Types of Visa for South Africa

Expats will need to have a visa to visit South Africa, depending on where they are from and how long they will be staying in the country.

Foreign nationals from UK, USA, Canada and many others will not need to have a visa if they are staying for less than 30 or 90 days as tourists. This will give expats time to decide if they want to immigrate in South Africa or if they have an interview, they will need to apply for a work seekers permit which is valid for three months.

Other nationals from countries that are not exempt and want to stay longer to work volunteer or study will need to apply for a visa.

There are different types of visas that expats can apply for depending on why they are entering South Africa. These are listed below

Visitor’s Visa

Expats who want to see what South Africa is like before relocating to the country you will be able to get a visitor’s visa. This is usually issued for less than three months.

If the visit to South Africa goes beyond 90 days or if you are travelling to study or work, a temporary residence visa will be required rather than a visitor’s visa.

Temporary Residency Visa

A temporary residency visa is necessary for expats who are planning to stay in the country between three months – three years. The visa has different categories depending on what you will be coming in the country to do i.e. Work, Study or opening own business.

Requirements of a temporary visa:

  • A valid passport which expires no less than 30 days after the intended stay
  • Temporary resident permit must be valid and not expired
  • You must submit an application online with the fee

If you need to extend the validity of temporary residency visa it must be done 60 days before the expiry of the current permit/visa. A fee will need to be paid.

To apply for a temporary residence visa it will need to be finalised at the Department of Home affairs. Once the visa has been granted only then travel arrangements should be done.

The different types of temporary residence visas are:

Study Visa: This is issued to foreign nationals who are wanting to study in the country

Relatives Visa: This is for relatives/spouses of citizens or residents who want to move to the country for permanent residency

Treaty Visa:  This visa is for those who are conducting activities in the country for an international agreement.

Medical Visa: For those who are going to the country for medical purposes/treatment

Retired Visa: Issued to retired people who want to live in the country for limited periods

Business Visa: If you are investing in or establishing a business in the country an application for this type of visa should be done

Family Visas

Expats who are moving with their family to the country will also have some requirements.

Partners will need to show that they have been in a relationship for two years or more. Spouses are usually exempt

Children will need to have their own passports and parents will need to show a complete birth certificate in English

Permanent Residence Visas

If you are planning on staying in South Africa for a longer period of time you will need a permanent residence visa. This varies on what you want to do in the country and will fall in different categories. Most of time foreign nationals will get a temporary residence visa due to permanent residency visa taking 36 months or more for it to be processed. Expats who are a permanent resident in the country will get benefits such as: access to the local banking, a local drivers licence and they will be able to sponsor a relative.

The categories are:

Work: If you are working in the country with a temporary work visa for five years or more you will be eligible to apply for permanent residency

Retired:  For those expats who are retired applications can be made on a standalone basis

Business: Expats who have a business permit can make an application for permanent residency

Relatives: An immediate family member or someone who is married to a South African can sponsor an applicant

To apply for a permanent residency visa this can be done in South Africa or the home country, it is recommended that expats get some assistance from an immigration agent before applying for this.  You also must be on the same visa for five years in a row before making a permanent residency application.

Medical Visa

Citizens from other countries may need to go to South Africa for medical treatment and for this a medical treatment visa will be required. This is usually issued for six months at a time and when applying a letter should be submitted from a medical institution within the Republic to confirm a space is available, how much the treatment costs, if the medical condition is curable, the schedule and the time period of treatment. It is important the patient submits who is responsible for expenses and hospital fees, proof of financial cover for medical costs and other costs for the treatment.

Business Visa

Expats wanting to invest or open a business in the country will need to apply for a business visa if their purpose is to be employed in the business.

You will need the following documents for a business visa application:

  • A recommendation from Department of Trade about the possibility of the business and contribution of the business to the national interest of the Republic
  • A chartered or professional accountant will need to issue a certificate to confirm you have at least R500 000 in cash to be invested
  • An undertaking of 60% of the total staff to be employed in the operations of the businesses will be citizens or permanent residents of the country

If you have a business visa you can also study part time, and will not need to apply for permission from Department of Home Affairs.

Study Visa

A study visa is issued for foreigners wanting to study in South Africa in primary, secondary or even tertiary education. It is important to apply for the study permit before applying for admission in the educational institute.

Parents who are bringing along their children with them to South Africa will also need to apply for a study permit.

Students must provide proof of medical cover which is renewed each year for the period of their study.

When a study permit has been applied for, it will take around six weeks for the application to be processed. When you are renewing a study permit you should do these 30 days before the expiry date.

Work Visas/ Work Permit

A work permit will be required if you are going to work in South Africa. A new law was introduced where work permits were introduced as work visas so that the applicant can stay and work in the country.

To obtain a work visa expats will have skills and qualifications that a citizen in the country does not have and documentation must be shown to prove this. Expats are not able to change from a visitor’s visa to a work visa

When you are applying for a work visa, you will need to show the following documentation:

  • BI-159: A & C application form
  • Marriage certificate (If applicable)
  • Full birth certificate(s) of children (If applicable)
  • Employment contract which shows information about the occupation and capacity in which you will be employed, the duration and salary
  • Qualifications
  • Certificates from previous employers which show competencies or skills
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Clearance certificate from the police
  • Medical certificate
  • Proof of registration
  • Proof of advertisement in national media of the job post

There are different types of work visas available and these are explained below.

General Work Visa

A general work visa is a permit which is issued to those who want to work in the country that has general qualifications.  Expats must show that they have the qualifications and skills and will be evaluated by the South African Qualifications Authority.

Employees will be permitted this visa for five years but the process will take longer than usual under the new law due to the application going through to the Department of Labour.

Critical Skills Work Visa

Expats who have excellent skills and qualifications which are limited in South African citizens can apply for this permit. However, you will need to show proof of the skills that you have from former employers or certificates from institutions.

If you have an offer of employment this work visa will be issued for no more than five years, but for those who don’t have work secured it will be issued for no longer than one year.

The visa is issued for five years or less and the sectors people work in on this visa are architecture, financial, IT, science and medical fields.

If you are on this visa your spouse and dependent children will be provided with the appropriate visa which will be issued for the same time as the critical skills workers visa.

Intra-Company Transfer Work Visa

This visa is issued to those who are transferred from their home country to a South African based office. If you apply for this visa you must include the original employment contract and a written confirmation of the transfer along with the occupation from both offices.

The applicant must have been employed by the company for six months before they are transferred over to South Africa.

An Intra company transfer work visa is issued for four years and cannot be extended.