Visas for South Africa
Citizens of countries not on the list of visa-exempt countries, as well as those wishing to stay longer and/or work, volunteer or study in South Africa will need to apply for a visa.
A full list of types of visas is available on the Department of Home Affairs website (dha.gov.za). A full list of document and forms required is also listed on the DHA's web site.
Entry requirements for South Africa
You will need the following if you wish to visit South Africa:
- A valid and acceptable passport or travel document for your intended stay
- At least one blank page in your passport for endorsements
- A valid visa, if required
- Sufficient funds to pay for your day-to-day expenses during your stay
- A return or onward ticket
- Yellow fever certificates if your journey starts or entails passing through the yellow fever belt of Africa or South America.
Temporary Residency Visas
If you plan to stay for between three months and three years, you will need to apply for a temporary residence visa. These fall into different categories depending on what you intend to do in South Africa - that is, whether you're moving to retire in the country, to study, to find a job, to start a business, for medical reasons, and so on. Most expats moving to South Africa apply for one of three main work permits.
Permanent Residency Visas
Getting a permanent residency visa for South Africa is a natural step for many expats that already have a temporary residence visa, as well as those who wish to have more access to national infrastructure.
The application process varies according to what activity an expat wishes to carry out on arrival. Therefore, the first thing to consider when seeking a permanent residency visa in South Africa is under which category an application is going to be made.
Categories for permanent residency include:
- Work – applicants must first of all hold a valid temporary work permit for five years unless applying under the exceptional skills work permit options
- Retired – applications can be made for permanent residency on a stand-alone basis
- Business – applications can be made for permanent residency on a stand-alone basis
- Relatives – applications can be made for permanent residency on a stand-alone basis providing the relationship is first kin or applicants have been married or in a life partner relationship for a provable five year period
Benefits of permanent residencyOne of the most obvious benefits of applying for a permanent residency visa is the fact that the permit is valid for a lifetime; the holder must merely enter and stay in South Africa once every three years to maintain it. All other permits require renewal or re-application after a limited amount of time.
Additionally, permanent residency holders are able to:
- Access credit and banking as if a South African citizen
- Obtain a South African driving licence
- Sponsor qualifying relatives
- Work, set up a business or study (within permit restrictions)
Permanent residency application
Applications for permanent residency can be made both abroad and in South Africa. There are no rules for which method is preferable. Levels of efficiency and the speed of the application process depend upon the specific embassy or consulate abroad and the service level they are able to offer.
CriteriaThe following basic documentation is required of applicants of all categories:
- A completed application form
- Payment of the full fee
- A full set of fingerprints
- A marriage certificate / Proof of spousal relationship, if applicable
- A divorce decree / proof of legal separation, if applicable
- Proof of custody of a minor, if applicable
- A death certificate for a late spouse, if applicable
- The consent of parents in the case of minors
- Proof of judicial adoption of a minor, if applicable
- Police clearance certificates for all countries in which you resided for a period of one year or longer since your 18th birthday
- A valid temporary residency permit (if already in South Africa)
Using a registered immigration practitionerApplicants can apply directly to the Department of Home Affairs in South Africa, but may find certain offices are not organised for easy public access. The process is also more often than not quite confusing, time consuming and frustrating. South African Home Affairs is notorious for poor customer service, disorganisation and shifting standards.
South Africa's immigration regulations are not points-based, but assessed on a case by case basis. This policy creates a large grey area that is often best navigated with the help of an external service. The experience and knowledge an immigration practitioner provides can be invaluable to preparing the correct application and monitoring its process.
*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.