When entering South Africa, either a South Africa visa or any other type of permit such as a valid work visa, study visa or residency permit is required by the Immigrations officer at the border posts such as Cape Town international airport.
The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) distinguishes between the following categories regarding permits:
Travellers and visitors to South Africa either need to apply for a South Africa visa in their home country or get a visitor visa which is granted by the officer upon arrival in South Africa. However, this applies only if you are a citizen of a visa-exempt country. The officer at the Immigration counter at the port of entry will only review your application for a visitor’s visa if you are coming from a visa exempt country.
The officer at the Immigration counter at the port of entry will only review your application for entry if you are coming from a visa exempt country. Visitors from other countries, which are not exempt from visas, have to apply at an embassy or mission for a South Africa visa as such visas are not granted at the port of entry.
The application process for all who need to apply for a visa outside the country in general takes between 4 days and six weeks according to the DHA. Costs for these visas vary. Additional fees at visa centres might apply.
The visitor visa is granted for all temporary stays in South Africa. Visitor visas for visits to family or friends or tourism purposes are usually granted for a maximum period of 90 days to foreign citizens or travellers whose permanent residence is outside South Africa.
Visitor visas are also granted among others:
On entry to South Africa, the visa is granted on the conditions of the stay (or reasons of stay, i.e. travels, study purposes or medical treatment) in which it was applied for. These conditions need to be observed and cannot be changed.
Be aware, that extension of visitor visas will only be effected in exceptional circumstances, such as for medical reasons, or when the visitor leaves the country for a stay in a non-bordering country. Then re-applications for visitor visas for another up to 90days stay might be accepted. Border-hopping to Namibia or Mozambique to gain extension of a visitor visa is not possible anymore since the new regulations came into effect in May 2014.
Visitor visas allow work for a FOREIGN employer which partially requires the conducting of the following activities in South Africa and are granted at the discretion of the Department of Home Affairs to persons who plan to stay in South Africa for a limited period of time, to live and work in South Africa, such as:
Documents needed when traveling to South Africa you need for any visit or South Africa visa
Lists of documents needed for application for the whole range of visas and permits, can be found here.
Among the countries which are exempt from South African visas are:
African Union Laissez Passer, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Chile (only ordinary passport holders), Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany (except in diplomatic staff due to assume duty), Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxemburg, Malta, Monaco, Namibia (ordinary passport holders), Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama (only ordinary passport holders), Paraguay, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Turkey, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, British Islands Bailiwick of Guernsey and Jersey, Isle of Man and various British Oversees Territories, United States of America (except in diplomatic staff due to assume duty), Uruguay, Venezuela, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Beware that visitors’ permits are issued for different length of visit. Nationals of some countries are allowed a maximal stay of 90 days, whereas others such as Turkey are granted a maximal stay of 30 days. Citizens who are holders of diplomatic, official and service passports might be granted different length of stays as well.
For a more comprehensive listing go to this DHA page.
If you need help when you want to renew a permit or want to change your status (for example when applying for a study permit), contact an immigration practitioner for advice.
Retired person's permits are granted to persons who wish to retire in South Africa. Certain financial requirements have to be met. Applications for Retired Person's Visas have to be handed in - in person- at a Visa and Application Centre in the home country or country of residence of the applicant.
There are various other visa and permits available to applicants moving to South Africa. Should you overstay your visa, harsh penalties apply. If you overstay your visa and are illegally in the country, no matter if you applied in time, the border control officers can stamp your passport and 'ban' you from re-entering the country in the near future. You can lodge appeals with the DHA here.
Information Source: Department of Home Affairs
Disclaimer: This summary is for information purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact an immigration lawyer to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem regarding your immigration permit.