Visas, permits, residence


Visiting South Africa: visas

Note: This article is currently under review as the regulations covering immigration and visas have been changed. In the meantime, please visit the Department of Home Affairs at www.dha.gov.za for more information.

Want to visit South Africa? Here's information on the basic requirements for entering South Africa, as well as links to full information on visas what they are, who needs them, and when, where and how to apply for them.

Note: Requirements for entry into South Africa differ from country to country, and are subject to change. Always make enquiries before travelling to South Africa.

What is a visa?

South Africa has the right to decide who may and may not enter its territory. A visa ensures that you have been properly screened before entering the country, and gives immigration officials the information they need to ensure you are admitted to South Africa for the correct purpose and length of time.

A visa doesn't guarantee you entry to the country it only allows you to travel to a South African port of entry, where an immigration officer will check that you satisfy the basic requirements for entry into the country.

What are the requirements for entering South Africa?

You will need:

  • A valid passport or travel document that will be valid for the length of your intended stay. Your passport should have at least TWO blank facing pages in it.
  • A valid visa, if required.
  • Sufficient funds.
  • A return or onward ticket.
  • Yellow fever certificates if your journey starts or passes through the yellow fever belt of Africa or South America.

Do I need a visa to visit South Africa?

Depending on your nationality, and the purpose and duration of your visit, you may not need a visa to visit South Africa.

Where can I make enquiries about visas?

How do I go about getting a visa?

The Department of Home Affairs' website will give you the lowdown on visa costs, processing time, where to apply, what to submit, requirements for people in transit, as well as information relating to your duration and purpose of stay, medical visas, and photographs.

  • See the Department of Home Affairs' guide to applying for a visa
  • Note: You are required to fill in an original visa application form. Forms downloaded off the Internet will not be accepted.

What's the difference between a visa and a temporary residence permit?

A visa allows you to travel to a South African port of entry. A temporary residence permit will be issued to you at the port of entry. It replaces your visa, and sets the duration and purpose of your stay in South Africa.

What if I want to stay in South Africa for longer?

It is best to request the full duration of your intended visit when you first arrive, as extensions are subject to additional fees. If you wish to extend your stay further, you must keep your temporary residence permit valid by applying for an extension at your nearest Home Affairs customer service centre in South Africa. You should do this well before your permit expires.

What if I plan to work or study in South Africa?

If you intend to be professionally active in South Africa or to undertake any voluntary or paid employment or studies, you must apply for a work, work-seeker's or study permit. These permits are also issued outside South Africa, and function as valid visas in allowing their holders to proceed to a South African port of entry. (In other words, if you're applying for one of these permits, you do not have to apply for a visa separately.)

Get your visa before leaving for South Africa

If you are subject to visa requirements, you should apply for your visa at least four weeks before your departure for South Africa. Do not leave until you know your application has been successful. Visas are not issued at South African ports of entry, and airline officials are obliged to insist on visas before allowing passengers to board. If you arrive without a visa, immigration officials will refuse you entry to South Africa and place you on a return flight to your country.

Do I have to submit my visa application in person?

No, you can ask someone else such as a travel agent, a courier service or another family member to submit the application on your behalf.

Source: SAinfo reporter and the Department of Home Affairs

Reviewed: March 2014

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