisation in writing.
  • The new process makes very clear that work can be done on a short term basis under section 11 (2) whereas before this was a somewhat grey area.

How we can help

The application requirements are lengthy and involved so Intergate can prepare your entire application for you to present to your mission. This coupled with our unrivalled experience in dealing with foreign missions, means that for some applicants the new Business Visa rules for South Africa should be welcomed.


Unfortunately once again we see the effect of no consultation with role players. No doubt Home Affairs felt they were streamlining the process, but in fact have achieved the exact opposite for visa exempt nationalities. It could even be said that the new Business Rules have in practise, if not in theory, created an environment where visa exempt nationalities must now apply in the same way as non visa exempt nationalities and questions why the visa exempt status even exists.

For those nationalities that are not visa exempt the new Business Visa rules for South Africa should see, after proper implementation, a more efficient process.