As a foreign resident, what is my status in your country?
As a foreign resident, your status depends completely on the type of visa you hold.
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What kinds of visas are available?
As a country with an increasingly globalized, growing economy, people come to South Africa for different purposes. Some come to take up an employment opportunity. Others come to study or conduct research. There are also those who come to join relatives, or to undergo medical treatment. And some are merely tourists, or are just passing through. But whatever your reason for traveling to South Africa, you need to make sure that you apply for the correct type of visa. If you have the wrong visa, you will not be allowed to enter South Africa and you may be sent back to your country of origin immediately.

A visitor’s visa will be issued to applicants for the following reasons:

  • Visiting family or friends and also as a tourist
  • Business purposes (short-term)
  • Spouse joining the other spouse, who is in South Africa on a work or study visa
  • Children joining parents who are in South Africa on work or study visas
  • Fiancée/Fiancé joining his/her partner with the intention of marrying within 90 days
  • Study purposes (maximum duration of three months)
  • Charity/Volunteer activities
  • Research
  • Attending a conference
  • Working in the production of a movie or a show/concert (entertainment industry)
  • Medical purposes (maximum duration of three months)
  • Participating in or attending a sport event

However, people often need to stay in South Africa for much longer periods than three months, and they also come to South Africa for different reasons from the ones listed above. In that case, you will need to apply for a Temporary residence visa.

Work Visas - Applying for a work permit as a means of immigration to South Africa is achieved via one of the categories of work permit. In essence the main motivation behind the Department Of Home Affairs regulations, concerning the issuance of such permits and visas, is that it meets (1) Any skill shortage that may exist in South Africa or (2) A company’s requirements to relocate certain skilled staff on a temporary basis to its South African operations.

Retired Persons' visas - As an increasingly popular destination for retirees, with its many attractions and exceptional value for money, South Africa welcomes the immigrant retiree. These visas are designed for immigrants who seek immigration to South Africa for their retirement years, or indeed to spend part of each year in South Africa.

Business Visa - For entrepreneurs and business people looking to establish and run their own business after immigration to South Africa. The regulations for these visas are designed to encourage investment into South Africa as well as create employment for South Africans.

Study Visas - South Africa has some world-renowned learning institutions and is a popular destination for foreign students. Advantages include the relatively low cost of studying fees and the lower living expenses.

Spousal and Life Partner Visa - Spouses and life partners of South African citizens and permanent residency holders are permitted to come and reside in South Africa on the basis of their relationship. Couples must move prove that they have been married, or together for a five-year period of time, to apply for permanent residency. Applications can be made for temporary residency before this period. If the accompanying spouse or life partner wishes to take up employment or start their own business, the good news is that they can apply for an endorsement.

Relative's Visa – The Relative’s Visa extends to second kin for temporary applications and first kin for permanent residency applications. As an example, a son or daughter may apply for temporary and permanent residency whereas a brother or sister may only apply for temporary residency.

Corporate Visa - A corporate permit is designed for South African-based companies that are experiencing difficulty in recruiting the personnel they require from within South Africa. It allows them to apply for and obtain permission from Home Affairs to recruit, on bulk, foreigners with the necessary skills to fill these positions.

Financially Independent Permits - Financially independent permits only exist in the category of permanent residence - no temporary permit is available in this section. In order to apply you must prove a net worth of ZAR 12 million rand. The financially independent permit attracts a large fee from the Department of Home Affairs for the processing of such applications.

Volunteer Visa - Volunteer visas are available under the extended visitor’s visa and are suitable for foreigners wishing to come to South Africa and carry out voluntary work for up to 36 months.

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What is required to obtain these visas?
Visa for people requiring medical attention

  • This visitor’s visa is issued to people who want to visit South Africa for medical treatment of less than three months. All applications for visits for medical purposes must:
    • Include a letter from a medical practitioner or medical institution, indicating the nature of the ailment, the reason/necessity for treatment, the period of treatment and particulars of the appointment/s made in South Africa.
    • Include full details of the person or institution responsible for the medical expenses and hospital fees. If your medical scheme or employer will be liable for the expenses incurred, proof of medical cover must be submitted.
  • People who require medical treatment for longer than three months must apply for a temporary residency permit (Form BI-1784)
  • Emergency patients transported by emergency flights or vehicles will be allowed entry if they do not have a visa. Immigration officers will facilitate their entry by not applying clearance procedures. However:
    • The person in charge of the emergency flight (or the pilot, the driver of the vehicle or the aircraft /vehicle owner) must report the entry and presence of the patient as soon as possible to an office of the Department of Home Affairs.
    • An immigration officer will visit the patient and, if necessary, will issue the necessary medical permit. If the patient does not have a valid passport, she/he will be issued with a permit to legalize his or her stay for the duration of his or her hospitalization.


Visas for people in the entertainment industry

  • If you are from a country that is not exempt from South African visa requirements and do not intend to work for longer than six months, then:
    • You must submit an application for a visa (Form BI-84) with the relevant documentation as listed on the application form and pay the prescribed fee. You must also request authorization to work on the visitor’s visa at your nearest South African embassy or mission. If approved, your visa will be endorsed to allow you to stay and work for a period of between 30 and 90 days
    • You may apply only once for an extension of your visitor’s visa - for a further 90 days (making your stay a total maximum of 180 days or six months). To do so, you need to submit an application to any office of the Department of Home Affairs together with the temporary residency Form BI-1738 and pay additional fees as prescribed
    • You must make your extension application before your current visa expires.
  • If you are from a country that is exempt from South African visa requirements, and do not intend to work for longer than six months:
    • You may proceed to a South African port of entry with the relevant letters from the local or international agency or company confirming your full particulars, purpose and period of visit and your designation
    • The immigration officer will issue you with a visitor’s permit – valid for between 30 days and 90 days – along with the required authorization to work
    • You may apply only once for an extension of your visitor’s visa - for a further 90 days (making your stay a total maximum of 180 days or six months). To do so, you need to submit an application to any office of the Department of Home Affairs together with the temporary residency Form BI-1738 and pay additional fees as prescribed
    • You must make your extension application before your visa period expires


Visas for people attending a conference in South Africa

  • Normal procedures must be followed for applying for a visitor’s visa (Form BI-84)
    • whether you are from a country that is exempt from getting visas, or
    • whether you are from a country that requires you get a visa
  • The application for a visa must be supported by a letter or invitation for the conference
  • The conference organizer should notify the Department of Home Affairs that the conference is taking place - giving all the relevant details and a list of delegates, if possible
  • The Department of Home Affairs will then notify all South Africa representatives abroad, authorizing them to issue visas to the delegates provided that
    • nothing detrimental is known about the delegate, and that
    • all visitor visa requirements are met


Visas for people who are visiting in compliance with Treaty Conditions
A treaty permit is an official document that gives foreigners permission to enter South Africa to participate in programs that have been agreed upon by South Africa and the visitors’ respective countries. Applications can be made at any South African embassy or mission abroad.

You will need to

  • Complete application Form BI-1738
  • Submit the following documents with your application form:
    • A letter from the relevant organ of state involved in the agreement to confirm the nature of the program and detailing the agreement under which the program will be conducted, your participation in the mentioned program and the type of activities you are expected to perform under the agreement. Also required are:
      • A police clearance certificate from all countries you and your spouse have lived in since the age of 18 years and for all dependent children of 18 years or older who will accompany you whilst in South Africa
      • Medical and radiological reports (note that children under the age of 12 years and pregnant women are not required to have radiological reports)
      • A written undertaking by your employer accepting responsibility for the costs related to the deportation of you and your dependent family members, if required. If your employer is a government department and is unable to submit the mentioned written undertaking, the sending country may submit on your behalf
      • Documents relating to your marital status and minor dependent children (if you will be accompanied by a spouse and/or dependent children)
      • A yellow fever vaccination certificate if you have traveled from or intend traveling to or through a yellow fever area
      • A passport valid for at least 30 days after your intended stay in South Africa


Visas for people who are crew members (maritime)
A crew permit is issued to a foreigner who is a member of the crew of a ship. A crew permit may be issued for a maximum of three months at a time. Applications can be made at a port of entry in South Africa.

You will have to submit the following:

  • A valid passport
  • A letter of request from the owner of the ship, including an undertaking of responsibility for such person’s compliance with the Immigration Act, 2002
  • Proof of sufficient financial means of the owner of that ship to cover day-to-day needs and medical expenses
  • A deposit, if deemed necessary by the Department of Home Affairs, in order to ensure compliance with the terms and conditions of the crew permit. Such a deposit shall be refunded to you at departure or after the permit has been issued to you. The payment of the deposit may be effected by means of a bank-guaranteed check or credit card at places where such a facility exists
  • Proof of settlement of an outstanding fine incurred by the conveyor.


Visas for cultural / economic / social exchange programs
An exchange visa may be issued to you if you are participating in a program of cultural, economic or social exchange that is organized or administered by an organ of state, or a public higher education institution in conjunction with an organ of a foreign state.

You can apply for your exchange visa at any South Africa embassy or mission abroad.

You will also need to provide the following documentation:

  • Application Form BI-1738 (application for a temporary residency permit)
  • A valid passport
  • A letter from the entity, organization or family where you intend to conduct your program in South Africa, confirming the status or existence of the exchange program. The letter should prove that you qualify to register or participate and name the entity, organization or family responsible for you during your stay
  • A letter from an organ of state or a sponsoring body of your home country, confirming the status or the existence of the exchange program, and that you have been accepted to register for the program


Transit visas (foreigners en route to the neighboring countries)
If you are a national of a non-visa exempt country and are in transit to a neighboring country, you will be required to be in possession of and to produce a valid transit visa upon entering South Africa.

The transit visa is applicable for those traveling to neighboring countries i.e. the Kingdom of Lesotho, the Kingdom of Swaziland, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Mozambique.

Requirements for extending your visa

  • Once a person arrives at a South African port of entry, the visa is then regarded as a visitor’s permit. Most visas or visitor’s permits are issued for a maximum period of 90 days
  • If your visit exceeds 90 days, you will need to apply for a temporary residence permit instead of a visitor’s visa
  • Remember that the requirements for a temporary residence permit are not the same as a visitor’s visa
  • If the need arises to have your visa extended, you should contact any office of the Department of Home Affairs and apply for the extension of the visitor’s permit
  • You will need to complete the temporary residency Form BI-1738 and pay additional fees as prescribed


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Are spouses permitted and/or likely to find work?
If the accompanying spouse or life partner wishes to take up employment or start an own business, the good news is that they can apply for an endorsement.
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What are the main forms of identification and how does a newcomer obtain them?
There are no specific ID forms that a newcomer needs to obtain on arrival.

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Are there any other important permits I must obtain, or places where I must register right away?
Documents required to apply for a visa:

  • A passport or travel document valid for no less than 30 days after the expiry of your intended visit
  • Your passport must have at least one unused page for entry / departure endorsements
  • A completed Form BI-84 (application for a visa)
  • Payment of the prescribed fee
  • A yellow-fever vaccination certificate (if required)
  • Statement and/or documentation confirming the purpose and duration of your visit
  • Two color passport photographs
  • A return or onward ticket if you are traveling by air
  • If you have children (minors) traveling with you or joining in South Africa, you will need to provide the following additional documents
    • Proof of guardianship or custody or
    • Consent from the guardian in the case of an unaccompanied minor
  • Proof of financial means to pay for your living expenses while in South Africa in the form of:
    • Bank statements
    • Salary advances
    • Undertakings by the host(s) in South Africa
    • Bursary
    • Medical cover or
    • Cash available (including credit cards and travelers' checks)

Remember, you do not have to submit your visa application in person. You can ask anyone else (such as a travel agent or courier services or another family member) to submit the application on your behalf.
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What items should I avoid bringing into the country?

Prohibited goods
The importation of the following goods into South Africa is strictly prohibited:

  • Narcotic and habit-forming drugs in any form
  • Fully automatic, military and unnumbered weapons
  • Explosives and fireworks
  • Poison and other toxic substances
  • Cigarettes with a mass of more than 2kg per 1,000
  • Goods to which a trade description or trademark is applied in contravention of any Act (for example, counterfeit goods)
  • Unlawful reproductions of any works subject to copyright
  • Penitentiary or prison-made goods


Restricted goods
Certain goods may only be imported if you are in possession of the necessary authority / permit. Examples are:

  • Firearms / Weapons
  • Gold coins
  • Unprocessed minerals (e.g. gold or diamonds)
  • Animals, plants and their products (e.g. animal skins, dairy products, honey)
  • Medicine (excluding sufficient quantities for three months for own personal treatment accompanied by a letter or certified prescription from a registered physician)
  • Herbal products (Department of Health permit required)


Duty-free allowances
Goods falling within the following allowances may be brought in without the payment of customs duty and VAT as accompanied baggage:

  • No more than 200 cigarettes and 20 cigars per person
  • No more than 250g of cigarette or pipe tobacco per person
  • No more than 50ml perfume and 250ml eau de toilette per person
  • No more than two liters of wine per person
  • No more than one liter in total of other alcoholic beverages per person


In addition to personal effects and the above consumable allowances, travelers are allowed new or used goods in accompanied baggage to the value of R5,000.

A traveler is entitled to these allowances once per person during a period of 30 days after an absence of 48 hours from South Africa.

The tobacco and alcohol allowance is not applicable to persons under the age of 18 years. Crew members are not entitled to any consumable allowances.

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Is there anything else I should know about entering and remaining in the country legally?
Requirements for entering South Africa

You will need the following if you wish to visit South Africa:

  • A valid and acceptable passport or travel document for your intended stay
  • At least one blank page in your passport for endorsements
  • A valid visa, if required
  • Sufficient funds to pay for your day-to-day expenses during your stay
  • A return or onward ticket
  • Yellow fever certificates if your journey starts or entails passing through the yellow fever belt of Africa or South America

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Crown Relocations has made every effort to present accurate information. However, regulations, rates and other variables are subject to change and Crown Relocations cannot accept responsibility for the errors that might result. Should you have any questions or need additional information, please contact your local Crown representative.