Stricter business travel regulations for South Africa are in place since new immigration rules came into effect in May 2014.
The new immigration rules state that visitors to South Africa who enter the country for short-term work or business purposes, even when coming from visa-exempt countries, will need to apply in person at their foreign mission abroad for a visitor visa with consent to work, if they enter the country for short-term work purposes. However, for the purpose of 'attending business meetings' no special visa is required!
South Africa attracts annually almost 900,000 business travellers, according to StatisticsSA. Cape Town, as one of the major conference venues on the African continent and home to many international companies, hosts a wide variety of international events, exhibitions and conferences every month. South Africa's new immigration regulations need to be taken seriously by events organisers and companies inviting international business partners and clients for meetings, conferences or research. Read below about the new requirements business traveler have to comply with.
In terms of South African immigration legislation, ‘attending business meetings’ is not considered / defined as conducting work. Therefore, if the purpose of a foreigner’s visit is to attend business meetings at a company, organisation or institution in the Republic of South Africa, authorisation to work on a visitor’s visa in terms section 11(2) of the Immigration Act, as amended, is not required. (See original document for download here)
Visitors from visa-exempt countries attending business meetings will be granted a port-of-entry visa at border control. But: In respect of business meetings, a signed and dated letter / invitation on the letterhead of the South African company, organisation or institution and from the applicant's employer abroad, must be provided to confirm the purpose and duration of the visit.
Visitors from non visa-exempt countries, will still need to apply for a port of entry visa at their nearest foreign mission abroad.
Foreign nationals from visa-exempt countries visiting the country for a short period of time not exceeding 30/90 days (depending on country) when entering South Africa on the purpose of a conference or short seminar, will not need a special visa. However, all nationals visiting from non-visa-exempt countries must apply for a visitor visa with endorsement, i.e. with 'consent to work in terms of section 11(2) of the Immigration Act'.
It is to note, that when re-entry to South Africa takes place, such as when business travellers might be visiting various countries during a 'business tour' in southern Africa, 'visa-exempt nationals re-entering South Africa from neighbouring countries will only be granted entry for a further period of seven days, rather than for the full period of the visa-exemption, so as to avoid border-hopping to extend one's stay.'
The 'Visitor Visa with Authorisation to Work' is not to be confused with a 'Business Visa', which foreigners who either are planning to invest in South Africa by opening/establishing a business or are planning to invest in an existing South African business have to apply for.
Port-of-entry visa for business travel are granted only to nationals from visa-exempt countries as mentioned above. As purposes to gain a visitor visa for business purposes are usually considered:
However, documentation proving the purpose of the visit needs to be provided to the immigration officer. In respect of study, research and sabbaticals a signed and dated letter of the respective educational institution or organisation. In respect of voluntary or charitable activities (applicants must be over the age of 18), a signed and dated letter on the letterhead of the South African non-profit organisation (NPO), including full details of the specific tasks to be performed by the volunteer.
Note, that also dependants with passports of visa-exempt countries, such as spouses/partners/children of the business traveler who is visa-exempt, may be granted a port-of-entry visa for the duration of the stay for the purpose of accompanying the business traveler.
Applicants who intend conducting work in the
Republic of South Africa, including, but not limited to, technicians,
journalists and film crews, must submit a complete application for authorisation to conduct work on the
visitor’s visa in terms of section 11(2)
Applicants need to apply for a visitor visa 11(2) with 'work endorsement' in person at their closest embassy or consular office where the applicant is ordinarily resident or holds citizenship. Click here to find a SA mission near you.
Here is a list of documents needed for applications by passport holders who are exempt from the South African visa requirement. Please make sure to check the requirements with your respective foreign mission!
It is highly recommended to double-check these requirements with the SA mission in your country before your visit to the mission. The time frame to allow for visitor visa applications at foreign missions is usually 5-10 working days.
Remember, that for applications of visas valid for more than three months, also the following documents (among others) have to be supplied.
Source for Business Travel Regulations page: Department of Home Affairs
Disclaimer: This summary is for information purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact the South African mission abroad or the Department of Home Affairs for advice on the requirements. Also contact an immigration lawyer to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem regarding your immigration permit or visa.