Study Visa South Africa

What Is A Study Visa For South Africa

student reading a book
A study visa for South Africa issued by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) allows
a foreign student to reside in South Africa while pursuing a program of study at a registered educational institution such as a university, college, or even a specialist skills school. 

There are different types of educational institutions (public/private) offering various study programs (fields and levels).

The study visa is a document issued by the DHA that validates your permission to stay for the duration of your studies.

To obtain this temporary residence visa, you must go through an application process with the DHA or the relevant Immigration Authority, which could be an embassy, consulate, or visa application centre (VAC) depending on your home country.

What Are The Requirements For A Foreigner To Study In South Africa

Eligibility Criteria 


Acceptance Letter

You’ll need an acceptance letter from a registered educational institution confirming your enrollment in a study program. This program should be offered by recognized institutions listed with the Department of Basic education or Department of Higher Education.

The acceptance letter must be signed by the registrar or principal.

Proof of Funds

You’ll need to demonstrate sufficient financial means to cover your living expenses throughout your studies.

Medical Aid Insurance

The Department of Home Affairs mandates that all international students possess valid medical aid coverage with a medical aid scheme registered with the Council for medical schemes. This ensures access to necessary healthcare services during your stay.

This is a general overview. It’s always best to consult an immigration consultant on the latest information about student visas.

What qualifications do I need to study in South Africa?

The educational qualifications you need to study in South Africa depend on the level of education you’re pursuing:

For primary and high school education in South Africa:

  • Previous School Reports: Reports from your previous school that showcase your academic performance and overall progress can be helpful.


  • Contact the School: Reach out directly to the school’s admissions department to inquire about their specific requirements for international students. They may have additional documents they need you to submit.

Colleges and Universities:

For higher education at a college or university, you’ll need to meet the minimum entry requirements set by the institution itself.

  • Matric Certificate: This is the standard school leaving certificate awarded in South Africa after completing Grade 12. It serves as the minimum requirement for entry into most undergraduate programs at colleges and universities.


  • SAQA Assessment (for Foreign Degrees): If you already hold a degree from a foreign institution, you’ll need to have your qualification assessed by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA). SAQA will evaluate your degree’s equivalence to the South African qualification framework. This assessment is crucial for applying to postgraduate programs or some specialized undergraduate programs.

The qualifications needed to study in South Africa depend on the chosen level of education.

Types of Educational Institutions in South Africa

Public VS Private:

  • Public institutions are funded by the government and generally offer lower tuition fees.


  • Private institutions are independent and typically have higher tuition fees but may offer more specialized programs.


  • Primary School: also referred to as elementary school (This includes Grade R or Reception Year)


  • High School: also referred to as secondary school.


  • Universities: offer a wide range of theoretical and research-oriented programs, leading to degrees like bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate.


  • Universities of Technology (Formerly Technikons): focus on vocational and practical programs, often leading to diplomas and degrees.


  • Colleges: These can be public or private, offering a variety of programs like certificates, diplomas, and some degrees.


  • Public Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Colleges: Offer vocational training programs leading to certificates and diplomas.


  • Special Needs Schools: Cater to students with specific learning needs.


  • Talent Schools: Focus on nurturing exceptional talent in areas like arts and sports.

Ineligible Institutions 

  • Unregistered institutions: Any institution that is not officially registered with the Department of Basic Education or the Department of Higher Education in South Africa wouldn’t qualify for a study visa.


  • Short-term Courses: Short-term workshops, language courses, or training programs that are less than 90 days. A visit visa can be applied for.


  • Online Degrees: While online degrees offered by recognized South African institutions might be an option for some students, they will not qualify. This is because a student visa is linked to residing in South Africa and attending classes in person.

How Do I Get A Study Visa In South Africa

Important Note: Applying for a study visa within South Africa isn’t possible if you’re currently on a visitor’s visa.

You’ll need to return to your home country and submit your application at a South African embassy or consulate general representing the DHA. 

The only exception is if you hold a valid temporary residence visa already in South Africa. In that case, you might be eligible to apply for a change of visa status within the country through the VFS submission centre.

How To Apply For A South African Study Visa

  1. Contact the South African Embassy or Consulate: Locate the South African embassy or consulate general nearest to your place of residence.


  2. Gather Required Documents: The DHA requires a specific set of documents for your application as part of the visa requirements.


  3. Submit Application and Fees: Once you’ve assembled the required documents, pay the associated application and visa fees and submit your complete application to the embassy or consulate.


  4. Interview (Optional): In some cases, the DHA might request an interview as part of the application process. Be prepared to answer questions about your study plans, financial resources, and future goals in South Africa.


  5. Processing Time and Visa Collection: The processing timeframe for a study visa can vary. It’s advisable to initiate the application well in advance of your desired study start date. Once approved, you can collect your visa from the embassy or consulate where you submitted your application.

What Are The Requirements For A Study Permit In South Africa

To secure the visa, you’ll need to meet specific requirements. From essential documents to financial assurance, we’ll equip you with the knowledge to navigate the application process with ease.

Visa Application Documents


Valid passport

a machine-readable valid passport presented to the Embassy or Consulate with at least two blank pages labeled “Visa,” one for the visa/permit itself and another for the South African Immigration Services’ entry/departure stamp. The passport’s validity must extend 30 days beyond your planned departure from South Africa.

Copy of Passport Bio Page 

A certified or notarized copy of the biographical information page from your passport is required.

DHA-1738 Visa Application Form

A fully completed form DHA-1738 Form, bearing your signature.

Passport Photographs

Your application requires two (2) passport photographs featuring a white or light-coloured background.

Proof of Itinerary

Submit proof of a round-trip flight itinerary or reservation for airfare. While purchasing the tickets themselves is not required until your visa is approved, demonstrating a travel plan is crucial.

Proof of Financial Means

To demonstrate sufficient financial resources for your studies, your application should include:

  • Recent bank statements covering the last three months, stamped by the bank itself.


  • A notarized letter from your parents stating their financial responsibility for supporting you throughout your studies.

Learner Financial Means

Financial support documentation demonstrating sufficient funds to cover your living expenses while residing in South Africa as a student is mandatory.

Copy of Sponsor’s  I.D.

To verify your sponsor’s financial responsibility, include a certified copy of their ID, recent bank statements with bank stamps, and a signed letter from the bank.

Proof of Accomodation

As proof of accommodation in South Africa, you can either submit a confirmed hotel reservation or a letter of invitation from a host residing in South Africa. If opting for the letter, the host, who can be a relative or friend, must provide proof of their address within the country.

Proof of Host’s Legal Status

For your host’s legal status, submit a certified copy of their SA ID/passport (if citizen) or both passport and visa/residence permit (certified by South African Police Service).

Proof of Guardian

To demonstrate local support, provide proof of your guardian’s physical address and contact number in South Africa, along with a confirmation letter from the guardian themselves stating their willingness to act in that role.

Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate

If your travels include or will include areas with yellow fever, you’ll need to submit a yellow fever vaccination certificate as part of your application.

Medical Report

Your application requires a recent medical report completed on the prescribed Department of Home Affairs form BI-811, valid for no more than six (6) months at the time of submission.

Police Clearance Certificate (Full Criminal Background Check Report)

The application necessitates original police clearance certificates from every country where you, the applicant, resided for at least twelve (12) consecutive months after turning eighteen (18) years old, within the past five (5) years and pertaining to your criminal history and character, must be no more than six (6) months old at the time of submission.

Copy of Birth Certificate

Your application requires a notarized copy of your birth certificate.

Medical Aid Insurance

You’ll need documentation proving valid medical aid coverage throughout your studies. This coverage must be:

  • Annually renewed for the entire duration of your study program
  • Provided by a medical scheme registered with the South African Council for Medical Schemes in accordance with the Medical Schemes Act .

Official Acceptance Letter

Official acceptance letter from the South African educational institution, bearing the institution’s seal or a stamp from an authorized college official, that confirms your enrollment and the program’s duration.

Registrar or Principal Undertaking Letter

The application requires an undertaking from the Registrar or Principal of your South African learning institution. This undertaking outlines their responsibilities to:

  • Furnish proof of your registration within the relevant legislation’s timeframe, typically within 60 days of registration.


  • In the event you fail to register by the closing date, notify the Director-General within seven (7) days with a written notification of failure to register.


  • Inform the Director-General within 30 days if you’re no longer registered with the institution.


  • Notify the Director-General within 30 days upon your program completion or when a study extension is required.

Parent Consent Letter (If Applicable)

If you are a minor, a notarized letter of consent from your parents is mandatory.

Proof of Adoption/Legal Guardianship

For applicants who are minors, include certified copies of any applicable legal documentation proving adoption, legal guardianship, or birth.

What Is The Form For A Student Visa In South Africa

The application form you’ll need to complete for a student visa in South Africa is the DHA-1738 form, also referred to as the “Application for temporary residence permit” form issued by the Department of Home Affairs. This form plays a crucial role in your student visa application process.

This form is only to be used if you are applying abroad.

What Is Proof Of Funds For Student Visa In South Africa

Proof of funds is a crucial element of your application. It demonstrates to the DHA that you have sufficient financial resources to cover your living expenses throughout your studies in South Africa.

How Much Bank Balance Is Required For A South African Study Visa

The DHA uses a benchmark of ZAR 3,000 per month for students to estimate living expenses.

Calculating Total Funds Required:

To estimate the total amount of funds required, multiply your monthly living expenses by the duration of your studies:

Total Funds = ZAR 3000.00 x Duration of Studies (in months)

For example:

Total Funds = ZAR 3,000/month x 12 months Total Funds = ZAR 36,000

How Long Does It Take For A Study Visa To Be Approved In South Africa

Processing times can vary depending on the embassy or consulate you apply through. Here’s a breakdown of what to expect:

  • Backlog: South Africa is currently experiencing a significant backlog in visa applications, which can lead to extended processing times.


  • Embassy/Consulate Processing: If you’re applying from abroad at a South African embassy or consulate general, the typical processing timeframe can range anywhere from 30 to 90 days. This timeframe depends on the volume of applications.

How Long Does A Study Visa Last?

  • 8 years duration for primary school
  • 6 years duration for secondary school
  • Tertiary Education – Limited to the duration of the qualification course.

What Is Proof of Accommodation For Student Visa In South Africa?

Proof of accommodation is where you’ll be residing during your studies.

Letter of Invitation with Proof of Address: If you’ll be staying with a relative or friend (Guardian) in South Africa, you’ll need a letter of invitation from your host. This letter should include:

  • A formal invitation for you to stay at their residence during your studies.


  • Proof of the host’s address within South Africa. This could be a utility bill or a similar document.

When Should I Renew My Student Visa

You can initiate the renewal process within 60 days before your current visa’s expiry date. This ensures a smooth transition and avoids any complications due to an expired visa status.

Due to potential processing backlogs, it’s wise to submit your renewal application well in advance of the 60-day window.

What Happens If Your Study Permit Expires In South Africa

The consequences of an expired South African student permit can be serious.

  • Overstay: If your permit expires and you don’t renew it within the stipulated time frame, you’ll be considered an overstay.


  • Good Cause Application: In such cases, you’ll need to submit a “good cause application” to Home Affairs. This application explains why you couldn’t renew your visa on time.


  • Genuine Reason Required: Your application’s approval hinges on a valid justification for the overstay. DHA will assess the legitimacy of your reasons.

Application Approval Outcome:

  • Approval: If your good cause application is approved, you’ll receive a letter from Home Affairs. This letter authorizes you to submit a formal visa renewal application through VFS Global, a visa facilitation service provider.


  • Denial: If your application is denied, you’ll be required to depart South Africa within a designated time frame set by the Department of Home Affairs. Following this, you would need to reapply for your student visa through the South African embassy/consulate in your home country (Embassy or Consulate Entity).

Immigration Consultant Recommendation: Due to the complexities involved, consulting with an immigration consultant is highly recommended. They can guide you through the overstay process, application procedures, and potential consequences, ensuring you navigate the situation effectively.

Can One Work With A Student Visa In South Africa?

Foreign students holding valid study permits are authorized for part-time work with a maximum of 20 hours per week.

However, this permission is not applicable during academic vacation periods.

Can We Convert A Student Visa To Work Permit?

Yes, you can transition from a student visa to a work permit in South Africa through a change of status application.

Work Visa Qualification: You must meet the requirements for a South African work visa and securing a confirmed job offer from a South African employer is crucial.

These are the different work visas:

Can I Study With A Work Permit In South Africa?

While a South African work visa permits you to work in the country, it doesn’t automatically authorize full-time studies. However, there is an option for part-time studies.

Can I Add Family Members To The Student Visa

Yes, you can include your spouse and dependent children on your visa. However, successfully adding them depends on your ability to demonstrate sufficient financial means to support them throughout their stay in South Africa.

Proof of Relationship: Documentation that verifies the relationship between you and your family members. This could include marriage certificates for your spouse and birth certificates for your children.

It is important to note that family members will not be allowed to work or study whilst on a dependent visa. To do so they have to apply for their visas which authorizes them to take up the specific activity.


Why was this content created?

The content created about Study Visas for South Africa is to be a helpful and informative guide for people wishing to apply for it. The content on the page aims to be a valuable resource for foreign nationals wanting to study in South Africa.

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:

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.