South African visas: What to look out for

South African visas: What to look out for South Africa by Celso Flores

This article was written by Andrew Wicks, published on 24th March 2011 and has been read 23991 times.

Have you ever considered working abroad, or even emigrating to a new country? Speaking from my own experience I know there are endless questions that you need answers to; questions such as what visa do you need? What are the requirements to qualify for a work permit? What are the countries entry requirements and much more.

Being of South African decent and having lived abroad myself, I have, since my return, realised just how daunting this process can be, especially if you are a student or if you want to do some volunteering work in South Africa. That is why I decided to create this short but insightful (I hope) post on South African immigration. If you want to read more about all the other types of visas and immigration requirement to South Africa you can click on this link Foreign Language placements South African Immigration services.


One thing I must stress is that the information I share here is meant to serve as a guide only. Requirements for studying and working in South Africa are subject to change, and each application is treated as an individual case, so always make inquiries before travelling to the South African Department of Home Affairs or at your nearest SA embassy, the High Commission or consulate.

Generally speaking, if you just come to South Africa for a period of less than three months a 'holiday visa' will do the job. When entering the country you will be granted a three month holiday visa, but please ensure that: 

Your passport is valid at least one month after your departure date and needs to have at least one blank page for your South Africa visa. Your outbound flight ticket must prove you intend to leave South Africa at a set date before the 90 day limit of a holiday visa. If you intend to extend your visa, you can do so for another period of up to 90 days, but you must do so before the due date on your visa. Should your journey to South Africa bring you via a country where there is yellow fever, then get a yellow fever jab and a certificate before you enter South Africa. Study, Academic or Research Visas

If on the other hand, you intend to study in South Africa for academic or research purposes, a study permit is required. The South African immigration law requires that all foreign students planning to study at a South African school, college, university or any other educational institution for a period of more than 3 months, must be in possession of a valid study visa.


Study permits are issued to foreign national students and visa applicants on the grounds that the student must submit an official letter from the relevant educational institution confirming provisional acceptance as well as the duration of the course. As a student you may work up to 20 hours per week during the semester, and extra during the holiday period. With a study visa there are:   

No age restriction on study permits. The study permit can be granted for the entire period of the course. As a student, you must take out medical insurance in accordance with the requirements as laid down in the Immigration Act. You should be aware that not all medical schemes are accepted. Students may not take up their studies before the study permit has been granted. It is important for you to know that you MUST apply for your study permit, and await the outcome of your application, BEFORE departing for South Africa. South Africa has really become very strict about this as the fact that you've been accepted by a South African educational institution does not guarantee that you'll be issued with a study permit. And you cannot enter South Africa on a visitor's visa and then apply for a study permit. You should also take note of the basic requirements for entering South Africa under Visiting South Africa.   


On the topic of time, it’s important to bear in mind that it normally takes about six weeks for a study permit to be processed. My advice is to put your application through as early as possible. Also note that study permits are granted for periods of a year at a time only, and for specific fields of study. You should therefore renew your permit annually at your nearest Home Affairs Office in South Africa. You should also, depending on what your original visa stipulates, apply for a new permit if you plan to change your course of study or institution.  


To conclude, it will also be worthwhile to read the Immigrations Act, 2002. You can call the department's hotlines for inquiries about the Act. Here are some useful links: General information on immigration/permanent residenceInformation on immigration/permanent residence by categoryOnline questions and comments feedback form (select 'Directorate: Permanent Residence') Access/download the relevant application forms online (PDF files requiring Adobe Acrobat Reader

If you would like to comment, please login or register.