When entering South Africa, either a South Africa visa or any other type of permit such as a valid work permit, study permit or residency permit is required by the Immigrations officer at the border posts such as Cape Town international airport.
Travellers and visitors to South Africa either need to apply for a visa in their home country or a visitor’s permit is granted to you by the officer when you enter South Africa. This applies only if you are a citizen of a visa exempt country. The visitor’s permit, commonly simply referred to as ‘visa’, is usually granted for a maximum period of three months to foreign citizens or travellers whose permanent residence is outside South Africa. 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. 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.
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. 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. Exemption applies for maritime crewmembers. 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 (October 2013). Costs for these visas vary between R425 and R1520 (visas for working in the entertainment industry)
Visitor’s Visas are granted at the discretion of the Department of Home Affairs to persons who visit South Africa:
Documents needed when traveling to South Africa you need for any visit or visa
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.
South African Permits
The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) distinguishes between the following categories regarding permits:
Visas (for Travellers and Visitors, only granted for short stays up to three months)
Temporary Residency Visas which are usually granted for up to three years
Permanent Residency Permits which are granted:- to independent individuals who are in the country on a work permit for over five years, are married with a South African for over five years, so-called 'Direct Residency Permits' and to other persons moving to the country on so-called' Residency-on-other-Grounds' permits.
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