South African Visitor’s Visas

Visitor’s Visas – Less than 3 months

Port of Entry/Visitor’s Visa (commonly referred to as “Tourist or Holiday Visa”)

All foreign persons are obliged to hold Port of Entry Visas to be admitted into South Africa and satisfy an immigration officer on arrival at any international airport, border post or harbor that he or she has a right to enter the country based on either being visa exempt and the holder of a specific passport or if not visa exempt has been issued with a Port of Entry Visa prior at the nearest South African Mission (Embassy or High Commission) abroad.

Visa-Exempt and Non-Exempt Countries

Note: South Africa has a list of countries that are exempt and non-visa exempt countries.

Foreign persons wishing to enter South Africa that are Visa-Exempt qualify for a Port of Entry Visa up to 90 days that will automatically be considered a Visitor’s Visa upon entry without having to first obtain a Port of Entry Visa.

Whilst non-visa exempt passport holders would first have to obtain a Port of Entry Visa from the South African Mission before entering South Africa. On arrival such Port of Entry Visa will then be referred to as a Visitor’s Visa.

Port of Entry Visas for less than 90 days or less and generally intended to allow such entry into South Africa as a visitor for tourist and leisure activities with certain exceptions.

Visitor’s Visa – 90 days Short Term Work Authorisation – Section 11(2)

This is an exception to a standard leisure visit.

A short-term visitor’s visa in terms of section 11(2) grants a foreign applicant 90 days or less with a work authorisation granted upon application prior to entering South Africa at the nearest South African Mission and may be technically extended in South Africa for a further 90 days.

2. Visitor’s Visas – More than 3 months (Holiday Purposes)

Visitor’s Visa 90 days Extension – Section 11(1)(a)

As a visa exempt or non-visa exempt foreign person holding the right to a Port of Entry he or she will be deemed to be the holder of a Visitor’s Visa on arrival in South Africa and once entered, such foreigner has the right in terms of section 11(1)(a) of the Act to apply for a further 90 days to remain in South Africa.

Note: Those non-visa exempt foreign persons who need to first apply for a Port of Entry visa may be restricted as a condition on the visa to restrict an extension of the initial stay in South Africa – so be aware of such term that is noted on the visa that is issued.

Therefore, it is imperative to properly study the visa terms for those non-visa exempt foreign persons to ascertain the eligibility to extend such Visitor’s Visas.

An extension of such visitor’s visa must be applied for either in the first 7 days of a 30-day Port of Entry Visa or in the first 30 days of a 90-day visit.

Visitor’s Visa – 90 days Extension of Short term Work Authorisation – Section 11(2)

A short-term Visitor’s Visa with Work Authorisation in terms of section 11(2) granting 90 days or less granted upon application prior to entering South Africa at the nearest South African Embassy or High Commission may also be extended in South Africa for a further 90 days in terms of section 11(1)(a) read with Regulation 11(7)(e).

3. Visitor’s visas – Excess of 90 days up to 3 Years (non holiday)

This category of Visitor’s Visas allows a foreign person the right to remain in South Africa on a long-term basis up to three years and renewable linked to the specific categories set out in:

  1. Section 11(1)(b)(i) to (iv) of the Act (see below); and
  2. in terms of Regulation 11(4) of the Immigration Regulations 2014 (see below).

Categories in terms of Section 11(1)(b)(i) to (iv) include:

  • Academic Sabbatical – there is no definition of what is envisaged by an “academic sabbatical” but it would ordinarily mean those members of academia who wish to perform academic related activities;
  • Volunteer or Charitable Activities – there is no definition of what constitutes such activities, which makes this category uncertain. However, it would literally envisage activities not related to “work” in the professional sense and that are not remunerated as a salaried worker in the strict sense of the wages or remuneration from “work”;
  • Research – there is no definition of what constitutes such activities, which makes this category uncertain. The literal meaning would normally envisage activities related to academia or projects with an academic rationale from a tertiary institution abroad.
  • “Any other prescribed activity” – typically relates to two scenarios:
    • An Accompanying Spouse and/or Dependents – this category relates to a marital or permanent spouse and or dependent minor biological or adopted children and accompany the main applicant; and
    • Those categories set out in the new Regulation 11(4) of the Immigration Regulations 2014 set out in 2(b) below including:
      • Teaching at international schools;
      • Films & advertising assignments;
      • Foreign journalist;
      • Visiting Professor or Lecturer or Academic researcher;
      • An Artist who writes, paints or sculpts and can present a portfolio of works;
      • Entertainer; and
      • Tour Leader or Host of recognized group

Note: The above sub-categories under 11(4) relate to activities to be conducted in South Africa that are linked between an entity in South Africa and abroad. This requirement is open to interpretation as to what the linkage means.

Should you require any of the above South African Visas you can rely on the professional skills of Legal Immigration Services to process your application. Click here to enquire.

Spouse Visas in terms of section 11(6) – Spouse with Endorsements to Work, Study, Conduct Own Business

The Spouse Visa is a Visitor’s Visa issued in terms of section 11(6) of the Act and relates to foreign spouses who are either married or in permanent partnerships with their South African spouses and wish to add a work- or business-related endorsement over and above remaining with their South African spouse.

Note: A “spouse” in our immigration laws is defined to cater for both marital or permanent partnerships. A permanent partnership requires certain additional evidence to prove its existence in terms of Regulation 3 of the 2014 Regulations.

Typically, this category of Visitor’s Visa is also referred to as a “Spouse Visa”. Such “Spouse Visa” is closely aligned to the Relative’s Visa, which serves much the same purpose, however, such Relative’s Visa does not allow the foreign spouse to work.

It is our considered view that the Relative’s visa should simply relate to family members who are in the line of kinship to a South African family member but sadly our home affairs have confused the application of actual spouse related visas and those for family members linked to a South African parent or relative.

Legal Challenges and Benefits for Foreign Spouses

Change of Status from Visitors as tourist entry to Spouse or Relative’s Visa

There has been a successful challenge against the operation of the relative and spouse visa in the groundbreaking cases, launched by immigration lawyers in our High and Constitutional Courts, of Stewart & Others versus Minister of Home Affairs. Most recently, the case of Nandutu & Others versus Minister of Home Affairs.

A foreign spouse married or in a permanent relationship to a South African in terms of section 11(6) (and in fact section 18) may change status in South Africa even after marrying in South Africa and applying within the country in the same visitor’s entry of 30 to 90 days.

A spouse visa may be issued to a foreign spouse of a South African citizen or permanent resident for three years subject to that relationship being in good faith i.e. not of convenience and spouses who are either legally married or in a permanent partnership subject to Regulation 3 of the Immigration Regulations 2014.

The advantage of a South African Spouse Visa is that it allows a foreign spouse to remain and sojourn in South Africa and take up work, study or own business in South Africa without having to comply with the normal cumbersome and often unattainable Work or Business Visas. This is the benefit of having a Spouse Visa.

Should you require a South African Spousal visa for your loved one, you can rely on the professional skills of Legal Immigration Services to process your application.