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How to Apply for a Visa for South Africa

South Africa is a beautiful country with bustling cities and picturesque landscapes. To see these, though, you may need to apply for a visa before you embark on your trip. Passport-holders from many countries are not required to get a visa for a trip shorter than 30-90 days. If you’re going for a longer trip, though, or if you’re studying in South Africa, you will need a visa before you depart.


EditQualifying for a Visa

  1. Check to see if your home nation is exempt from visa requirements. Citizens of certain countries do not need to apply for a visa in advance of arriving in South Africa. Instead, these individuals may present their passport when entering the country at a customs or border control station. You can check online to see if you need a visa at[1]
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    • Passport holders for most countries in North and South America, Western Europe, Israel, Singapore, and Japan do not need a visa for a visit less than 90 days.
    • Passport holders for most of the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, most other African nations (excluding North Africa), Hong Kong, South Korea, Thailand, and Turkey do not need a visa for trips under 30 days.
    • Passport holders from Angola, Namibia, Tanzania, and Zambia have 90 days per annum to visit South Africa without a visa. These 90 days may be part of the same trip or spread across multiple trips.
    • Individuals with an African Union laissez-passer do not need a visa for trips shorter than 90 days.
  2. Check visa requirements for your home country if you are a foreign permanent resident. If you are a permanent resident of a country where you do not hold citizenship (such as a Green Card holder in the U.S.), check the visa requirements of your home country. Whether or not you need a visa will depend on the country issuing your passport, not where you reside.[2]
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    • If, for example, you are a citizen of China with permanent resident status in Canada, you will need a visa before entering South Africa. While Canadian citizens do not need a visa, Chinese citizens do, even if they don’t currently reside in China.
  3. Get a yellow fever certificate if necessary. If your journey starts or passes through the yellow fever belt in Africa or South America, you will need to get a certificate of vaccination prior to entering South Africa. Yellow fever vaccinations are good for up to 10 years.[3]
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    • The yellow fever belt in Africa includes Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Sudan, Togo, and Uganda.
    • In South America, the yellow fever belt includes Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guyana, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela.
  4. Verify the reason for your trip. Visas are granted in most cases for South Africa, but the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) does have some guidelines regarding what trips will be approved for a visa. Visas may be granted for:[4]
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    • Tourism
    • Visits to friends or family
    • To join a spouse or parent in South Africa on a work or study permit
    • To join a fiance you intend on marrying in the next 90 days
    • Short-term study (not to exceed 3 months)
    • Volunteer work or charitable activity
    • Research, academic, or conference work
    • To work on a movie or show production
    • To participate in a sporting event
    • For medical purposes (not to exceed 3 months)

EditSecuring a Tourist Visa

  1. Gather all the documents necessary for a visa. Before you get a visa, you will need a valid passport with at least 2 blank pages for endorsement. You will also need a couple documents to verify your stay. These may vary depending on your home country and the reason for your visit, but they always include:[5]
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    • A return ticket or onward ticket out of South Africa
    • Evidence of sufficient funds to support yourself during your stay
    • A medical report from the past 6 months
    • 2 passport-sized colored photos showing your full face
    • Your yellow fever certificate, if applicable
    • Documents proving your relationship to a South African citizen, if applicable
  2. Fill out visa application form BI-84. BI-84 is the standard application form for a Port of Entry visa. Fill the form out completely with your basic identifying and contact information. This form is only available to print out as PDF from your country’s South Africa consulate or embassy website.[6]
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    • The form should be filled out in black ink and using block letters rather than cursive.
  3. Make an appointment to submit your visa at a South African mission. To submit your visa application, you may first need to make an appointment with your nearest South African mission (either an embassy or a consulate). Check the DHA’s website at to find your local mission and see if an appointment may be necessary.[7]
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    • Some missions have designated hours for accepting and processing visa applications where you can drop off your application without an appointment.
    • South Africa does not currently accept visa applications online or via mail.
  4. Submit your application and documents in person. Once you’ve completed your necessary documents and your BI-84 form, you can submit your application to your local consulate or embassy. Where you live will determine which mission you need to visit, so check online or call your country’s South African embassy to find your nearest mission.[8]
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    • If your local mission does not require an appointment, check before you go to see if they have restricted hours for their Visa, Immigration, and Passport sections. These offices are not open all days at all missions.
    • You will need to submit your passport along with your application and all your other travel documents. It may take up to 10 business days to get your passport back, so make sure you have another form of ID for that time period.
  5. Pay your application fee. Application fees are payable when you submit your application or via mail to the mission processing your application. Fees must be paid as a money order or certified bank check. The fee is subject to change annually, so check with your local mission to verify the fee cost in your local currency.[9]
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    • Your application cannot be processed until your fee is received.
  6. Pick up your visa 5-10 after you finish your application. After your application has been processed, you will be notified directly regarding your visa status. If your visa is approved, you will be able to pick up your passport containing your visa at that time. If your visa is rejected, you will be able to pick up your passport.[10]
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    • You will pick up your visa from the same mission at which you dropped off your application.

EditReceiving a Student Visa

  1. Schedule a medical exam about 3 months prior to your departure. Students applying for visas to study in South Africa need to get a physical exam and radiological report before submitting their visa application. Make an appointment with your doctor for about 3 months prior to your departure to make sure you have enough time for your visa to process.[11]
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    • You will need to bring forms BI-806 and BI-811 with you, both of which can be downloaded from your local South African mission website. Your doctor must complete and sign them for these forms to be valid.[12]
    • The required radiological exam is comprised of a chest x-ray to check for pulmonary tuberculosis. You may also submit evidence of a TB skin test in lieu of an x-ray.
    • If you need to get a yellow fever vaccine, you can also request that during your physical appointment.
  2. Gather the documents you will need for your application. Getting a student visa in South Africa requires roughly the same documents as getting a tourist visa. These will also vary by country, but always include 2 blank pages in a valid passport, as well as:[13]
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    • Evidence of sufficient funds to support yourself during your stay
    • A medical report and radiological report
    • 2 passport-sized colored photos showing your full face
    • Your yellow fever certificate, if applicable
    • A letter of acceptance or enrollment from your institute in South Africa
    • Proof of enrollment at your current institution (if taking a semester or year abroad)
    • An official birth certificate
    • A criminal background check from your country’s security administration
  3. Fill out form DHA-1738. Form DHA-1738 is the Application for Visa to Temporarily Sojourn in the Republic. Complete the form in full, checking Study Visa (> 3 months) in the “Category of Permit Being Applied For” section. The form is available for download from your local South African mission’s website.[14]
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    • This form should be completed in block letters and black ink.
  4. Submit your application 10 weeks prior to your departure. You must submit your application in person at your nearest South African mission. Visa applications typically take 4-8 weeks to process. However, it’s advisable to submit them 10 weeks in advance in case any information needs to be clarified or you need to provide additional documentation.[15]
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    • Some missions may require that you make an appointment prior to coming in to submit your application. Check with your local mission to see if that’s necessary.
    • If you do not need an appointment, check with your mission to see if they have designated Visa, Immigration, and Passport section hours. If they do, you will only be able to drop off your application during that time period.
  5. Pay your visa application fee. You can pay your visa application fee by certified bank check or money order when you submit your application. Since the fees are subject to change from year to year, check with your local mission to get the most current fee in your local currency.[16]
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  6. Pick up your visa 8-10 weeks after you submit your application. Once your visa has been approved, you will be able to pick up your passport with your new visa from your local mission. You will need your visa prior to your departure, so make sure you have time to pick it up before you leave.[17]
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EditSources and Citations

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