Want to visit South Africa? Here's information on the basic requirements for entering South Africa, as well as links to full information on visas - what they are, who needs them, and when, where and how to apply for them.
NOTE: Requirements for entry into South Africa differ from country to country, and are subject to change. Always make inquiries before travelling to South Africa.
South Africa has the right to decide who may and may not enter its territory. A visa ensures that you are properly screened before entering the country, and gives immigration officials the information they need to ensure you are admitted to South Africa for the correct purpose and length of time. A visa doesn't guarantee you entry to the country - it only allows you to proceed to a South African port of entry, where an immigration officer will check that you satisfy the basic requirements for entry into the country.
Depending on your nationality, and the purpose and duration of your visit, you may not need a visa to visit South Africa.
The Department of Home Affairs' website will give you the lowdown on visa costs, processing time, where to apply, what to submit, requirements for people in transit, as well as information relating to your duration and purpose of stay, medical visas, and photographs.
A visa allows you to proceed to a South African port of entry. A temporary residence permit will be issued to you at the port of entry. It replaces your visa, and regulates the duration and purpose of your stay in South Africa.
It is best to request the full duration of your intended visit when you first arrive, as extensions are subject to additional fees. If you wish to extend your stay further, you must keep your temporary residence permit valid by applying for an extension at your nearest Home Affairs customer service centre in South Africa. You should do this well before your permit expires.
If you intend to be professionally active in South Africa or to undertake any voluntary or paid employment or studies, you must apply for a work, work-seeker's or study permit. These permits are also issued outside South Africa, and function as valid visas in allowing their holders to proceed to a South African port of entry. (In other words, if you're applying for one of these permits, you do not have to apply for a visa separately.)
If you are subject to visa requirements, you should apply for your visa at least four weeks before your departure for South Africa, and await the outcome of your application before departing. Visas are not issued at South African ports of entry, and airline officials are obliged to insist on visas before allowing passengers to board. If you arrive without a visa, immigration officials are obliged by law to refuse you entry to South Africa and to place you on a return flight to your country.