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Here’s what you need to know about VISAs

IIf you’re a citizen of another country and want to travel to South Africa then you need a visa. The “visitor” visa is for international travellers who permanently reside outside South Africa. It’s also for those who wish to visit the country on a more temporary basis for tourism or business purposes. But it won’t last forever. Once acquired, this visa is valid for a no longer than 90 days.

Having a visa simply means that your application has been reviewed at a South African embassy, mission or consulate and that the consular officer has determined you eligible to enter the country for the reason you stated.

Great! Now that you’re allowed in, the visa will grant you access to the South African port of entry, where an immigration official will determine if you are allowed to enter the country and for how long. Always remember, all visitors are restricted only to the activity or reason for which their visas were issued.

So now you’ve made it into the country. Once here, the visa is considered to be a visitor’s permit. The permit’s period of validity is set from the date you came in and will be set out under the heading “conditions” on the visa label. It’s important to ensure that you apply for the correct visa or permit. If not, entry into the country may be refused if the purpose of the visit was not correctly stated.

Depending on where you’re from, visa requirements differ from country to country and the requirements are subject to change. Each application is treated as an individual case, hence you should ask your nearest South African mission or consulate abroad or any office of the Department of Home Affairs to see whether or not you are even supposed to apply for a visa.

Remember, there is a fee that will be charged for issuing you a visa, and you should check the cost with the office as well as this is updated annually. The fee is payable in different currencies in different countries.

It is incredibly important to get your visas. These 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 are obliged to put you onto a flight back to your home country.

Foreigners with long-term status (work permits/permit residence) in the neighbouring countries who transit the Republic to return to their employment or residence are not subject to the transit visa, provided they are in possession of proof of their status.

South Africa requires a valid yellow fever certificate from all foreign visitors and citizens over one year of age. This is essential for people travelling from an infected area or for those who have been country hopping through infected areas. Countries such as Zambia, Angola and Mozambique are considered as infected areas. For more information on visa requirements, please contact your nearest South African diplomatic mission. 

South African visitors’ visas may be granted for:

  • visits to family or friends and also for tourism purposes
  • business purposes
  • spouse to join a spouse who is in South Africa on a work or study permit
  • children to join parents who are in South Africa on work or study permits
  • fiancée/fiancé to join his or her partner with the intention of marrying within 90 days
  • study purposes (max stay three months)
  • charitable or voluntary activities
  • research
  • conferences
  • to work in the production of a movie or show (i.e. in the entertainment industry)
  • for medical purposes (max stay three months)
  • sport events

Documents required for applying for a visa

  • A passport or travel document valid for no less than 30 days after the expiry of your intended visit
  • Your passport must have at least TWO unused pages for entry/departure endorsements
  • A completed Form BI-84 (application for a visa)
  • Payment of the prescribed fee
  • A yellow fever vaccination certificate (if required)
  • Statement and/or documentation confirming the purpose and duration of your visit
  • Two colour passport photographs
  • A return or onward ticket if you are travelling by air
  • If you have children (minors) travelling with you or joining you in South Africa, you will need to provide the following additional documents:
    • Proof of guardianship or custody or;
    • Consent from the guardian in the case of an unaccompanied minor
  • Proof of financial means to pay for your living expenses while in South Africa in the form of:
    • Bank statements;
    • Salary advances;
    • Undertakings by the host(s) in South Africa;
    • Bursary;
    • Medical cover or
    • Cash available (including credit cards and travellers’ cheques)

Requirements for entering 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.

Don't forget that there are certain goods that you cannot bring into South Africa and other goods on which duties need to be paid.

For Customs requirements, click here.

For Agricultural requirements, click here.

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