South Africa

Who needs a visa?

Many nationals require visas to enter South Africa, although there are exceptions.  There are also various categories of visas available, for all manner of requirements. The visa process is managed by the Department for Home Affairs.  All applications must be submitted in person.

Please contact our Global Immigration Team for further advice.

Business Visa

Short-term trips to conduct business activities including attending business meetings, discussions or conferences require a Business Visa.

Types of Visa

For those nationals who require a Visa, a Temporary Visitor Visa (TVV) is generally issued to visitors travelling to South Africa for a short-term trip to conduct business activities.

Application Process

Temporary Visitor Visa applications must be submitted in the applicant’s country of residence.

Processing time

Applications for a TVV filed at a South African High Commission in the UK can take between 5 and 15 working days. Processing times do vary depending upon the nationality of the applicant, and diplomatic post where the application is filed.


Visas can be valid for more than 6 months and no longer than 4 years.  Intra-Company Transfer visas are non extendable.

Work Authorisation

Due to the large number of work authorisation categories, the following information provides details of a favoured category.  Work authorisation options fall into two categories – Temporary Residence and Permanent Residence.

Type of Visa

There are a multitude of work authorisation options available under the Temporary Residence category, for example:

  • Quota Work Permit: for shortage occupations;
  • Temporary Work Permit;
  • General Work Permit;
  • Exceptional Skills Work Permit;
  • Intra-Company Transfers;
  • Corporate Permit : For South African businesses wishing to employ foreign nationals;
  • Business Permit : For foreign investors in South African business;
  • Exchange Permit: For under 25’s (valid for up to a maximum of 1 year).


Application Process

The process varies depending on the type of permit but for an Intra-Company Transfer, the process can be compartmentalised as follows:

  • Gathering of documents and the submission of the appropriate visa application, which should be submitted to the relevant South African Diplomatic post in the applicant’s country of residence.
  • Work Permit and Work Visa Approval.
  • Endorsement of the Work Visa into the applicant’s passport.

Processing time

Intra-Company Transfer Permits generally take around 1 month to process. This will depend, however, on the diplomatic post where the application is filed, and the work load of the relevant authorities in South Africa. Some applications can take several months.


Visas can be valid for up to 3 years. Intra-Company Transfer’s can be valid for up to an initial 2 years.


The immigration status of a dependant is reliant on the type of permit and the status of the foreign worker.

The spouse, and unmarried children under the age of 18 years, can join the foreign worker in South Africa. These dependants are not permitted to work unless they secure an offer of employment but would then need to apply for an individual work permit. In most cases, the spouse of an Employment Permit holder would apply for a Spousal Visa and the children Study Visas. Such applications should be submitted at the same time as the principal applicant’s application.

Penalties for Non Compliance


If the employer breaches the immigration rules the Department of Home Affairs can impose a number of sanctions including:

  • Preventing the employer from sponsoring or nominating any employees for a specified period of time.
  • Cancelling the Business Sponsorship Agreement.
  • Cancelling the visas of any employees and their accompanying family members.
  • Considering previous non-compliance when assessing any future sponsorship applications made by the employer or by any other business operated by the same principals.
  • Imposing a financial penalty


If the foreign worker breaches the immigration rules, their visa may be cancelled and they will be compelled to leave South Africa. Longer Term work visas are issued for specified roles rather than on a general basis. A change of employer will require a new visa application.

Points to Note

  • The employee must meet the minimum salary and qualification criteria for specific offers of employment.
  • Police Clearance Certificates are required for each country the applicant has lived in, for 12 months or more, over the preceding ten years since turning 16.
  • Many personal documents, such as birth and marriage certificates, need to be legalised and possibly translated.
  • Medicals are required for all applicants, including dependants.


The contents of this article are for information purposes only.  The information and opinions expressed in this document do not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for legal advice or a comprehensive statement of law or current practice.  Immigration rules and requirements frequently change without notice.  You should not rely upon the contents of this document but instead should seek appropriate professional and legal advice in the light of your personal circumstances.  No liability is accepted for the opinions contained or for any errors or commissions. Please contact our Global Immigration Team for further information.