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A Guide to Visas for South Africa | Travel Advice

Do I need a visa to travel to South Africa?

Considering a trip to South Africa? Before you book your flights and get the suitcases out, it's important to understand the type of visa you might need to enter the country. Keep reading this guide to find out all of the key information you need to ensure you have a smooth, stress-free journey to South Africa with the right visa! We'll cover vital information such as the different types of visas available, who is eligible for a visa, the application process and more.

South Africa Travel Visas

Visitor's Visas

This is the most common type of visa. South Africa offers several types of 'Visitor's Visas' depending on the purpose and duration of your visit.

  • The Port of Entry Visa (otherwise known as the Tourist Visa) is the most common type, allowing you to stay in South Africa for up to 90 days for tourism or business purposes.
  • The Volunteer Visa is designed for volunteers who plan to stay in South Africa for longer than 3 months, with a maximum stay of up to 3 years.
  • The Short-Term Work Visa is available for visitors who need to do short-term or urgent work within South Africa, with a maximum stay of 90 days.


Residents of many countries are eligible to apply for the Visitor's Visa. There is no specific list of countries as it often changes, however, you can check directly with the South African Department of Home Affairs or your nearest South African embassy to see if you're eligible for this type of visa.

You will need a valid passport with at least 30 days of validity beyond your return date. We recommend having 6 months of validity beyond your intended stay as this allows for a smoother application and entry process.

Benefits of the Visitor's Visa:

With South Africa's Visitor's Visa, you can explore all that South Africa has to offer in plenty of time. It allows you to explore South Africa's remarkable geography, breathtaking coastlines, world-famous national parks and energetic cities like Johannesburg and Cape Town.

If you're a big fan of South Africa and want to go on multiple trips to this magnificent country throughout the year, there is also the option to apply for a Multiple Entry Visitor's Visa. This lets you go on multiple short trips to South Africa throughout the visa's validity period - ideal if you have friends or family in the country that you wish to see more often!

The Visitor's Visa can demonstrate your travel history and responsible behaviour to South African authorities. This means you could be eligible to apply for longer-term visa options like work visas in the future!

Required documents for the Visitor's Visa:

Before you start the application process, prepare the following documents:

  • A valid passport with at least 6 months validity beyond your departure date, as well as two recent passport-sized photos.
  • Proof of financial means such as bank statements or salary slips to show you have sufficient funds during your stay.
  • Proof of accommodation such as a hotel booking or invitation letter from a host with their address.
  • A travel itinerary showing your return or onward travel dates.
  • The purpose of your visit (e.g., visiting family or friends).
  • Proof of medical and travel insurance covering the duration of your stay.
  • A Yellow Fever vaccination certificate (if coming from or transiting through a country affected by Yellow Fever.

Application process:

To apply for a Visitor's Visa for South Africa, the easiest way is to do it online. You can do this by visiting the official South African online e-Visa service.

  1. Visit the official South African e-Visa website and follow the steps.
  2. Click on "Create your profile".
  3. Choose the visa type that best suits your travel plans and fill out the online form.
  4. Upload any required documentation for your application.
  5. Confirm your application with a secure payment. Processing for the Visitor's Visa can take 5-10 working days.

If the e-Visa option isn't available for your nationality or you'd rather apply in person, you can apply at your country's South African embassy or consulate. You will likely need to download and complete a paper visa application form specific to the Visitor's Visa type you require. Make sure you have all the required documents ready before scheduling an appointment and submitting your application in person.


Visitor's Visa fees will differ depending on your nationality, the type of visa you apply for and your application method. As of 2024, the Visitor Visa application fee can cost anywhere between USD $100-120.

A couple holding hands walking through a vineyard in Cape Town, South Africa

Work Visa

South Africa's 'Work Visa' allows foreign professionals to contribute to the country's expertise and fill critical positions that are missing in South Africa's workforce. It's available for both individual job seekers and intra-company transfers. South African employers will sponsor the Work Visa for qualified foreign professionals with specific skills.


  • You need to have a valid passport with sufficient remaining validity that should exceed the intended work visa duration.
  • You should have the relevant qualifications and experience that can be demonstrated to show you meet the job requirements.
  • An offer of employment from a registered South African company is required. This should clearly outline the position, responsibilities and salary.
  • You should provide proof of sufficient funds that will support you during your stay in South Africa.
  • A medical certificate may also be required depending on the job you have applied for.

Types of Work Visas:

  • General Work Visa - this is the most common type of work visa issued to foreign professionals with skills/qualifications that aren't immediately available in South Africa. The employer will need to show they have attempted to recruit a South African citizen before offering the position to a foreign candidate.
  • Intra-company Transfer Visa - this allows the transfer of employees from multinational companies. It lets companies move existing staff members to their South African branches, subsidiaries or affiliates.
  • Critical Skills Work Visa - this is a fast-tracked visa that speeds up the work visa application process for highly skilled professionals in jobs that are classed as critically important for South Africa's economy.
  • Other Work Visas - the other less common work visas available include the Quota Work Visa, the Contract Work Visa and the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) Accredited Employer Work Visa.

Application process

  1. Secure a job offer. You'll need to find employment with a registered South African company and get a formal offer letter that clearly details the position, responsibilities and salary.
  2. Get your required documents ready. More specific information is available on the official DHA website.
  3. Submit your visa application. Once you have all of your documents prepared, you can submit your work visa application to the Department of Home Affairs or a designated Visa Facilitation Service Centre (VFSC).
  4. Approval of your application. The Department of Home Affairs will process your application and make a decision. The processing times can vary depending on the workload and specific work visa category.


The South African Work Visa application fees can vary depending on the type of work visa you apply for. Fees tend to range from USD $100-170. Keep in mind that additional costs may be involved such as for medical examinations, police clearances and biometric data collection.

Sandton, Johannesburg

Study Visa

South Africa offers a 'Study Visa' to international students who wish to study and gain academic qualifications in one of South Africa's accredited institutions. The Study Visa is available for different study levels, from undergraduate degrees to postgraduate studies and doctoral programs. With the Study Visa, students can live and study in the country for the duration of their approved program.

There is only one type of Study Visa in South Africa - it's officially known as the Standard Study Visa. This is issued for the duration of your registered study program with a maximum length of 4 years. Extensions can be granted under certain circumstances.


The main requirement for the Study Visa is acceptance into a recognised educational institution in South Africa for a full-time study program. You will need to meet the entry requirements of your chosen program - this typically involves presenting transcripts and diplomas from previous educational experiences.

You also need to prove you have sufficient financial resources to cover your living expenses and tuition fees during the entire study period. This can be proven through bank statements, scholarships or sponsorship letters. A valid passport is also needed, with enough blank pages for entry stamps and validity exceeding the intended duration of your studies.

Application process:

  1. Apply and receive an acceptance letter from an educational institution in South Africa.
  2. Gather all other required documents. This includes a completed Study Visa application form (Form BI-1738), a valid passport, passport-sized photos, proof of financial means, a medical certificate (if applicable), proof of accommodation in South Africa and, in some cases, a police clearance certificate issued in your home country.
  3. Submit your visa application. This can be done through the e-Visa online application method or at the South African embassy in your home country.
  4. Wait for your application to be processed.


Study Visa fees will differ depending on your nationality and your application method, however, you can expect application fees to range from USD $25-50.

University of Cape Town, South Africa

Business Visa

If you'd like to start a business in South Africa or invest in one, the 'Business Visa' is for you. South Africa offers a Business Visa to international individuals who wish to establish or invest in a business within the country. The Business Visa isn't the same as the Work Visa - you're not allowed to be employed in South Africa but you are allowed to participate in certain business activities during your stay. This type of visa is ideal for foreign entrepreneurs, investors and business representatives.


To qualify for the South African Business Visa, you need to have:

  • A valid passport with at least 6 months validity beyond your intended stay
  • A genuine business purpose - you need to show you are visiting South Africa for legitimate business reasons. This can involve establishing a new business, investing in an existing one, attending business meetings or conducting negotiations.
  • Proof of financial means that show you can support yourself during your stay in South Africa. This can include proof of income or bank statements.
  • Documents related to your business activities such as a business plan, company registration documents and letters of invitation from South African business partners.

Types of Business Visas:

There are two types of Business Visas in South Africa:

  • Single-entry business visa - this allows you a single entry into South Africa with a maximum stay of 90 days. It's ideal for short-term business trips such as attending conferences, meetings or conducting initial business explorations.
  • Multiple-entry business visa - this grants you multiple entries within a validity period of 1 year with each stay not exceeding 90 days. This is suitable for ongoing business activities that require frequent visits to South Africa throughout the year.

Required documents for the Business Visa:

Before you apply for a Business Visa, you need to prepare the following documents:

  • A completed Form BI-1738
  • A valid passport and passport photos
  • Proof of financial means such as bank statements and salary slips
  • Medical reports
  • A police clearance certificate
  • A Yellow Fever vaccination certificate
  • A business plan outlining the nature of the business, market analysis, financial projections and expected contribution to the South African economy
  • A letter of support from the Department of Trade and Industry in South Africa
  • Proof of investment
  • Proof of how many South Africans will be employed as well as employee CVs, qualifications and certificates
  • Proof of registration of the business
  • Proof of registration with a professional body
  • Undertaking to register with the South African Revenue Service (SARS)
  • Marital status documents (if applicable)

Application process:

The application process for a Business Visa in South Africa is easy - you can do it online or at your South African embassy.

  • If you're applying online, simply create an account on South Africa's official e-Visa website, select 'Business Visa', choose the appropriate type of visa and fill out the online application form. Pay for the visa fee securely, then download and print your approved e-Visa upon notification.
  • Alternatively, you can apply in person. Download and complete a paper Business Visa application form (Form BI-1738). Gather all of the required documents in physical format. Schedule an appointment and submit your application in person. Once you have paid the visa fee, you need to wait for your application to be processed and then you will be notified if your visa application has been approved.


The application fee for a South African Business Visa will vary depending on your nationality and the type of visa you apply for, however, you can expect it to cost around USD $80-100.

Gauteng, South Africa

Retirement Visa

Fancy retiring in South Africa? With South Africa's 'Retirement Visa', otherwise known as a Retired Person's Permit, you are granted long-term residency options that let you settle in the country, as long as you're financially independent and can prove that you can support yourself during your stay of up to 4 years. The Retirement Visa can be renewed if certain financial criteria are continuously met.


  • There are no minimum age requirements as per the law of this visa however some medical insurance providers may have age restrictions for coverage required as part of your application.
  • You must be able to show that you have sufficient financial resources to support yourself without relying on employment in South Africa. This involves a minimum monthly income from pensions, annuities or other reliable sources that meet the government's standards.
  • You must have comprehensive medical insurance that is valid in South Africa. This should cover hospitalisation, repatriation and other medical expenses.

Application process:

  1. Get all of your required documents together. This must include a valid passport, a completed visa application form (Form BI-1738), proof of sufficient financial means such as bank statements and pension statements, medical and radiological reports, a police clearance certificate from your home country and proof of health insurance valid in South Africa.
  2. Submit your application. This can be submitted at a South African embassy in your home country. Online applications may not be available in your country for this type of visa.
  3. Pay the application fee and wait for processing. This can typically take between 8-12 weeks so it's recommended to apply well in advance before you plan to travel to South Africa.


The application fee for a Retirement Visa can cost around USD $100-120. Keep in mind that there may be additional costs too including obtaining medical reports, police clearance certificates and health insurance.

Other Visas

We've given you a breakdown of the most common visa types that South Africa offers, but there are many more we haven't mentioned. Other visas South Africa offers are unique to certain situations:

  • Relative's visa - this visa is for immediate family members (such as spouses, life partners, children and parents) of South African citizens or permanent residents. To apply for this, you need proof of relationships and financial support.
  • Medical treatment visa - this is for international travellers looking for medical treatment in South Africa for longer than 3 months but not exceeding 6 months. To get this visa, you need a letter from a South African medical practitioner or institution, details of the treatment and its duration, and proof of financial support.
  • Exchange visa - this is for foreign nationals under 25 years of age who want to participate in cultural, economic or social exchange programs. You need to provide proof of the exchange program and an acceptance letter from the host institution.
  • Corporate visa - this is issued to a corporate entity to employ a pre-determined number of international workers for specific positions. Required documents include proof of registration of the corporation, comprehensive motivation and business plan, and proof that the company has advertised positions locally.
  • Treaty visa - this is for international travellers entering South Africa under an international treaty. For this visa, you need proof of the treat and your role, as well as confirmation from the relevant South African government department.
  • Crew visa - this visa is for crew members of a transport vessel (such as a ship or an aircraft) entering South Africa. To apply for this visa, you need proof of your employment on the vessel, your itinerary and how long you intend to stay.
  • Accompanying spouse/partner visa - this is for the spouse or life partner of someone who has a long-term visa for South Africa (e.g., a work or study visa). You need to provide proof of your relationship and sufficient financial means to obtain this visa.

Visa application form

Ready to visit South Africa?

So, whether you're planning to visit South Africa for leisure, business or adventure, there's a visa waiting to welcome you into the Rainbow Nation. Remember, choosing the right visa is key, and applying early means you can have a smooth journey without any hassles.

Start exploring your visa options, prepare all the required documents and get ready to experience the trip of a lifetime in South Africa.

Search for flights to South Africa today with Alternative Airlines.

Other useful guides about South Africa:

If you're thinking about booking flights to South Africa, take a look at our other helpful guides:

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need a visa to visit South Africa?

This depends on your nationality. Citizens of many countries, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and many European countries, won't need a visa for short visits to Africa. A 'short visit' means up to 90 days for tourism or business purposes. It's a good idea to double-check with the South African embassy in your home country before planning your trip as the list of countries that don't need a visa can change.

How long does a South African visa application take?

For Visitor Visas, the processing time can take anywhere between 5-10 days, however, this is all dependent on your nationality and the specific embassy handling the application. For more complex visas, like the Business Visa and Work Visa, it can take 8-12 weeks to be processed. We recommend getting your visa application submitted in advance before travelling.

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