Visa policy of South Africa

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Entry stamp for South Africa

The visa policy of South Africa is the policy by which the South African government determines who may and may not enter their country. Visitors to South Africa must obtain a visa from one of the South African diplomatic missions unless they come from one of the visa exempt countries, in which case they get what is called a "Port of Entry Visa". Visitors who require a visa must apply in person and provide biometric data.[1]

All visitors must hold a passport valid for 1 month after departure and with one blank page (two if a visa is required).[2]

In December 2016 it was announced that South Africa will review its visa policy in accordance with the principle of reciprocity.[3]

Visa policy map[edit]

  South Africa
  Visa-free access to South Africa for 90 days
  Visa-free access to South Africa for 30 days
  Visa required for ordinary passports; Visa-free access for diplomatic, official and service passports
  Visa required for all passports

Visa exemptions[edit]

Nationals of the following countries can enter South Africa without a visa:[4]

90 days[edit]

Nationals of the following 47 countries/territories who hold valid national passports are not required to obtain South African visas for visits of up to 90 days:

1 - for ordinary passport holders only.
2 – the maximum stay is 90 days per year.
3 - for British Citizens, British Overseas Territories citizens and British Nationals (Overseas) only.

30 days[edit]

Citizens of the following 28 countries/territories who hold valid national passports are not required to obtain South African visas for visits of up to 30 days:

1 - for ordinary passport holders only.
2 - for holders of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passports only.
3 - for holders of Macau Special Administrative Region passports only.

Diplomatic, service and official passports[edit]

Citizens who are holders of diplomatic, official or service passports of the following countries do not require visas for visits of the indicated period and transit for up to 90 days (unless otherwise noted):

1 - 120 days
2 - 30 days

Eligible international organizations[edit]

Individuals holding the following travel documents are not required to obtain South African visas for visits of 90 days or less:

Staff members of SADC who travel on SADC laissez-passer are exempt from visa requirements for bona fide official business visits of 90 days or less and transit.

Visa types[edit]

Visas issued by South Africa are for:[6]

  • Medical treatment
  • Working in the entertainment industry
  • Attending a conference
  • Treaty conditions compliance
  • Maritime crew
  • Cultural, economic and social exchange programmes
  • Transit

Temporary residence visas issued by South Africa are:[7]

  • Business visas
  • Work visas
  • Quota work visas
  • General work visas
  • Critical skills work visa
  • Intra-company Transfer Work visa
  • Corporate visas
  • Study visas
  • Exchange visas
  • Retired persons’ visa
  • Relatives’ visa
  • Medical Treatment visa

Overstay consequences[edit]

According to the amended South African Immigration Act 13 of 2002, foreign nationals overstaying the expiry of their South African visas will be determined “undesirable” and, consequently, face being banned from the Republic for a period of up to 5 years.[8]


From 1 June 2015, all minors under the age of 18 travelling in and out of South Africa must hold, in addition to their passport, an unabridged birth certificate[9] with particulars of both parents. The requirement applies to both domestic and foreign citizens. If the child is travelling with only one parent, an affidavit with the absent parent's consent is required. If the child is travelling with another adult and without neither parents, an affidavit with consent of both parents must be produced. An unaccompanied minor, in addition to holding the affidavit and birth certificate, must in addition provide the information of the local South African host.[10][11] The rule has been widely criticized by the tourism industry, but officials claimed that the rule was implemented to fight the widespread human trafficking in South Africa.[12][13] By October 2016 over 13,000 tourists had been prevented from entered the country due to the unabridged birth certificate requirement having a negative impact on the economy.[14]

Visitor statistics[edit]

Most visitors arriving to South Africa were from the following countries of nationality:[15][16]

Country 2015 2014
 Zimbabwe 1,900,791 2,143,716
 Lesotho 1,394,913 1,501,642
 Mozambique 1,200,335 1,283,016
 Swaziland 835,006 918,490
 Botswana 593,514 555,590
 United Kingdom 407,486 401,914
 United States 297,226 309,255
 Germany 256,646 274,571
 Namibia 212,514 211,453
 Zambia 161,259 176,972
Total 8,903,773 9,549,236

See also[edit]