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South Africa tourist visa

Ieva Miltina Ieva Miltina 18 June 2021
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With warm beaches, stunning mountains, and wild savannas, South Africa is the destination to beat. Many globetrotters already know it - this unforgettable land is no stranger to tourism and all that comes with that. It is probably one reason why they are very considerate about who is allowed to enter the country and who is not. How do they do it? With the help of the infamous South Africa visa policy that sets the rules and conditions for anyone willing to enter the country. If you don’t know what I am talking about, let me give a short insight.

Numerous friends of mine, overall great people that travel for all the right reasons, have tried to obtain a South Africa tourist visa multiple times. All of this with the best advice from experienced travellers on how to apply for South Africa visa the most efficiently. Unfortunately, the result was always negative - their dream to visit this heavenly corner of Earth is yet to be fulfilled. However, that doesn’t mean the same will happen to you - it just means that you will have to follow the instructions to a T and be prepared. Maybe you are one of the lucky ones that don’t need a visa. Just read on further!

Assuming your mind is already set on arranging a journey to this world-class tourism destination, I am happy to see you in this place. This article will give you a useful overview of the most important requirements for South Africa visa. How to get it, which countries are exempt from it, and a short bit also on South Africa tourist visa fees and processing time. Ok enough talking, let’s cut to the chase.

Which are South Africa free visa countries?

flag of south africa

According to South Africa visa policy, many countries are exempt from visas when entering this land. To be more specific, the list of South Africa free visa countries is 81 records long. What I mean to say is that nationals of almost half of the world’s countries are allowed to enter without obtaining a visa before arrival. It is quite good news considering that a visa application does not always result in an obtained visa.

What should I know about a South Africa tourist visa?

south africa visa

Like other short-stay (or visitors’ visas), a tourist visa allows entering and staying in South Africa for no longer than 90 days. If you get this type of visa, you will be required to strictly follow the purpose you mentioned in the application moment and ask to prove it at the moment of entry into the country. Forget to do any paid work during your South Africa trip (unless you are a digital nomad paid by another country). You see, performing any remunerated activities might put you at the risk of getting fined, sentenced, or deported.

Additionally, before acquiring your South Africa tourist visa, be ready to follow all requirements. Many websites advise not to make any fixed travel plans before you have obtained a visa because what you write in your application (the desired outcome) does not always match with the conditions mentioned on the visa (the actual outcome). Only when you receive your official document will you know how much time you are permitted to spend in South Africa. That is if you are granted the right to entry at all. And then you can be sure that your wildest dream fantasies of this country can come true...under the conditions, they have assigned to you.

What if I want to stay longer?

embassy of south africa

There is an option to apply for a South Africa tourist visa extension. So, let’s say you got a maximum of 90 days visa. With the extension, you are technically eligible to obtain an extension that will grant you another 90 days. The rule is - you would be eligible for the same number of days that you got on the initial visa. However, nothing is set in stone - they would treat the extension as a separate visa application, just with the difference that you are applying from within the country.

Here is some advice about this one. The extension might not work out, therefore if you already know you want to stay longer, apply well ahead. The processing time of this one might be up to 8 weeks, and you have to be sure you are granted one before the previous one expires, or you will have to leave the country. That is why if you know you will be needing/wanting a longer stay, apply for a South Africa tourist visa extension very soon after the initial arrival in the country.

How to apply for South Africa visa?

south africa visa

The application process for a South African visa is very standard. Just like with many other countries, you should generally bring your South Africa application form for tourist visa together with all the other required documents to the closest diplomatic mission, e.g. an embassy or another. You can figure out which embassy caters to the requests of nationals from your country usually through the website of the national immigration services. If there is an entity that is in your own country, you will go and visit them in person to hand in your application. If there is not, you may be required to send everything via courier or postal service.

Generally, South Africa does not offer an eVisa service for everyone at the moment, but they are now piloting this system with Kenya and India. So, fingers crossed, it will become available to everyone else in no time!

What are the requirements for South Africa visa?

Besides your South Africa application form for tourist visa, you will be required to hand in a bunch of other papers. The very definite list depends on your nationality and the country of application, but here is a short insight into the most basic requirements that will be asked in most cases. When applying make sure you have:

• two filled and signed application forms in English

• two passport-type photos on white background (size 3.5 x 4.5cm)

• a passport that is valid at least one month after the return date & has two blank pages

• flight ticket reservation (as advised before - don’t buy it before the decision is made, just make a booking)

• proof of accommodation (a hotel reservation or an invitation letter from a person)

• proof of financial means to spend the time in South Africa (3 months of bank statements or other)

• proof of professional status (employment contract or school attendance certificate, or other)

• travel insurance

• an internationally valid yellow fever vaccination certificate

As per usual, the list could be amended by the officials, but you can keep in mind that the proof they ask you to present always holds a legitimate intention to make sure if you will leave the country if granted entry. You have to prove you have enough reasons for coming back to your own country in favor of staying in South Africa.

How much is South Africa visa fee?

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South Africa tourist visa fees are very dependent on your nationality, country of submission, and other conditions related to your particular case. You can expect to pay anywhere from 15 - 110 USD, and you can find out the exact number at the moment when you are applying.

How much is South Africa visa processing time?

Generally, you can expect to get the answer about your visa application in about 5-15 working days. It is not too much, but be mindful and always apply for your visa well ahead because you won’t want to lose your very expensive tickets for a formality, would you? Remember, what I told you before already - the conditions and the outcome are not always set in stone with this particular visa.

Despite the pessimistic tone I set in the first paragraph of this article, I hope the rest of it has proven that it is all not so bad. Hopefully, all of this information has given you some insights and will help to obtain your very desired  South Africa tourist visa in no time. So you can enjoy the famous view of Table mountain in Cape Town. Or the lions and giraffes strolling at their own pace in the wild. Or maybe diving in a cage with sharks in the ocean. What you do there is up to you, but I wish you all the luck, and hope you have a blast!

* Remember, that the world is still on hold due to the Covid-19 health concerns. Before booking tickets or making other non-refundable arrangements, consult with the information in the web pages of the officials of the respective country or the airline. You might be required to present a negative PCR test or quarantine yourself on arrival, but it strongly depends on the country you are departing from and your particular case. The conditions sometimes change by day, which is why the information in this article presents the description of the very standard procedures. Just check the most recent information to be sure you don’t encounter unpleasant surprises.

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Ieva Miltina
Ieva Miltina Activist and entrepreneur

Ieva Miltina is an activist and entrepreneur of many sorts. By profession project manager of marketing and culture events, in her heart she is a passionate traveler and a cook, soon to become a pastry chef. Deeply rooted in non-formal education she has been involved in youth work since her teenage years and up till nowadays holds a deep interest in innovative approaches to learning and personal development, which she transfers to people from all Europe during various international trainings. Always looking for new discoveries and adventures she happily shares her positive view on the world and the neverending stories with the people who cross her path. While studying hospitality and tourism management she wrote a thesis on home-chefs, which ignited her dream of owning her cozy and heartwarming home restaurant, which will hopefully materialize very soon. Meanwhile writing articles and doing food photography she is working towards another dream of hers - becoming a published author someday. 

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