If you are hoping to travel to South Africa on your gap year, there’s some good news – many nationals from certain countries don’t need to have a visa! Despite this, we thought we’d make this little page, in case your country of residence is not exempt, or if you simply want to find out more about the South African immigration system!
Who Needs a Visa?
As already stated, many different nationalities coming to South Africa for tourist purposes do not need to possess a visa. The list of countries this applies to is a long one, so please click here to see all of them. Anyone from a country not on this list will need a visa if they wish to enter the South Africa as a tourist. Remember that it is important to start looking at visas well before your trip starts, and it is usually a good idea not to book flights before you’ve had a visa application accepted, just in case it gets rejected for any reason.
If you plan on heading to South Africa to take up paid work, you will definitely need a visa though, regardless of your nationality. This will usually come in the form of a gap year visa. Anyone looking to complete volunteer work will also need to get a specific visa for their time in the country.
Types of Visas
As with most countries, South Africa has many different types of visas. Luckily for those on a gap year in South Africa, the visas generally fall into three different categories. Below you’ll find information on each of the South African visas you might need!
- Visitor Visa
This is the type of visa required for those simply wanting to visit South Africa as a tourist – although as previously stated, many people will not require to obtain this visa before arriving in the country. Those from the UK are included in this category. Those from countries not included should visit the South African Department of Home Affairs website for more information on applying for a visa. It should be remembered that this visa only allows entry into the country for up to 3 months.
- Gap Year Visa
Those looking to work while on their gap year will probably find this to be the best visa for them. It allows you to work in the country for no longer than one year and to only complete the work specified on the visa. It is also only available to those aged 25 and under. Information about applying for this visa can be found here. Those from outside the UK should contact their relevant South African embassy for more information.
- Volunteer Visa
Many people head to South Africa on a gap year to volunteer, with some popular schemes including wildlife conservation, HIV programs and teaching. There is a special visa for those looking to do this, and it is open to anyone not planning on earning money through their activities while in the country. For more information on this type of South African visa, please click here.
How to Apply
Unlike some other countries, South Africa does not offer an online service to those looking to get a visa. This means that you’ll have to head to your country’s embassy to get the process started. When you do attend, there are a few different things you’ll need to bring – we’ve found the full list for you at the South African High Commission site (for UK residents – other nationalities should contact their own embassies). There is no need to make an appointment, so just turn up when you fancy.
You’ll then have to wait up to a month for a decision, before then heading back to pick up the visa. It can be a long process, but it’s well worth it in the end! There is also a fee, which for UK residents will be £35 – much cheaper than many other countries.
Visa Refused/Cancelled: What Next?
If a South African visa is cancelled, it is not likely that they will change their mind. Should you wish to query the decision, you should contact your country’s South African embassy to find out about the appeal process. In the case of a visa being cancelled while in South Africa, you should attempt to contact your own embassy in South Africa for assistance and legal advice. If you stay out of trouble you won’t get your visa cancelled in the first place though…