Research Visa South Africa

What Is A Research Visa for South Africa

Visitor's Visa: Section 11(1)(B)(III) - Research Activities
A research visa for South Africa is a temporary residence visa that allows you to enter and stay in the country for the purpose of conducting research. 

While both research visas and student visas allow temporary stays in South Africa, a research visa is specifically designed for researchers conducting projects, whereas a student visa caters to individuals enrolled in formal educational programs.

If your research project is less than 90 days then a visit visa for South Africa will do.

Types of Research Visas:

  • Visitor’s Visa: Section 11(1)(B)(III) – Research Activities: This visa is ideal for short-term research projects, fieldwork, or attending research conferences. It can be valid for up to three years.
  • Critical Skills Work Visa: This visa is for researchers who will be employed by a South African institution for a longer-term research project. It can be renewed for the duration of your research project.

Essentially, the type of research visa you need depends on the length of your stay and your employment situation.

What Does The Visa Allow You To Do?

Undertake research observations and participate in research projects at a South African research facility or higher education institution.

Bring your family (Spouse or partner & Children) with you and reside in South Africa for up to 3 years.

Make multiple entries to South Africa to conduct research throughout your visa’s validity period.

Eligibility Criteria:

Before embarking on your research journey, it’s crucial to understand the eligibility criteria set forth by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA). These criteria ensure that researchers entering South Africa possess the qualifications, resources, and affiliations necessary to conduct responsible and productive research.

Eligibility Criteria


Official Research Acceptance Letter

Submission of an official acceptance letter from the South African host institution (university, research institute, etc.) on the institution’s letterhead. This letter must confirm your acceptance for a research project, explicitly mention the duration of the project, and be stamped with the official seal of the institution.

Medical Aid Coverage

Possession of valid medical aid insurance for the entire duration of your stay in South Africa. 

Financial Assurance

R 3000.00 per month to show financial means for the duration of stay. (Bank balance required for South Africa Visa)

Application Process For Research Permit

Obtaining a research visa for South Africa requires careful planning and preparation. Here’s a breakdown of the application process to guide you:

A. Step-by-Step Application Process

Determine Your Visa Type: 

    • Consider the duration of your research project and your employment situation.
    • Choose between the Visitor’s Visa (Section 11(1)(B)(III) – Research Activities) for short-term projects or conferences, or the Critical Skills Work Visa for employment with a South African institution.

Gather All Required Documents: 

    • Meticulously review the DHA website to ensure you have the most up-to-date list of required documents for your specific visa type and nationality.
    • Essential documents typically include a valid passport, completed DHA-84 application form, passport photos, proof of accommodation, and evidence of sufficient funds.
    • Research-specific documents like a research proposal and a letter of invitation from your South African host institution are also crucial.
    • Depending on the visa type and your situation, additional documents like medical aid insurance, police clearance certificates, and yellow fever vaccination certificates might be necessary.

Choose Your Application Method:

In-Person Application:

    • Locate the nearest South African embassy, consulate, or VFS Global visa application centre closest to you. A quick web search using the term “South African embassy/consulate near me” or “VFS Global South Africa” should help you find the relevant contact information.
  • Schedule an appointment if the embassy/consulate requires it. Not all embassies/consulates require appointments, so check their website for specific instructions.
  • On your appointment day, submit your completed application form (DHA-84 or DHA-1738) and all required documents in person to the embassy/consulate or VFS Global centre representative.

Processing Time

It’s crucial to apply for your research visa well before your planned travel date. Visa processing times can vary depending on your nationality and the workload of the embassy/consulate. Aim to submit your application at least 60 days before your intended departure to South Africa. This allows ample time for processing and avoids any last-minute delays that could disrupt your research trip.

Research Documents Requirements 

Required Visa Documents


Valid Passport

Applicants must possess a machine-readable valid passport with at least two blank pages labeled “Visa” – one for the embassy/consulate to affix the visa and another for the South African Immigration Services to endorse entry/departure stamps – and the passport must remain valid for 30 days beyond the intended return date from South Africa.

DHA-84 or DHA-1738 visa form

Applicants must submit a completed DHA-84 or DHA-1738 visa application form, signed by the applicant, with the specific form depending on the embassy or consulate general’s instructions.

Passport Bio Page

The application must include a certified or notarized copy of the applicant’s passport bio page.

Passport Photographs

The application requires two (2) recent passport photos with a white or light background.

Proof of Itinerary

Applicants must provide proof of a confirmed round-trip air ticket itinerary or reservation. However, purchasing the tickets themselves should be deferred until the South African visa is obtained.

Bank Statements

Applicants must demonstrate proof of sufficient funds to cover their living expenses for the duration of their stay. This can be provided in the form of three most recent bank statements stamped by the bank.

Proof of Accomodation

Applicants must provide proof of accommodation in South Africa. This can be either a confirmed hotel reservation or a letter of invitation from a host residing in South Africa, such as a relative or friend.

Proof of Hosts Legal Status

Applicants staying with a host in South Africa must provide proof of their host’s legal status. This can be:

  • A copy of the host’s ID Book if they are a South African citizen.
  • For non-citizen hosts, a copy of their passport along with a certified copy of their valid visa or residence permit issued by the South African Police Service.

Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate

A yellow fever vaccination certificate is mandatory if the applicant’s travel route to South Africa includes passing through a country designated as a yellow fever belt area by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Medical Report

Applicants are required to submit a medical report completed on the prescribed form, BI-811. This form must be signed by a registered medical practitioner, including their practice number, address, and contact details.

Radiological Report

While South Africa no longer mandates a radiological report (chest X-ray) as part of the visa application process, some South African embassies or consulates may still request it. It’s advisable to check with the specific embassy or consulate you’ll be applying through to confirm their current requirements.

Medical Aid Insurance

Applicants must possess valid medical aid insurance with annual renewals, covering the entire stay and provided by a medical scheme registered under the Medical Schemes Act (Act No. 131 of 1998).

Police Clearance Certificate (Full criminal background check report)

Applicants must submit police clearance certificates, no older than six months, from every country they’ve resided in for 12 months or more since turning 18, issued by the relevant police or security authority in those countries. – in the last 5 years

Research Acceptance Letter

Official acceptance letter on the letterhead of the South African host institution (university, research institute, etc.). This letter must be stamped with the institution’s official seal, confirm your acceptance for a research project, and explicitly mention the duration of the project

Using An Immigration Consultant

Applicants navigating the research visa process in South Africa can benefit from consulting a visa consultant for personalized guidance. These consultants possess expertise in interpreting the latest Department of Home Affairs (DHA) requirements and can assist with completing applications, gathering necessary documents (like police clearance certificates from various countries), and ensuring all information aligns with the specific embassy or consulate’s procedures.


Why was this content created?

The content created about research visas for South Africa is to be a helpful and informative guide for people. The content on the page aims to be a valuable resource for foreign nationals wanting to apply for the visa.

How Was This Content Created?

The content was created through Charl Vollmer’s years of knowledge and expertise which he gained through assisting various foreign nationals applying for the visa. 

Information was cited from the following sources:

  1. Department of Home Affairs
  2. VFS South Africa

About Charl

Charl Vollmer

Charl Vollmer has 12 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. View our content integrity guidelines to how content is created.