Opening a guest house in South Africa

opening a guest house in south africa

Many foreign nationals pursue the dream of opening a guest house in South Africa. Often it’s because they first fell in love with South Africa as tourists themselves. And once you’re hooked in this beautiful country, you want to show it to as many people as possible.

As you can imagine, though, setting up and running a guest house is no mean feat. Especially in another country! It takes a lot of planning and preparation. Of course it also means applying for an appropriate visa.

What type of visa would I need for opening a guest house in South Africa as a foreigner?

As a guest house is classified as a business, you’ll have to obtain a business visa. This business visa will allow you to legally run and work in the business in South Africa.

Does it have to be a new guest house?

No, you can choose to start a new guest house or buy an existing guest house.

What comes first – the visa or the guest house?

We strongly recommend to only go ahead with setting up or buying the guest house once you’ve obtained a business visa. Unfortunately, you have to consider the possibility that the Department of Home Affairs could reject your visa application. While you can appeal such an outcome, there is no guarantee that the original decision will be overturned.

The last thing you want is to own guest house without the paperwork to run it legally.

With all of this said, let us reassure you that Intergate has had great success with business visas for guest houses.

What are the business visa requirements?

In order to successfully obtain a business visa with the goal of opening a guest house in South Africa, you will need to meet certain requirements. These are the main requirements the Department of Home Affairs wants you to meet:

  • An investment of R5 million in the business from funds abroad. This investment must be made in your personal capacity and within the first 24 months of operation.
  • The business must employ 60% South African citizens or permanent residents. You must provide proof of this to the Department of Home Affairs within the first 12 months of operating your business.
  • A comprehensive business plan.
  • The business must be set up in an appropriate company structure.

In certain cases, you’ll be able to apply for a waiver or reduction of the R5 million investment amount. Our immigration agents can tell you more about these exceptions to the rule.

Can my partner also work in the guest house?

It is important to understand that a business visa is only issued to a single applicant. This means only the applicant – in this case it’s you – is allowed to work in the guest house.

You could, however, add your spouse or life partner as an accompanying spouse. The accompanying spouse visa will enable your spouse or life partner to join you in South Africa. It is a limiting visa though as your partner will only be allowed to live in South Africa. Your partner won’t be allowed to work, study or start their own business. In other words, your partner can’t work in the guest house for financial compensation although they could help out as and when needed.

Should your spouse or life partner wish to work in the guest house or take up other employment in South Africa, they’ll have to explore other visa options that’ll allow them to do so.

How can Intergate help?

Intergate has helped many foreigners with opening a guest house in South Africa. We offer the following services:

  • Immigration assessment

You’ll get asked a series of questions during the assessment to enable us to determine if you’re eligible for a business visa.

  • Business plan writer

Our business plan writer, Caroline van der Heever, can write your business plan in the format required by the Department of Home Affairs. She has successfully done this for many clients.

  • Compiling and submitting your visa application

When you’re an Intergate client, you have a dedicated immigration consultant and administrative assistant to guide you through the visa application process. This includes advising you on all the paperwork required. We’ll even accompany you to VFS on the day of submission, if you’re submitting your application in Cape Town.

  • Expert advice

Our immigration experts have years of experience and have helped countless clients with business visa applications. You can thus rest assured that our team knows South African immigration back to front.

Get in touch today

Don’t waste time if you want to get your guest house up and running. The Department of Home Affairs is renowned for taking their time with visas!

You can reach our time via email at or by phone on +27 (0) 21 424 2460. Of course you can also request a call back for one of our consultants to contact you instead.

We’re looking forward to helping you make your dream of running a South African guest house a reality!