South Africa Visa: Understand your options

South Africa Visa

Are you thinking of visiting or immigrating to South Africa? Then you’ll have to apply for a visa to enter the country.

In this guide from Intergate Immigration, one of South Africa’s leading immigration companies, you’ll discover all the different South African visas including visas available to South African employers who want to employ foreign nationals.

To give you the full picture, we’re also going to discuss the visa application process by looking at how to apply, how long it takes to get an outcome, and the key role players.

Let’s start by looking at your South Africa visa options. To find out if you’re eligible for one of these visas, be sure to contact us.

Who needs a visa for South Africa?

Any foreign national who wants to work, study or retire in South Africa, or who wants to join a South African partner or relative, or who wants to start a business in South Africa, should have a valid South African visa. South African companies looking to employ foreigners also need valid visas to do so.

What are my visa options if I’m an individual?

Below is a series of questions to help you determine which visa you may need:

1. Do you want to work in South Africa?

  • Do you have an occupation that appears on the South African critical skills list?
  • Would your spouse or life partner and children like to join you in South Africa?
  • Would you like to apply under a category that also offers permanent residency?

Have a look at the Critical Skills Work Visa.

  • Do you have a job offer or are looking to secure one, but you don’t have a critical skill?
  • Would your spouse or life partner and children like to join you in South Africa?
  • Do you want to eventually have the opportunity to apply for permanent residency?

Have a look at the General Work Visa.

  • Does your employer want to send you from an overseas company to a branch, affiliate or subsidiary in South Africa?
  • Would your spouse or life partner and children like to join you in South Africa?
  • Would your stint in South Africa be for a maximum of four years?

Have a look at the Intra-company Transfer Work Visa.

  • Has a South African company who wants to employ you applied for and received individual corporate permits?
  • Would your assignment in South Africa be short-term only?

Have a look at Corporate Workers Visas.

Please note that if you are coming to South Africa to work, your family members may join you as accompanying dependents. This includes life partners, spouses and minor children.

2. Do you want to join your South African spouse in South Africa?

  • Is your spouse a South African citizen or permanent resident?
  • Have you and your spouse been married for less than 5 years?
  • Do you have a valid marriage certificate?

You may be eligible for a Spousal Visa.

  • Have you and your South African spouse have been married for longer than 5 years?

You may be eligible for a Spousal Permit.

3. Do you want to join your South African life partner in South Africa?

  • Is your life partner a South African citizen or permanent resident?
  • Have you and your life partner been in a relationship for at least 2 years?
  • Can you prove that your relationship is real, including cohabitation of at least 2 years?
  • Can your life partner prove that an income of R 8,500 per person per month is available for living expenses?

You may be eligible for a Life Partner Visa.

  • Have you and your South African life partner have been in a relationship for longer than 5 years?

You may be eligible for a Life Partner Permit.

4. Do you want to join a relative in South Africa?

  • Are you the parent, child, spouse, brother or sister of a South African citizen or permanent resident?
  • Can your relative prove that an income of R 8,500 per person per month is available for living expenses?

You may be eligible for a Relative Visa or Permit.

5. Do you want to set up a business in South Africa?

  • Is your emigration goal setting up a business or buying into a business in South Africa?
  • Do you have R 5 million to invest?
  • Would you like the option of applying for permanent residency?

Have a look at the Business Visa.

6. Do you want to retire in South Africa?

  • Do you want to swap the European winters for South African summers?
  • Or – do you want to spend your retirement years in South Africa?
  • Or – do you want to stay in South Africa for extended periods of time but not move here permanently?
  • Are you comfortable with just visiting, i.e. not working, studying or doing business while in South Africa?
  • Can you prove a minimum guaranteed income of R 37,000 per month for the duration of your visa, which is usually 4 years?

Have a look at the Retired Visa.

  • You can’t prove a guaranteed monthly income of R 37,000 but can show a personal net worth of R 12 million.

Have a look at the Financially Independent Permit.

7. Do you want to study in South Africa?

  • Do you want to start or further your tertiary studies in South Africa?
  • Are you going to study a full-time course?

You may be eligible for a Study Visa.

8. Are you emigrating to South Africa and your children has to continue their schooling here?

  • Your children are dependents and will attend either preschool, primary school or high school.

Have a look at the Study Visa.

What are the visa options if I’m a South African employer?

South African employers who want to employ foreign nationals or transfer employees from an overseas entity have the following options available to them:

1. Do you want to recruit a number of foreigners to work in South Africa?

  • Do you need to employ a large number of foreigners for a project?
  • Is this necessary for a limited time period only?

Have a look at the Corporate visa.

2. Does your company want to transfer existing employees to your South African branch from abroad?

  • Is the South African company a branch, affiliate or subsidiary of the overseas company?
  • Would the employees only be needed in the South African office for a maximum of four years?
  • Have the employees you wish to transfer been working for the overseas company for a minimum of six months?

Have a look at the Intra-company Transfer Work visa.

3. Do you want to employ a foreigner who either applied for a job or who you found yourself?

Compare the Critical Skills Work Visa and the General Work Visa to see which visa might be more appropriate.

How do I know if I qualify for a South Africa visa?

An immigration eligibility assessment, done by an immigration expert, is the best way to determine if you are in fact eligible for any of South Africa’s visas.

Such an assessment consists of a number of carefully considered questions to ascertain any migration pathways open to the applicant.

Our immigration assessment is free as well as non-obligatory, and you can take it online. Subsequent to submitting your details, a consultant will get in touch to discuss your eligibility.

How do I apply for a South Africa visa?

Once it’s clear that you do qualify for a South African visa, you can proceed with the application on your own or with the help of a professional company. Most people choose to work with an experienced company. Such a company, like Intergate Immigration, can guide you through the rules of South African immigration, including the submission and follow-up process.

Can I apply from within South Africa or must I apply from my home country?

Prior to 2014, you could come to South Africa on a visitor visa and change status from within South Africa. This is no longer possible.

Since the legislation changes in 2014, any foreigner who’d like to make a first-time visa application for South Africa should do so from their country of origin or country of residence.

Renewals can be made from within South Africa and in some cases also a change of status or condition on your existing visa.

There is one exception to this rule. If you are the spouse, life partner or minor child of a South African citizen or permanent resident, you can submit your temporary residence visa application from within South Africa from a visitors visa.

What are the South Africa visa processing times?

Processing times for South African visas depend on the type of visa and residency:

  • Temporary residency visas: The Department of Home Affairs usually takes between 8 to 12 weeks to issue a decision on these visas. Some work permits, however, take up to a year to finalise due to the various stages in the process.
  • Permanent residency permits: The Department of Home Affairs currently takes between 2 to 3 years to finalise permanent residency applications.

Please note that submissions at the South African embassies abroad tend to be much quicker due to lower volumes of applications. Temporary residency visas typically take 4 to 8 weeks when submitted abroad.

Who are the role players in the visa application process?

There are three key role players when applying for a South African visa:

1. Immigration agent – In this case, Intergate Immigration

Intergate offers a comprehensive immigration service for individuals and South African employers.

When making use of these services, immigrants enjoy access to full relocation and visa support services. Clients also benefit from the expertise of a team in excess of 40 individuals.

The first service we extend to all prospective migrants is an immigration eligibility assessment, as discussed above.

Should you complete an assessment with us, our consultants will explain the best way forward based on the outcome of the assessment.

If the outcome is positive, i.e. it shows you qualify for a South African visa, and you choose to use our services, our team will assist you with your visa application:

  • You’ll have a dedicated immigration consultant to assist you with all the important aspects of obtaining the correct visa and your relocation.
  • Our experienced admin team will assist with the preparation and submission of your application, helping to ensure that it’s a smooth process whether you submit in South Africa or abroad.

Our aim? To ensure our years of experience, with over thousands of successful applications, is put to use by providing you with a cost-effective, timeous and stress-free process.

2. VFS Global, consulates, and embassies

Depending on whether you submit your application in South Africa or abroad, you’ll submit either at a VFS Global application office or at a consulate or embassy.

VFS Global facilitate appointments, the submission process and act as a go-between for either the consulate, embassy or the Department of Home Affairs.

VFS does not adjudicate applications. Officials who process applications sit either at the Department of Home Affairs head office in Pretoria (for submissions in South Africa) or at the relevant consulate or embassy.

3. The Department of Home Affairs

The Department of Home Affairs process South African visa and permit applications and decide if a visa or permit is granted or rejected.

Once an application is in the hands of the Department, there is nothing Intergate can do to expedite it. Intergate also cannot influence the Department Home Affairs to issue a positive outcome.

The final decision of all South African visa applications rests with the Department of Home Affairs.

It is possible to renew my South African visa?

It is possible to renew your temporary South African visa. You’ll have to be able to meet the specific visa extension criteria in order to do so though.

For instance, the financial requirement for the retirement visa is the main criteria. You must be able to demonstrate that you have sufficient finances to support yourself for the extension period in which you are applying for.

Another example is spousal and life partner visas. These visa extensions are dependent on the relationship still being in place and satisfactory proof that this is the case.

Important:

It is vital to do renewals well in time to ensure your stay in South Africa remains legal.

The Department of Home Affairs allow applicants to start applying for renewals 6 months prior to the visa expiration date, but no later than 60 days prior to the visa expiring.

What if I only want to visit South Africa for a holiday or a specific short-term purpose?

If your goal is only to visit South Africa as a tourist or to come here on a short-term basis, you might have to apply for a visitor visa. This visa enables international travellers to visit South Africa for 90 days or less and it’s issued for the below reasons:

  • Visits to family or friends, or for tourism purposes.
  • Business purposes – E.g. Conferences, launches, meetings, training, installations etc. This is a short-term visa that allows for a short-term assignment with a South African organisation.

What are the visitor visa requirements?

You will need the following documentation to apply for a South African visitor visa:

  • Passport valid for no less than 30 days after the expiry of the intended visit.
  • At least two unused pages in your passport for entry/departure endorsements.
  • Payment of the prescribed fee, if applicable.
  • A vaccination certificate, if required by the South African Immigration Act.
  • Statement and/or documentation confirming the purpose and duration of your visit.
  • Proof of financial means in the form of:
    • Bank statements;
    • Salary slips;
    • Undertaking(s) by the host(s) in the Republic;
    • Or cash available, including credit cards or travellers’ cheques, to cover the living expenses during the sojourn in South Africa.
  • Applicants travelling by air must in possession of:
    • A return or onward ticket

Where must I apply?

You must apply for a South African visitor visa at a South African mission or representative offices in your country or the nearest one to you.

The mission or representative requires the original passport  when submission of an application takes place. In most cases, submission must be done in person. However, there are exceptions to this rule because some missions or representatives will accept submissions via courier.

Visas are not issued on arrival and must be obtained and affixed to your passport before departing on your journey to South Africa unless you are from a visa exempt country. Visitors from visa exempt countries get their visitors visa at the port of entry.

Should you arrive without a visa, you may be refused entry and placed on a return flight. This would be the case if you are from a non visa exempt country. It is important to research this thoroughly before travelling to South Africa.

I’m only travelling through South Africa. Do I need a transit visa?

Most nationalities do not require transit visas for South Africa. You can view a full list of these countries on the DHA website.

What are the South African visitor visa processing times?

The published processing times are 10-15 days, but it wise to check with individual missions and representatives at the time of the application as it may vary.

Can I extend my visitor visa?

It is possible to extend a visitor visa for up to a further 90 days. An extension can only be requested once in South Africa. It is recommended to do it as soon as possible after your arrival in South Africa though. The Department of Home Affairs requires extensions to happen 60 days prior to the expiry of the existing visa.

What if I need medical treatment in South Africa?

The South Africa immigration act allows for a scenario such as this. If you require medical treatment in South Africa e.g. fertility treatment, chemotherapy or rehabilitation to name a few, you can apply for a medical treatment visa.

You must apply for the medical treatment visa at the relevant South African mission prior to travelling to South Africa. The visa is issued for six months at a time and it is important that you are able to demonstrate sufficient funds to cover medical expenses and support yourself while in the country.

Getting help with your South Africa visa or permit application

We welcome the opportunity to consult with you as to your eligibility for a South African visa or permit and to answer any questions you may have with no obligation.

You can take our free assessment online, request a call back for more information, or give us a call on either +27 (0) 21 424 2460 or +27 (0) 11 234 4275.

Alternatively, simply complete and submit the online query form below to contact us:

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