As a nation celebrated for its culture and outstanding natural beauty, South Africa offers the highest standard of university education in Africa thanks to its emerging post-apartheid system.
It offers considerably cheaper living costs than other English-speaking countries like the UK and USA, and good exchange rates ensuring value for money. As you plan to pursue your education as an international student, find below guides on how to apply for a visa in South Africa.
Requirements for a South African Visa
The general documents that you must have in order to obtain a South African visa are as follows:
- An International passport or travel document valid for not less than 30 days after the expiration of your intended visit.
- Your passport must have at least two unused pages for entry/departure visa endorsements.
- A completed form BI-84 (application for a visa).
- Payment of the prescribed visa application fee.
- A yellow-fever vaccination certificate (if required).
- Statement and documentation confirming the purpose and duration of your visit.
- Two coloured passport photographs.
- A return or onward ticket if you are travelling by air.
- In case you are travelling along with children (minors), 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 stability within the Country in the form of;
- Bank statement
- Salary Advances
- Undertaking by the host(s) in South Africa
- Medical cover or
- Cash available (credit cards inclusive).
Most of the documents cut across all the different types of South African Visas and some are peculiar to the visa type needed. Submitting fake documents results in abrupt closure of the visa application, and seizing of the documents. Original documents are mandatory for your application.
Study Visa Types
Entry into South Africa is only possible with a South African visa. There are different categories of South African visas which are based on the reason for travelling, and the duration of travel, and are issued based on Temporary residence or Permanent residency.
This is issued to applicants who intend to study in South Africa. You’ll be required to provide proof of provisional admission by the educational institution you wish to attend and enlist the duration of the programme as the duration of the visa is based on this.
When applying for a visa to South Africa, be sure to choose the visa appropriate to the purpose of your visit.
Qualification: In order to qualify for a study visa for South Africa, the school or college itself must first qualify as a ‘learning institution’ via its registration with either the South African Department of Basic Education or the Department of Higher Education. So if you want to attend a private language school, game ranger schools (a bush school) or places only offering short-term technical courses, you may not qualify for a South African study visa. You can ask the organisation for proof of registration if you are unsure.
Study visa for students under the age of 18
- If you are under 18 years old when you apply for a South African student visa, you do not need a police clearance certificate. Students under 12 years old are additionally exempt from submitting radiological reports.
- Application process times vary from country to country but allow about six weeks.
Minors who are under 18 years will generally need to submit the following South African student visa requirements:
- A birth certificate (or legal adoption) and proof of parents’ identity.
- Written consent from both parents or from one if your parents are divorced, or from a guardian if your parents are deceased or you are not in the care of your parents; you may need to provide documentation with proof of the situation.
- Proof of the address and contact number of an adult in South Africa who will act as your guardian (and a letter confirming this).
South African exchange visa above the age of 25
- This grants you access to South Africa if you are older than 25 years and want to come to South Africa on a cultural, economic or social exchange programme organised between an educational institution or government body in South Africa and one in a foreign country.
- The South African exchange visa will be for the duration of the exchange programme, up to a maximum of three years.
- If you are under 25, you may come and work in South Africa temporarily once you have secured a South African exchange visa. The South African exchange visa is granted for the duration of the exchange, usually not more than 12 months.
South African study permits for international students
- The South African student visa requirements for graduate studies are much the same as for other types of study in South Africa. You’ll need documentation confirming: provisional acceptance at a university and duration of the course; your guardian in South Africa; recognised medical cover; and proof of sufficient funds to cover fees and living costs.
- Foreigners who are awarded their PhD from a South African university can apply for a critical skills work visa (a five-year temporary residence visa) which includes a 12-month period to secure a job. After the end of the five years, they can apply for permanent residence.
Working on a South African student visa
- If you are studying at tertiary level, you can work part-time for no more than 20 hours a week during term-time, and full-time during vacations.
- If you want to work more hours than this, you will need to apply for a work visa in South Africa.
- You can renew a South African student visa as often as necessary.
- A South African study visa is issued for the duration of your studies at a specific school, college or university, with a maximum of eight years for primary school, six years for secondary and the length of the degree or other qualification at tertiary level.
- If you need to apply for a change of visa status or to renew your South African study visa, you can do so from within South Africa by sending your renewal application at least 60 days before your South African study visa is due to expire.
Your spouse and dependent children only can join you while you study in South Africa but must apply for an accompanying spouse or child visa, which lasts up to three years.