Authorisation Applications for South African visas

According to the Immigration Act No. 13 of 2002, any illegal foreign person shall depart South Africa unless authorised by the Director-General of Home Affairs (by way of a letter of good cause) to remain within the country pending an application for a status. An illegal person is a person residing in South Africa in contravention of the Act. The term is most commonly encountered when dealing with foreigners who no longer hold valid visas or entered the country illegally. Not all illegal foreigners, however, will qualify for such an authorisation and the Act and accompanying regulations provide the criteria for ascertaining whether an illegal foreigner may remain in South Africa pending the outcome of a visa application

The immigration Act lists the criteria upon which an authorisation application will be judged. In order for an illegal foreigner to qualify for authorisation, he/she must prove:

  • That he/she has not been arrested or ordered to depart South Africa;
  • That he/she was unable to apply for a visa timeously for reasons beyond his/her control; and
  • That he/she is now in a position to do so. DHA have interpreted this requirement to mean that the foreigner needs to have a complete visa application ready for submission at the time that the request for authorisation is made.

What is a good cause letter?

If you have met the above requirements, the Director General of Home Affairs may, he may issue you with a Form 20 (letter of Good Cause), permitting you to make application for a visa by a certain date. If the decision in said application is unfavourable, you will need to leave the country immediately. This departure would ultimately result in a ban from South Africa and this would need to be overturned through the overstay appeal process.


The Immigration Act states that certain persons are deemed to be “prohibited persons” thus, they are banned from entering South Africa. Usually, offending individuals are often told by Home Affairs that they have been placed on the “V-list” and no further follow-up of their prohibited status is ever communicated to them. This differs from instances where person is deemed an “undesirable person” as a result of having overstayed his/her visa. Irrespective of the terms used in declaring an individual to be a prohibited person, the end result is still an indefinite ban from entering South Africa – whereas a declaration of undesirability results in a ban of between 1 – 5 years. A prohibited person can, however, appeal to the Director-General of Home Affairs to overturn the decision to declare him/her a prohibited person on the basis of good cause.

The immigration Act lists criteria upon which an individual will be deemed to be banned from entering South Africa, with the most common of these grounds being that: the individual was found in possession of a fraudulent document or permit, passport or identity document; or had previously been deported from South Africa. In order to overturn one’s prohibited status and indefinite ban from South Africa, the affected individual will need to submit an application to the Director-General requesting that his/her prohibited status be waived.

Waiving a ban from South Africa

The Director-General will take a variety of factors into consideration in deciding whether to waive an individual’s prohibited status. These factors include, but are not limited to:

  • The reasons for the prohibition;
  • The seriousness of the offence committed; and
  • The personal circumstances of the individual.

It is important for a prohibited person to make written representations in order to overturn his or her prohibited status and submit same to the Director-General. If you require help in drafting an application to overturn your prohibited status, kindly contact us.


A visitor visa in South Africa allows a non-visa exempt foreign national to visit the country for tourism purposes and needs to be applied for prior to arrival in South Africa.

The visitor’s visa for South Africa also covers many subsets such as the long stay visitors visa, the visitors visa with spouse and visitors visa with children.

What is a visitor’s visa?

The visitor’s visa is for a temporary residence in South Africa of up to 3 months and is mainly used for tourist visiting. Visitor’s visas are the most common visa issued for those entering the country as South African to promote tourism. While the long stay visitors visa can be granted for a stay of up to 3 years depending on conditions being met.

Long stay visitor visa South Africa

A long stay visitor visa allows a foreign national to remain in South Africa for a period exceeding 3 months, but not more than 3 years. Long-stay visitor visas are a collection of many visa sub-categories. A candidate could qualify for a long-stay visa if:

  • You are an accompanying spouse or life partner to a foreign national who holds or qualifies for a valid work visa, study visa, business visa, retirement visa, relative’s visa, treaty visa or crew visa
  • Your accompanying child/children would also qualify on the above grounds
  • You are partaking in an academic sabbatical supported by your educational institution
  • You are teaching at an international school
  • Involved in films and advertisements produced in South Africa, including, but not restricted to, an actor, cameraman, hairstylist, make-up artist or sound and lighting crew
  • You are a journalist in the employ of a foreign news agency
  • Conducting research activities, with proof of financial support
  • You are the spouse or life partner of a South African citizen/permanent resident and you have been offered a job, registered to study or has opened and conducts your own business

You, as parents, are both foreign nationals on temporary residency visas and have had a child that was born in South Africa

Visitor visa – accompanying spouse

To enable us to apply for an accompanying spouse visitor visa the following evidence will need to be provided:

Marriage certificate/spousal affidavit

Divorce decree (if applicable)

Proof of court order awarding custody (if applicable)

Support confirmation from spouse.

Undertaking to repatriate the family from the temporary residence permit visa holder’s employer.

Visitor visa – accompanying child

To enable us to apply for an accompanying child visitor visa the following evidence will need to be provided:

Proof of support from parent(s)

Undertaking to repatriate the family

Proof of funds

All minors under the age of 18 need to possess an unabridged birth certificate when entering or exiting South Africa.

Visitors visa validy and duration

For what duration is a South African short stay visitor visa valid?

A visitor visa is usually valid for 3 months unless the visa has been applied for on other grounds. The visa can be extended for a further 3 months, as long as the application is made 60 days prior to the expiry of the current visitor visa and as long as there are no restrictions on the current permit.  Restrictions to a visa are endorsed onto the face of the visa and may include “may not change status”, “may not renew”, etc.

For what duration is a long stay visitor visa valid?

A long stay visitor visa in South Africa can be issued for any period not exceeding 3 years, provided the foreign national controls sufficient financial resources to sustain him or herself while in South Africa.

Pros of a visitor’s visa

Processing time is faster than other more complex visas

Cons of a visitor’s visa

You cannot work, open a business, or study even on a long-term stay visa. You will need to reapply should you want to work or study

You need to reapply should you want to extend your stay


There are three different categories of work visa that foreign nationals may apply for in South Africa.


Critical skills work visa is issued to a foreign national who works within a specific profession deemed to be critical in the Republic of South Africa.


An intra-company transfer visa allows a foreign national to reside in South Africa while working for the local branch, subsidiary or affiliate of their employer abroad.


A general work visa allows a foreign national to work and reside in South Africa for a specific employer in any position that, in theory, cannot be filled by a South African citizen or permanent resident. The employer must show that no suitably qualified local candidates could be found to fill the position in order for the foreign national to be granted permission to work in South Africa.


The critical skills visa covers a number of industries from agricultural, engineering, architecture, business and economics, information technology, health professionals and more. You can download the full critical skills list here.


The applicant must have an offer of employment before starting the application process. The position must have been offered to South African citizens and permanent residents – this is done by advertising the position in print media and going through a strenuous Department of Labour process. Should the prospective employer not be able to fill the position with a local candidate, then the foreign national may be offered the position. The general work visa can then be applied for.


A foreigner can qualify for critical skills work visa if their position is listed on the critical skills list and they have the necessary qualifications and experience confirmed by the relevant accredited professional body, council or board and recognised by SAQA.