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Visas for South Africa

South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs website states that visa requirements are subject to change without notice, so it’s recommended that you work with a registered visa agency and confirm requirements prior to your journey.

Sorting out your visa for South Africa

Source: Flickr | Baigal Byamba

Currently, UK, EU, and Australian passport holders (among others) may visit South Africa for up to 90 days without a visa, but do require a visa in order to do any work and/or to extend their stay.

NB: if you are travelling internationally with a child (under 18 years) they must, in addition to a valid passport and relevant visa, have an unabridged copy of their birth certificate and a letter of consent from any parent not accompanying the child.

South African visa requirements

If you intend to work in South Africa, you must be in possession of a valid residence permit before arriving, or you can be banned from re-entering the country for up to 5 years.

A receipt of application from the Department of Home Affairs is not enough – you must have the full visa in your passport. You cannot enter South Africa as a visitor and apply for a work visa once you are there – this contravenes the Immigration Act and has serious consequences.

Application for a visa

  • Department of Home Affairs states on its website that application forms are not available online

  • You must contact the South African embassy or consulate in your home country to obtain the relevant forms – a list of offices is available here

  • If there is no South African embassy or consulate in your country, you can apply to South Africa’s Home Affairs Department through a registered employment/immigration agent or an attorney.

  • Application processing usually takes 6-8 weeks, but allow more time if possible in case of queries or additional documentation requirements.

  • Register with the relevant South African professional bodies before submitting your application (e.g. medical / legal / health services)

Current work visa application requirements:

  • Formal qualifications evaluation by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA).

  • Authenticated copies of academic certificates or degrees - with translations by a sworn translator if they are not in English

  • Testimonials or service certificates from previous employers

  • Registration with relevant South African professional bodies

  • Complete application form BI-1738. Only original copies will be accepted.

  • Relevant visa fees (please see below)

Documents required:

  • Valid passport and two passport-sized photographs

  • Medical certificate and radiologist report

  • Marriage certificate or proof of relationship, if applicable

  • A divorce decree or court order, if applicable, and proof of maintenance paid to family members in the case of divorce or separation

  • Full birth certificate/s of any children

  • Police clearance certificates for all countries in which you have resided for a year or longer.

  • Vaccination certificate

Main types of work visas for South Africa

There are four types of work visas for South Africa:

1. Business Visa

This type of visa is appropriate if you are starting a business in South Africa, investing in an existing South African business, or opening a branch of an existing foreign business in South Africa.

Who Can Apply?


Additional Requirements/Restrictions

Foreigners who want to start a business, invest in an existing South African business, or open a branch of an existing foreign business in SA


Investment capital (determined/confirmed by the Department of Home Affairs)

At least 60% of staff employed must be SA citizens or permanent residents

Registration with UIF, SARS and all relevant industry and safety bodies.

Financial statements for the previous year

Work Visas

The policy of the South African government is that work visas should only be issued to foreigners if the work cannot be carried out by a South African citizen. Your employer must provide motivation for your visa and demonstrate your unique skills and experience.

They must also prove that they have tried to find a South African who can fill the position.

2. General Work Visa

Who Can Apply?


Additional Requirements/Restrictions

A foreign national who has obtained a job in South Africa and whose employer certifies that the duties cannot be fulfilled by a South African citizen.


Valid for the duration of the work contract – not more than 5 years.

Provide proof of finances to cover your living expenses until you earn your first salary.

Your employer must advise if you leave the company before your visa expires.

Your employer must take responsibility for your stay in South Africa.

3. Critical Skills Work Visa

Who Can Apply?


Additional Requirements/Restrictions

Foreigners who have qualifications identified as being critical to South Africa’s development – for a full list of critical skills and required qualifications contact DHA.


As above

SAQA confirmation of skills / qualifications

4. Intra-Company Transfer Visa

Who Can Apply?


Additional Requirements/Restrictions

Employees being transferred to South Africa from a foreign branch of the same company by an existing employer


These applications do not require proof that the employer has looked for a suitable South African to fill the position.

You need to have been an employee of the company for at least 6 months outside of SA before applying for a transfer visa.

Any type of work visa includes an allowance to study part-time while in South Africa.

Other visas

Study visa

Who Can Apply?


Additional Requirements/Restrictions

Foreign students who want to enrol at a recognised school, college or tertiary institution.


Tertiary students can work for up to 20 hours per week.

You can’t apply for a study visa if you’re studying via distance learning.

If over 21 you must show that you can support yourself throughout your studies.

If under 21, you must appoint a local guardian while in SA.

All study visas are only valid while studying and cannot be converted to permanent residency.

Relatives’ visa

Who Can Apply?


Additional Requirements/Restrictions

Anyone directly related to a South African citizen or permanent resident.

This includes:

Spouses & life partners







Spouses and life partners must show evidence of co-habitation and financial partnership/dependence

Can apply for permanent residence

Life partners must demonstrate relationship of 5 years minimum

Grandparents/grandchildren can apply for temporary residence only.

South Africa does not differentiate between heterosexual and homosexual marriages and life partnerships and requirements are exactly the same for all applicants.

Special visas are also available for:

  • Corporate groups – more than 20 people from one business
  • Medical treatment
  • Working in the entertainment industry
  • Attending a conference
  • Compliance with treaty conditions
  • Maritime crew
  • Cultural / economic / social exchange programmes
  • Transit

All visa costs exclude agency fees – these will be determined by your choice of visa application agency.

This article is intended as a guide only. Please visit the South African Department of Home Affairs or further information and updates to regulations.