South Africa Visa Guide



Ranked as the 6th most “megadiverse” country in the world and with 11 constitutionally recognized official languages, post-apartheid South Africa is popularly known as the “rainbow nation”. Characterized by a rich history of inclusivity, it is also the home of Nelson Mandela, one of the greatest political revolutionaries of the 20th century. For tourists, South Africa offers a range of experiences through its biodiversity and various opportunities to explore its rich cultural and historical heritage. Alongside protected status for various world heritage sites such as the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, today South Africa is also spearheading efforts towards ecologically responsible tourism initiatives. 

With more than 15 million tourists visiting South Africa in 2017, it is one of the most sought-after destinations in the world for all kinds of travellers. Like other nations across the world, the visa policy of South Africa is broadly determined by the nature of the visit and grants visa exemptions to tourists from select nations. While most Indians (except for those with diplomatic and service passports) need to apply for both short-term and long-term visas, nearly all components of the visa application process can be completed through online portals for nominal fees. Below, we will look at the South Africa Travel Guide for the kind of visa that you apply for.

Application Process

Now applying for visas have become a much easier process than it was about a decade ago. Most of the process is online and submitted documents are reviewed at physical and online portals such as VFS Global or the website of the Department of Home Affairs, South Africa. This is how you apply for a visitor visa to South Africa:

  • As we have seen above, you must be clear about the purpose of your visit. While there are different agents who can help you gain clarity about the kind of visa that you need, you will need to decide for yourself what kind of visa most aptly describes your motivation to travel to South Africa. This is important because this lack of clarity can lead to the rejection of your application or you can even be sent back from the port of entry in South Africa.   
  • Once you have reasonable clarity regarding the purpose and nature of your upcoming travel to South Africa, you will need to fill in the application form with an affixed photograph. You can download the application form online.
  • The photo requirements for a visa application form are very specific. Although rare, they are also subject to change. Hence, double check the specifications before affixing your photograph on the form.
  • You will need to apply all the required documents with this application form. The application form will of course, need to be complete. Application forms incomplete in any way will be rejected.
  • You can submit your application form at VFS centres or consulates. Now, it is also possible to track the processing of your application form online.
  • Finally, you can go to the consulate to get your processed visa or wait for it to be delivered to your postal address.

    Documents Required

    While each kind of visa entails slightly different and more specific documents depending on the nature and purpose of visit, the following are the set of documents that are absolutely essential for any short-term visa:

  • A passport that is valid for at least after the end of the period of intended stay.
  • Completed visa application form no.11(DHA-84) that must be compulsorily filled in black ink and block letters.
  • The above mentioned application form must be signed by the applicant wherever required and this signature should match the applicant’s signature on his/her passport.
  • A proof of funds must be submitted - such as a 3-month bank statement - that shows funds of at least R 3000 in South African currency.
  • A yellow-fever vaccination certificate that confirms if the visa applicant is going to be travelling through a yellow fever-belt before staying in or transiting through South Africa. 
  • Copies of passport pages containing essential bio-data such as address, parents name etc.
  • At least 2 recent passport-sized photographs. 
  • A covering letter attested by the visa applicant that clearly mentions the trip sponsor.
  • A legitimate return airline ticket.
  •  Proof of accommodation.
  •  For all kinds of short-term visas involving employment, exchange or transfer of work in and/or to South Africa, applicants will need to provide invitation/confirmation letters of hosts/employees/organizers and reference letters of their last or current employers/institutions, respectively.  
  •  Radiological reports not older than 6 months during submission wherever applicable. Minors under the age of 12 and pregnant women are not applicable for this.
  •  Medical report clarifying applicant’s health, that is not older than 6 months.
  •  Clearance certificate from police in origin country, wherever applicable. 
  • Marriage Certificate (Wherever applicable).
  • Specifications for Photograph

  • All photographs must be in color.
  • Photographs should not have borders.
  • All photographs should be against a white background.
  • The photograph must be composed of a close-shot of your head, where your face takes up at least 70% of the photograph.
  • The photograph must be clear and easily legible. It also should not have any folds, creases or ink marks.
  • The orientation of the face must be directly towards the camera.
  • The dimensions of the photograph must not be lesser or more than 3.5*4.5 cms.
  • Skin tone should be as natural as possible.
  • The photograph must not be older than 1 month.
  • The applicant cannot be wearing a headgear while getting photographed, except for if the headgear is part of some religious symbolism. In either case, the main features of the applicant’s face must not be covered including the chin, nose, eyes, ears and eyebrows.   
  • The photograph should not be stapled.
  • Color photocopies and scans of the original photograph will not be accepted.
  • Processing Time and Tracking your Visa

    While short-term visas are processed in about 8-10 weeks, long-term visas and permanent resident permits can take anywhere up to 8-10 months. However, each application is uniquely assessed and it the general time-frame may vary from one application to another depending on the profile of the applicant and the nature and purpose of the visit. 


    You can check the status of your visa application and track its processing through either of the following ways:

    • You can check your application status at the website of the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), Republic of South Africa at
    • You can directly call the Department of Home Affairs call centre on 0800 6011 90 to follow up on your visa application status and even make changes on it.
    • You can follow up on visa processing status at the nearest department of home affairs.

    You can enter your visa application reference number and date of birth at the VFS Global website to track your visa application status.

    Various Types of Visa

    As seen above, there are various types of visas that one can apply for. In the case of South Africa, it is especially important to also clarify the nature and purpose of visit, and apply for you visa accordingly. In case that you have not applied for an appropriate visa, your application can get rejected or worse, you may even have to turn back from the port of entry in South Africa. In lieu of that you should have a rough knowledge of the kinds of visas that are available and choose which kind you wish to apply for, for your visit to Africa. There are broadly two kinds of visas that you can apply for when visiting South Africa i.e. short-term visas and long-term visas. Below, we briefly look at the different kinds of short-term and long-term visas, how to apply for them, the documents required, fees to be submitted and other details.

    Short-Term Visas

    The short-term visa is also known as the visitors visa and is issued to all travellers wishing to stay in Africa for a period of upto 90 days. Of course, all travellers from nations that are exempt from the requirement for short-term visas need not apply for this. Below, we will look at the different kinds of short-term visas that are granted to travellers and visitors staying for periods of less than 3 months at a time. 


    1. Medical(Applicable only to Private medical facilities): Short-term medical treatment visas are issued to all tourists who are visiting South Africa for a period of equal to or less than 3 months for medical treatments. 

    2. Business Trip: Business visas are issued to all applicants who wish to visit South Africa for business purposes that may include business meetings, conferences and trade confluences or fairs. 

    3. Training: Such kinds of visas are issued to all those travellers who wish to visit South Africa for training purposes that does not involve them receiving payments. If they do wish to receive payments for work, they will need to apply for a work permit. In addition, they will also need to provide an attested proof of the registered company and a certificate approving the training program as a proof of accommodation.

    4. Conferences, Seminars: These are visas that are issued to travellers who wish to visit South Africa for unpaid academic or business conferences.  

    5. Short-term Assignments: Visitor visas are also granted to short-term projects and assignments that are no longer than 90 days or 3 months.

    6. Holidays and Family Visits: Visas taken for holidays and family visits to South Africa are exclusively for the purposes of leisure and recreational activities. Over and above the basic documents that need to be submitted for a short-term visa, applicants seeking a holiday visa to South Africa will also need to submit:

    • Proofs of hotel bookings
    • Name and details of guide/tour operator in South Africa
    • No Objection Certificates from employer/educational institution that clearly mentions the name of the authorizer’s name, physical address and sign/stamp.
    • Daily itinerary of planned trip to South Africa.
    • Marriage Certificate (If Applicable).
    • Proof of residence of hosts in South Africa (If Applicable).

    7. Sabbaticals and Research Work: These visas are specifically for individuals who wish to visit South Africa for academic sabbaticals and research work. In addition to basic documents, applicants also need to submit marriage certificates, radiological reports and clearance certificates from the police.  

    8. Dependants Visa: This type of visa is specifically for dependants of professionals visiting South Africa, such as an accompanying spouse and children. Over and above the list of documents needed for a short-term visa, applicants who are dependants must also provide parental consent affidavits for minors.

    9. Visa for Charity Work: Individuals visiting South Africa for charity work not lasting for a period of not more than 90 days must get a short-term visa specifically for this purpose.

    10. Film-Making: Individuals wishing to shoot or produce a film in South Africa need to obtain a short-term visa that will allow them to produce a film in South Africa within a maximum duration of 90 days or 3 months. Film-makers and producers wanting to make a film in South Africa will also need to provide recommendation letter(s) from film bodies or commissions in South Africa that clearly states the purpose and duration of their visit.  

    Long-term Visas

    The duration of long-term visas vary depending on the nature and purpose of the visit but are in general necessary for any period of stay in South Africa longer than 90 days. Like the short-term visas there are various kinds of long-term visas such as the below. For long term visas, the required documents, specifications for photographs and payable fees (for some visas) are the same as for short-term visas. Importantly however, for all kinds of long-term visas, you will need to submit the application form DHA-1738.


    1. Visa for Study: If you wish to study in South Africa, you can get a study visa by filling and submitting the BI-1738 (DHA-1738) application form. Study visas are issued by for study at higher education institutes for a duration not exceeding 4 years. Students seeking to study at school in South Africa, can avail visas where duration of primary school does not exceed 8 years and duration of secondary school does not exceed 5 years.

    2. Treaty Visa: If you wish to participate in a program that has been sanctioned by your origin country and South Africa that exceeds a period of more than 90 days or 3 months, you can apply for a treaty visa.

    3. Visa for Medical Treatment: Long-term visas are issued to patients seeking medical treatment in South Africa and are applicable for a maximum period of 6 months at a single stretch. 

    4. Relatives Visa: If you are an immediate family member, a close relative of a citizen of South Africa, you can avail of a “relative’s permit” that is valid for a period of up to 24 months. However, you can also seek extensions beyond 24 months. 

    5. Exchange Program Visa: Any individual who is a part of an educational and/or work exchange program with a university or learning institution in South Africa can avail of an exchange program visa that will let him/her participate in any exchange program lasting for more than 90 days.

    6. Business Visit: Any foreign national who is seeking to establish a business enterprise or participate in an existing business enterprise in South Africa that will function for a duration that exceeds 3 months, will need to apply for and avail of a business visa. The payable fees for a business visa is INR 7892. 

    7. Work and Critical Skills Visa: A work visa (general work visa) and critical skills visa is provided to any contractual employee whose period of employment in South Africa will not exceed for a period of more than 5 years. The fees entailed in the applications for general work and critical skills visa is INR 7892.

    8. Work Transfer Visa: Such visas are necessary for an employee who is transferred from one branch of a company to another, such as from an Indian to a South African branch. The fees for processing a work transfer visa is INR 7892.

    9. Corporate Visas: Corporate visas are offered to any corporate entity who wished to employ a set number of skilled or unskilled workers in South Africa for a period not exceeding 5 years. There is no application fees for a corporate work visa.

    10. Retiree Visa: As the name suggests, a retiree or retired persons visa is offered to any retired person who wishes to visit or stay in South Africa for a period exceeding 3 months. The processing fee for a retiree visa is INR 7892.


    The basic fees for processing short-term visa is Rs.2207 only. Logistics fees for a visa processing generally range between Rs.2000 and Rs.2300 only. Visa fees are according to current exchange rates and can change without any prior notice.  



    1. Are Indians exempt from visa requirements for visits less than 90 days?

    No. Except for 52 nationalities that do not require a visa for visits to South Africa for a time period of less than or equal to 90 days, inhabitants of all other countries require a visa for any visit to South Africa.


    2. Are Indian holders of diplomatic and service passports required to apply for visas?

    No. Indians holding diplomatic or service passports are not required to apply for short-term visas i.e. for visits to South Africa for a duration of less than 90 days at a time.


    3. Is travel insurance necessary while travelling to the region?

    It is necessary but not mandatory. Having a travel insurance policy handy is always good whenever something unforeseen befalls you, like accidents and baggage loss.


    4. What is the best time to travel to South Africa?

    The best time to visit South Africa is somewhere during April and May.

    Why Choose ICICI Lombard General Insurance (Bharti AXA General Insurance*) Travel Insurance?

    Travelling overseas is always fun. It’s more fun when you know your trip is financially secure. That’s why our Travel Insurance is an ideal companion for all journeys’ of your life.





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    What kinds of medical coverage’s are provided??

    The following medical expenses are covered: 

    • Travel insurance includes medical expenses, repatriation, and emergency medical evacuation. Even dental care expenses such as acute anesthetic treatment of teeth are covered.

    What is a deductible?

    “Deductible”means a cost-sharing requirement under this policy, that provides that the insurer will not be liable for a specified rupee amount or percentage of claim amount or number of days or number of hours, as specified in the policy schedule and which will apply before any benefits are payable by the insurer. A deductible does not reduce the sum insured and is applicable per event, upto the specified limits mentioned.

    What Is Not Covered Under the Travel Insurance Plan?

    • Medical Expenses (inclusive of Repatriation and Emergency Medical Evacuation), Daily Allowance in case of hospitalization, Compassionate Visit benefits, the following will not be payable for Any pre-existing condition, Routine examinations, Expenses for rest or recuperation at spa/ health resort/ sanatorium, Pregnancy (including childbirth, miscarriage, abortion or related complications ) or treatment relating to the removal of physical flaws or anomalies (cosmetic treatment or plastic surgery).
    • Cosmetic surgery, unless such cosmetic surgery is rendered medically necessary as part of treatment for accidents and burns whilst being abroad.
    • Suicide, attempted or wilfully self inflicted injury or illness, mental disorder, anxiety, stress or depression, venereal disease, alcoholism, drunkenness or the abuse of drugs, or any loss arising, directly or indirectly, from any injury, illness, death, loss, expense, or other liability attributable to HIV and/or any HIV related illness including AIDS and/or any mutant derivative or variation thereof however caused.
    • Treatment which could be reasonably delayed until the Insured’s return to India, which will be decided jointly by the treating Physician and the Emergency Assistance Service Provider and shall be in accordance with accepted standards of medical care.
    • The Insured taking part in naval, military or air force operations; war and nuclear perils.
    • Insured engaging in air travel unless he or she flies as a Fare Paying passenger in an aircraft licensed to carry passengers.
    • Participation of the Insured in winter sports, mountaineering and such other professional sports or any other hazardous or potentially dangerous sport for which the Insured members are adequately trained, physically fit and using proper equipment. and that too only if specifically agreed and mentioned in the policy schedule.
    • Hazardous occupation, or if engaged in any criminal or illegal act.
    • Medical Expenses in respect of Experimental, investigational or unproven treatments or treatments which are not consistent with or incidental to the diagnosis and treatment of the positive existence or presence of any Illness for which confinement is required at a Hospital. Any Illness or treatment which is a result or a consequence of undergoing such experimental or unproven treatment.
    • Naturopathy treatment.
    • Non Allopathic treatment e.g. - Ayurvedic, Yogic, Homeopathic, Unani treatment(s).
    • Under no circumstances shall this insurance contract be deemed to provide cover and no liability be incurred to pay any claim or provide any benefit hereunder to the extent that the provision of such cover, payment of such claim or provision of such benefit would expose us to any sanction, prohibition, or restriction under United Nations resolutions or the trade or economic sanctions, laws or regulations of the European Union, United Kingdom, United States of America & India

    You can avail the Travel Insurance online and enjoy the benefits offered by ICICI Lombard General Insurance (Bharti AXA General Insurance*)

    What Is Covered Under Travel Insurance?

    Loss of passport and documents:

    Reimbursement of actual expenses incurred in connection with obtaining a duplicate or fresh passport or reasonable cost of replacing/obtaining the stolen documents/ tickets if the passport belonging to the Insured / Insured Person be lost

    Home Fire Insurance Contents & Home Burglary Insurance (contents):

    Cover against any loss or damage of the Contents at Home of the Insured in India caused by Fire and Allied perils or through burglary and/or housebreaking while the Insured is on a trip abroad.

    Hijack Distress Allowance

    Payment of distress allowance in case of hijack of a common carrier for more than certain number of hours whilst on the trip. You can easily avail the allowance by filing a claim online through Travel Insurance cover online process.

    Medical Expensesinclusive of Repartration  and Emergency Medical Evacuation

    If you are sick or injured during the journey, your medical expenses can prove to be costly. In such cases,  Travel Insurance cover greatly helps. The insurance company also offers a cashless settlement with the network hospitals or you can also opt for the reimbursement process within 30 days of hospitalization.

    Legal Expenses

    Payment of legal costs and expenses incurred by the Insured towards claims from third Parties for compensation in respect of death or disablement arising due to an injury whilst on a trip abroad.

    Personal Accident

    Payment of compensation if the Insured sustains accidental bodily injury during a trip resulting in death or Permanent Total Disablement or Permanent Partial Disablement within 12 months of occurrence of such injury.

    Trip Cancellation/Or Interruption

    Payment towards the non-refundable prepaid payments incurred on the trip being cancelled and additional cost of transportation in case of Interruption: due to medical problems, personal employment problems or natural disasters or other listed reason in policy wordings.

    Trip Delay

     Reimbursement of additional expenses if trip is delayed beyond a period, due to airline problems, medical problems, personal employment problems or natural disasters.

     Daily Allowance in case of Hospitalisation

     Payment of daily allowance for the days the Insured is hospitalised beyond a specified number of days, as mentioned in the Policy Schedule, for which a valid claim is admissible under the Policy whilst on a trip abroad.Emergency Accommodation

     Payment of compensation for the additional cost of emergency accommodation if the Insured/ Insured Person could not stay in the accommodation originally booked due to ­fire& flood, earthquake, storm, hurricane, explosion, outbreak of major infectious diseases.

    Why do I need Travel insurance?

    During a trip there are chances of unfortunate events such as loss of checked in baggage, medical emergency, loss of passport that can spoil your international trip, be it business or leisure. Travel insurance can protect you from such events ensuring that you are left stuck in foreign land.

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