5 things nobody tells you when applying for a visa in South Africa

On May 25, 2016 / by Michaela / 4 Comments

Visa South Africa

Admittedly the South African immigration legislation is confusing at the best of times. Often, especially when applying for a visa yourself you don’t consider the full spectrum of visa options available to you. You might for instance apply for a life partnership visa with work endorsement, without realising that you qualify for a far less stringent, more flexible visa category. Lots of the tipps and tricks circulate through word of mouth or through immigration consultants who are able to listen to your needs and think out of the box.

Here are 5 things that nobody tells you when applying for a visa in South Africa.

You can apply for a work visa without work

Previously foreigners were facing a funny dilemma when looking for work in South Africa. There was no work without work visa, and no work visa without work. Foreigners were basically only able to apply for a work visa after they secured a job offer. This caused a frustrating problem to many, as companies would not extend a job offer without a valid work visa. Luckily a more practical solution has been put in place. According to the new revised immigration act the critical skills work visa enables foreigners to live in South Africa while job hunting for an entire year. Once work has been secured the critical skills visa can be extended. Keep in mind however that this visa is not for everybody. In order to qualify you will need to prove that you possess one of the sought after critical skills. For a current critical skills list click here.

You don’t have to be old to apply for a retirement visa

Applying for a retirement visa, South Africa imposes no age restrictions. This enables foreigners with a fair amount of cash to make use of this visa category. A retired visa application for temporary residence can be made by demonstrating either R37,000 per month in guaranteed income, a capital sum equal to R444,000 per annum. Keep in mind that this visa does not allow you to work. But it might still be an option for digital nomads, who work for companies overseas while living in South Africa, as well as those lucky enough to be early retired or/and with property overseas. Keep in mind, that it is clearly defined which documents can be used to prove the financial monthly income.

You can appeal should your visa application be rejected

In some instances, visa applications get rejected. The smallest mistake, incorrect spelling of your name or an incorrect birthday can lead to your visa not being processed. A visa rejection can be disappointing, costly and time consuming. For this reason professional Immigration consultants check your applications in real detail before handing it in. Having said that, its good to know that an appeal application is possible and should be filed within 6 weeks after you have received the rejection letter.

Your passport determines the length of your visa

Your visa will be issued for the amount of time that your passport is valid for, max. If you for instance apply for a critical skills visa, which is issued for a maximum of 5 years and your passport expires in 2 years your visa will be issued for 2 years. In which case you will have to re-apply for an extension. I might be worth applying for a new passport before applying for a new visa.

You need to be a couple for 5 years before applying for a lifepartnership visa

Lifepartnership permits are issued for up to 5 years and qualify for permanent residency. Whereas previously partners could apply for a life partnership permit as soon as they got together, now they have to be in a relationship for 5 years. You do the math: After 10 years of living together in a spousal relationship you qualify for Permanent Residency. This is according to the immigration act changes of 2014. In my mind, two scenarios are possible: You meet overseas, live together sharing financial obligations and after a 5 year period move back to South Africa together. Or, you meet in South Africa while you hold a study or work visa, after 5 years of living together and sharing financial obligations you switch to a life partnership visa.

Applying for a visa in South Africa you have a choice between researching potential visa options and filing a visa application on your own or using an immigration agency. If you are not familiar or experienced with the South African visa landscape, you don’t know what you don’t know, to put it bluntly. An immigration agency will listen to your needs and recommend the right visa, for instance: visa must qualify for permanent residency, visa should allow change of employer, visa should be cheap or I would prefer to apply for my visa in South Africa. To cut a long story short, there are in fact places where you will get the full picture of options available to you and the right way to go about getting your visa. Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.

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Michaela heads up the marketing department for Initiate Holdings. An expat herself she understands the unique challenges immigrants are facing in South Africa.


  • Avatar Suzie Roderick says:

    Hi Michaela I had the most horrific experience.
    My husband was dying, He had melanoma and I had to submit proof that he had tumours etc I was made to show all the evidence, doctors reports etc…..THEY REFUSED ME a visa to stay. I appealed and after threatening to go to the head man I finally got someone who knew what he was doing at HA and was granted a retirement visa.They even got the type of visa mixed up etc etc each time you end up paying to me it seemed like a real money spinner. Incidentally I lost my job because of the delay hence why I had to get a retirement visa although I was told if I found a job they could try and alter it! My husband died shortly afterwards the stress just accelerated his cancer that had been in a semi remission.

    • Avatar Michaela says:

      Hi Suzie, thank you for sharing this. Your story is absolutely terrible. I am sorry you had to go through this. I am however relieved you were able to spend the last days with your husband at least. M

  • Avatar Christele says:

    Good day,

    Is it possible to change employers with a critical skill work visa?
    In a situation where I have a 5 years critical skill visa and I would like to change employers within the exact same category. Do I have to apply for a new visa or can I simply notify HA that I am changing Employers?

    • Avatar Michaela says:

      Hi, thank you for your question. Critical skills visas are not meant to be tight to a certain employer. However, we have seen this happening in the past – especially with people who had secured employment before applying and said so in the application. For this reason some agencies apply for a critical skills visa on their clients behalf without mentioning an employment. In this case the visa will be issued for a year and needs to be extended thereafter. I hope this helps.

      In your case, it sounds like your critical skills visa is tight to a certain employer. If so (you will be able to see this looking at the stamp) you will have to apply for a change.

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