South Africa Visa Types:
A Comprehensive Guide
Temporary Permits in South Africa
As a foreigner looking to stay in South Africa for a certain period, understanding the different temporary residence permits available is crucial. This guide will provide an in-depth look at the different temporary permits offered by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) in South Africa, so you can make an informed decision about which permit suits your best needs.
A temporary visa allows a foreign national to enter South Africa for a specific purpose, such as work, study, business, or medical treatment, for a limited period. These permits are generally valid for between 1 to 5 years and can be renewed, depending on the individual circumstances.
Temporary residence visas refer to a visa category that allows foreign nationals to stay in the country for 3 months to 5 years. You need to keep in mind the South Africa visa fees when applying and how much bank balance is required for a South Africa visa.
Foreigners who are in South Africa on a visit visa and wish to change their status to a temporary residence visa must apply for it from their home country at a South African embassy, consulate or diplomatic mission. The only exception to this rule is for spouses and children of South African citizens or permanent residents who can apply for a temporary residence visa while in South Africa on a visit visa.
It is important for foreign nationals to be aware of the rules and regulations surrounding their stay in South Africa, and to plan if they wish to change their visa status.
A yellow fever certificate may be required for South African visa applications, depending on the country you are travelling from. This certificate is required to demonstrate that you have been vaccinated against yellow fever, as it is a dangerous and potentially life-threatening disease.
What is the Immigration Act of South Africa
The immigration act of South Africa is a set of laws and regulations that govern the entry, exit, and stay of foreign nationals in South Africa. The act provides the framework for the issuance of visas and permits for foreign nationals, including visitor’s visas, study visas, work visas, business visas, and permanent residence permits.
Application Form South Africa
South African immigration forms are completed online through the VFS website. The digitization of forms has made the immigration process more convenient and efficient for applicants.
In some South African embassies, consulates or diplomatic missions abroad, the immigration forms must be completed by hand, rather than being filled out online.
Supporting Documents Required
The supporting documents required for different visas and permits in SA vary based on the specific visa or permit and the individual’s circumstances. Some common documents required for visa and permit applications in RSA include:
- Passport or travel document
- Application form and fee payment
- Proof of financial means to support yourself while in South Africa
- Proof of medical insurance
- Proof of accommodation
- Proof of qualifications and/or work experience
- Police clearance certificate
- Proof of relationships (for family visas)
Types of Temporary Permits in South Africa
There are several types of visas for South Africa, including:
- Work Permits
- Visitors Visas / Tourist visa
- Business Visas
- Retired Person Visas
- Study Visas
- Spousal Visa
- Life Partner Visa
- Relative Visa
- Volunteers Visa
- Corporate Visa
- Financially Independent Visa
What is a work visa in South Africa?
A work visa is a visa that allows foreigners to work in South Africa for a specific period. To obtain a work visa, the individual must have a job offer from a sponsoring employer in South Africa and meet certain eligibility criteria set by the Department of Home Affairs.
There are five South Africa Work Visa Types you can apply for.
What are the requirements for obtaining a work visa in South Africa:
- Job offer: The individual must have a job offer from a South African employer.
- Qualifications: The foreign national must have the necessary qualifications and experience for the job they are being offered.
- Medical Examination: Foreign nationals must undergo a medical examination to ensure that they are in good health.
- Criminal Record Check: The individual must provide a certificate of good conduct/police clearance certificate from their home country.
- Proof of financial support: The individual must provide proof of financial support for themselves and any dependents during their stay in South Africa.
- Application Fee: The individual or sponsoring employer must pay a fee to cover the cost of processing the work visa application.
- Supporting Documents: The individual must provide a range of supporting documents, such as passport copies, qualifications, and job offer letters.
How many types of work permits are there in South Africa?
There are 4 kinds of work visas in South Africa:
- General Work Visa
- Critical Skills Visa
- Intra-company transfer visa
- Corporate Workers Visa
Each work visa has different eligibility requirements and conditions, and is intended to meet the specific needs of different kinds of workers,
Work Visas in South Africa:
General Work Visa
The general work visa in South Africa is a visa that allows foreign workers to work in the country on a full-time basis. The general work visa is typically valid for up to 5 years, although the length of the visa will depend on the length of the employment contract not exceeding 5 years. The holder of a general work visa can apply for permanent residency in South Africa after 5 continuous years on the visa.
- Must have a job offer
- Must have the correct qualifications which have been evaluated by the South Africa Qualifications Authority (SAQA)
- Have a Department of Labour certificate (Employer must prove that they have exhausted every avenue in first finding a South African citizen or permanent resident)
- Clear criminal record
- Obtain supporting documents
Critical Skills Work Visa
The critical skills work visa in South Africa is a visa that allows foreign workers with critical skills to work in the country. This visa is intended to address skill shortages in South Africa and to encourage highly skilled foreign workers to come to the country. The critical skills visa is valid for up to 5 years and those older than the visa may be eligible to apply for permanent residency in South Africa after 5 continuous years of being on the visa or if they have more than 5 years of experience in their field of occupation.
The critical skills shortage list in South Africa is a list of occupations or fields in which there is a shortage of skilled workers in the country. The list is regularly reviewed and updated by the South African Department of Home Affairs to reflect the changing needs of the labour market.
- Must have a job offer
- Occupation must be listed on the critical skills shortage list
- Be registered with a professional body or council in South Africa that regulates your profession
- Qualifications for the job offer and qualifications evaluated by South Africa Qualifications Authority (SAQA)
- Clear criminal record
- Obtain supporting documents
Intra-Company Transfer Work Visa
The intra-company transfer work visa in South Africa is a visa that allows foreign employees of multinational companies to transfer to a South African branch, subsidiary or affiliate of their company. This type of visa is intended to facilitate the transfer of knowledge and expertise within multinational companies to promote investment in South Africa. The intra-company transfer visa is valid for up to 3-4 years and the holder must then depart from South Africa back to their home country.
The holder of an intra-company transfer visa will not be eligible for permanent residence.
- Been employed with the company for at least 6 months or more.
- Job offer from the South African branch, subsidiary or affiliate.
- Proof of the parent company affiliation with the South African branch or subsidiary.
- Skills transfer plan available
Corporate Workers Visa
A corporate workers visa allows a foreign national to work for a company that has a corporate visa such as a mining group or farmer. These companies are allowed to hire a specified number of workers who are skilled, semi-skilled, or unskilled. The visa is issued to the worker for usually 3 years and is not renewable.
- The company must have a corporate visa
- The worker must have been issued a corporate worker certificate
- Qualifications evaluated by SAQA
- A job offer from the employer
- No criminal record
- Obtain supporting documents
Can I renew my work visa in South Africa?
You can renew your work visa in South Africa. The process for renewing a work visa involves submitting a new application and providing updated information and documentation to the South African Department of Home Affairs. The renewal application must be submitted at your nearest Visa facilitation service centre (VFS) in South Africa.
Visitors Visas/Tourist Visas
A South African visitor visa is a visa that allows foreign nationals to enter South Africa for purposes of tourism, business, or visiting friends and family. The visitor visa is intended for those who do not plan to take up employment in South Africa and who will not receive any remuneration for their activities in the country. Please bear in mind that there are different visitor visas which are intended for different purposes like short-term employment.
You do not need to apply for a tourist visa if you are from a visa-exempt country for South Africa. Visa exemption means that your country and South Africa have an agreement in place to allow foreign countries’ citizens to enter South Africa for a period of 30 or 90 days.
Certain countries are now eligible to apply for the e-visa in South Africa which is applied online and no need to submit your visa applications at the South African embassy, consulate or diplomatic missions.
Visitors visas can be divided into 2 categories:
- Short-term visitor visa
- Long-term visitor visa
Different types of short-term visitors visas:
- Tourist Visa
- Section 11(2) short term work permit
- Medical Purpose
- Short-Term Business Visa
- Crew Visa
- Film and modelling industry
A tourist visa is a visa that allows foreign nationals to enter South Africa for leisure, recreational, or holiday purposes. This visa is issued for a short-term stay and can be extended in the Republic of South Africa, a visa extension for foreigners in South Africa. The South African tourist visa is usually issued for 90 days or less, and the holder of the visa may not engage in any work activities. Remember there are different types of visitor visas for South Africa.
The requirements for the visa may vary depending on the country of origin of the applicant, but generally, the following must be submitted:
- A valid passport
- Proof of sufficient funds to cover the cost of the trip
- A confirmed return or onward travel ticket
- Proof of accommodation
Section 11(2) Short Term Work Permit
Section 11(2) work visa allows a foreign national to work in the country for a short period usually 90 days. This visa is designed for those who will be in South Africa for a limited period, for a specific project or for a specific employer.
The following occupations will not qualify for the visa:
- Work seeking persons
- Self-employed persons
- Seasonal Labourers
- Contract workers
- Casual Labourers
- Exotic Dancers
- Project Management Workers
Medical Visa less than 3 months
A medical visa in South Africa is a type of temporary visa that allows a foreign national to enter the country for medical treatment for less than three months. The medical visa is issued to those who require medical treatment that cannot be provided in their home country, or to those who require medical treatment that is only available in South Africa.
- Provide evidence from a doctor or medical institution of the medical condition
- Proof of the need for medical treatment in South Africa
- Proof of financial means to pay for medical treatment
- Letter of support from the doctor or medical facility in South Africa
Crew Visa (Maritime)
Crew visas are issued to foreign crew members who are entering the country for maritime purposes. The purpose of the crew visa is to allow foreign crew members to enter South Africa to disembark or embark on a ship at a port of entry, or for conducting maintenance work on a ship.
Crew visas are typically valid for 90 days.
- A request letter from the owner of the conveyance that includes an undertaking letter.
- Evidence of payment of any outstanding fines incurred by the conveyance.
A foreign member of a privately chartered vessel that is temporarily at a port in South Africa must provide evidence of:
- Proof that they can financially sustain themselves
- Repatriation fee to be paid
- Evidence of payment of any outstanding fines incurred by the conveyance
Long-Term Visitor Visa
A long-term visitor visa for South Africa is a visa that allows foreign nationals to stay in the country for an extended period for business, study, or personal reasons. This visa allows you to stay in the country for 24 months and may be renewable depending on the specific circumstances of the visa holder.
To be eligible for a long-term visitor visa in South Africa, you must meet one of the following criteria:
- Being accepted to teach at an international school
- Taking an academic sabbatical with support from your educational institution
- Accompanying your spouse or life partner who holds or qualifies for a valid work, study, business, retirement, relatives, or treaty visa.
- Accompanying your child/children if they meet the criteria
- Being involved in film or advertisement production
- Being a journalist for a foreign news agency
- Conducting research with financial support
- Being an artist
- Being a tour leader or host
- Being the spouse or life partner of a South African citizen/permanent resident and having a job, study or business opportunity.
Visitor’s Visa Section 11(6)
If you are married or in a relationship with a South African citizen or permanent resident, the visitors’ visa section 11(6) is perfect for you. This visa is specifically designed to allow you to work, study or start a business while in South Africa. This visa is exclusively for spouses or life partners and cannot be extended to other family members.
- In a relationship/married to a South African citizen or permanent resident
- Have a job offer/Accepted at an educational institution to study/Start your own business
- Been in a relationship with your partner for 2 years or do you have a valid marriage certificate
Academic Sabbatical and Research
If you have the desire to explore South Africa through conducting research or taking an academic break, the extended visitor’s visa is the way to go. This visa is only valid for a maximum of three years and requires you to meet certain eligibility criteria:
- Financial independence or reliable sponsor
- Provide an overview of your intended activities in South Africa
- Documentation of any related organizations you’ll be affiliated with during your time here.
The South African volunteer visa allows foreign nationals to engage in volunteer or charity work within the country. The visa recipient is eligible to receive a daily stipend to cover their expenses, but no other forms of compensation are allowed.
- Acceptance letter from a registered charity or volunteering organization
- Written documentation outlining your purpose for the visit
- Financial capability for the duration of stay
- Proof of return ticket or if your stay is longer than 12 months then a repatriation deposit is required
Retired Person Visas
This retirement visa is designed for foreign citizens who would like to retire irrespective of age and wish to live in the country for a few years. The retirement visa allows the holder to live and reside in South Africa for the duration of their retirement visa but does not grant them the right to work.
- Proof of income from investments, retirement fund or pension fund which amounts to R 37,000.00
A business visa for South Africa is required for foreign nationals who wish to start or run a business or invest in an existing business. The visa allows the holder to reside in the country for an extended period while they establish and manage their business operations.
- Invest 5 million within the business
- Employ at least 60% South African citizens or permanent residents within the business
- A positive recommendation from the Department of Trade & Industry
A study visa is a visa that allows foreign students to come to South Africa to study at an educational institution, such as a school, a university or a college. The study visa will be valid for the length of the course of study but can be renewed as long as the student remains enrolled in the educational institution.
- Acceptance letter from the educational institution
- Financial means to support yourself
- Proof of registration with medical aid
Spousal & Life Partner Visa
The spousal visa and life partner visa for South Africa allows the spouse or life partner of a South African citizen or permanent resident to live in the country. The applicant must be married or in a permanent life partnership with the South African sponsor and must provide proof of the relationship. Once the visa is approved, the holder is entitled to live in South Africa for 2 years.
- Proof of marriage certificate and life partners to show proof of cohabitation for 2 years.
- Proof of financial sustainability
- Life partners to get a notarized life partner contract.
The relative’s visa for South Africa is a visa that allows foreign nationals to enter to visit or reside with close relatives who are citizens or permanent residents of South Africa. The holder of this visa is not allowed to work in South Africa.
- 1st level or 2nd level kinship allowed
- Paternity tests or birth certificates are to be presented as proof of family.
Treaty visas in South Africa are granted to individuals who are participating in programs or projects (such as social, political, or economic initiatives) under the terms of a bilateral or multilateral international agreement that South Africa is part of. The length of time this visa is valid and the specific permissions it offers are determined by the agreements with the particular province(s) involved.
A letter providing the following information:
- The purpose of the program
- The foreigner’s involvement in the specified program
- The type of activities the foreigner will be performing and how long they will be performing them for
- The accommodation arrangements for the foreigner
- Any additional relevant details related to the foreigner’s stay in South Africa
The medical visa in South Africa is issued to foreign nationals who need to enter the country for medical treatment or surgery for 6 months.
- Provide a letter from a doctor or medical facility confirming the need for medical treatment.
- Proof of financial means for the duration of stay and costs of medical expenses.
- May be required to provide proof of medical insurance
The corporate visa is designed to streamline the process of hiring foreign staff for a South African company. This type of visa helps reduce costs and quicken the work authorization process, often used for project-based work.
- The corporate must demonstrate that there is a shortage of South Africa citizens or permanent residents capable of filling specific positions within the company.
Permanent Residence Permits
Permanent residency in South Africa refers to a status granted to a foreign national, allowing them to reside in the country on a long-term basis. Permanent residents are given the right to live and work in South Africa for an indefinite period and can also enjoy many of the same rights and privileges as SA citizens. However, they do not have the right to vote or hold public office positions, To obtain permanent residency, foreign nationals must meet specific eligibility criteria.
Financial Independent Permit
The financial permit is a permanent residency option in South Africa and is not available as a temporary permit. To apply, one must demonstrate a net worth of ZAR 12 million. This type of permit comes with a substantial fee for processing the application, which is paid to the Department of Home Affairs.
Permanent Residence – Work visa
If you are a foreign employee in South Africa, you may be eligible to apply for a permanent residency permit if you have been working on a work visa for at least five years and have a current employment contract with no fixed date.
Permanent Residence – Family
If you have a close family connection to a South African citizen or permanent resident, such as a biological or adopted child, parent, or step-parent, or are married/in a relationship and can demonstrate that your relationship has lasted for five years, you may be eligible to apply for permanent residency in South Africa.
Permanent Residence – Critical Skills Visa Experience
To be granted a permanent residence permit in South Africa due to having extraordinary skills, one must demonstrate they possess critical skills listed as in demand. Along with providing proof of five years of post-qualification experience through previous employer testimonials and a comprehensive CV. A letter of motivation outlining the benefits your skills will bring to the South African environment is also needed.
Permanent Residence – Business Visa
To apply for a business permit in South Africa, one must demonstrate their intention to establish and run their own business, whether it be a new venture, an existing company, or a partnership.
In addition to meeting certain criteria, it must be shown that a significant portion of the workforce (60%) will be South African citizens or permanent residents and that there is sufficient capital investment coming from overseas.
Permanent Residence – Retired Persons Visa
If you have a retirement visa for South Africa you can qualify for permanent residence. To qualify, you’ll need to provide evidence of a pension or an irrevocable annuity or retirement account that is equal to R 37,000.00 per month.
Other Immigration Services
Visa & Permit Appeal
A visa and permit appeal in South Africa refers to the process by which a person can challenge the rejection of their visa or permit application by the South African Department of Home Affairs. This can be done by presenting new evidence or arguing that the initial decision was made in error. A visa or permit appeal aims to reverse the decision and grant the applicant the visa or permit they seeking.
Proof of Permanent Residency
If you previously held permanent residency in South Africa and have since left the country, but now wish to return and resume residency, it’s important to check if your permanent residency is still valid.
This status may have lapsed if you’ve been absent for an extended period. If you lost your original permanent residency certificate, you cannot get a new one, but you can apply for confirmation of your permanent residency status, which will serve as a replacement for the original certificate.
In some cases, the Department of Home Affairs may allow applicants to bypass certain regulations for temporary and permanent residency. To take advantage of this option, an applicant must first submit a request for a waiver. If approved, the individual can then proceed with their residency application without having to meet all the required criteria.
If you exceeded the length of time allowed under your visa in South Africa, you’ll be designated as undesirable when leaving the country and will be banned from re-entry for a maximum of 5 years. In certain cases, if you have an outstanding visa application and have not yet received a decision, you may contest the ban through an appeal.
Charl Vollmer has 8 years of experience helping people immigrate to South Africa. I am passionate about helping people and making their dreams a reality. Charl constantly stays up to date with South African Immigration rules and regulations. To contact Charl, visit our contact page.