As a South African with only a ZAF passport, you quickly realise that you have to go through the tedium of applying for a visa if you want to explore many international vacation destinations. No worries, this article will not only guide you into the hows of visa applications but enlighten you on some great visa-free destinations and visa tips.
1.MOST VISITED PLACES THAT REQUIRE A VISA
1A: SCHENGEN STATES:
Per the shengenvisainfo.com “Schengen Area nowadays covers most of the European Countries with an exception made for the United Kingdom. The countries that are soon to be part of the Schengen agreement are Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Ireland. Although not members of the European Union, the following countries like Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Lichtenstein are also part of the Schengen zone, enjoying the same freedom of movement policy as the others.”
The Schengen Area Member States:
- Czech Republic
The rule of thumb when applying for a Schengen Visa is as follows:
- If you are visiting several Schengen Areas, you need to apply to the consulate of the member state where your first port of entry is OR the member state where you will be residing the longest. For example: If you are travelling to Amsterdam for 7 days and then Greece for 15 days, you would need to apply at the Greek Consulate for a Schengen Visa. However, if you were staying in Amsterdam for 7 days and then Greece for 7 days as well, you would apply at the state of first entry i.e. the Dutch Consulate.
- The most common type of visa issued to travellers, can reach the maximum of 90 days in every six month period starting from the date of entry. Please be mindful that sometimes the Schengen Visa is only approved for the exact days that you will be travelling (which I recently discovered while applying for my visa). This means you have very little flexibility in your trip.
- Different consulates require different documents. Apart from asking for a sample of your blood, they basically ask you for every single document under the sun! Rather be overprepared than underprepared.
- Examples of documents usually required are:
- Your signed application form
- Copies of your flights (international and domestic)
- Proof of accommodation,
- Letter from your health insurance company
- 2 x photos (visa dimensions apply)
- 3 months bank statements (basically letting them know that you can afford to be in their country – the requirements for funds per day are usually listed on the consulates’ websites),
- A letter from your employer stating that you are taking leave and that you will be returning to work after you return from your holiday
- Visa fees. These can range from around R600 to over R1000 depending on the type.
These are just a few documents required and there may be more. Please read the visa requirements on the consulate in questions’ webpage.
TIPS WHEN APPLYING FOR YOUR SCHENGEN VISA:
TIP1: Apply for a Schengen Visa at least 1 or 2 weeks after your travel dates even if you have to book “dummy” flights. This will allow you the freedom of changing travelling plans or extending your stay if need be.
TIP2: Always select “multiple entry” visa (as opposed to a “single entry” visa). This will allow you to move between Schengen states if you feel like being spontaneous and visiting another Schengen area as part of your holiday.
TIP3: More often than not, when you’re applying for your visa, you probably only booked flights and haven’t even really thought about your accommodation. That is completely fine. Just go to a website like Booking.com and book “free cancelable” accommodation just for visa purposes. You can always cancel the accommodation after your visa is approved and then book “properly researched” accommodation.
Read more about our European highlights here.
1B: THE UK VISA
You are allowed to apply for a UK visa up to 3 months before your intended holiday. The general tourist visa is issued for a minimum period of 6 months. This category suits your average traveller looking to visit the UK for a holiday or visiting family and friends abroad.
A standard visitor visa costs about GBP87 ( R1,635). This is more pricey than your average visa so do factor it in when planning your travels.
Steps in applying from Cape Town:
- Visit the UK.Gov website, sign up for an account and complete the application form.
- Once completed (after you apply, pay your fee and book your appointment online), you will need to open an account with TLS contact. They are a commercial company that works with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to provide services to people applying for visas for the UK.
- Location and contact information for the Cape Town office (where you would most likely attend your appointment if you’re in Cape Town) can be located here.
- Once you go for your interview and submit all your necessary documents, the waiting period is usually 8 -10 working days. You can expedite this process but it will cost you!
- Please read up on UK Transit Visas if you have a connecting flight in the UK. Even if you are just in the airport overnight! The rules about these are a bit confusing and they cost around GBP30 (R600). There are definitely less costly countries to transit in. These fees do not apply if you have a USA, Canada, Australia or New Zealand passport or visa.
1C: THE US VISA
The one thing I love about this visa is that it’s valid for 10 years!! Isn’t that awesome?! I always feel like these 3 – 6 month visas are such a rip off!
Applying for the US Visa is super easy. The strange (but very convenient) thing about applying for a tourist US visa is that you don’t need to buy your air tickets or book any accommodation before you apply! Now that makes sense :). This was extracted from the US Embassy and consulate website:
- Applicants should be prepared to demonstrate their strong social, economic and/or family ties to South Africa as well as their purpose and duration of travel.
- Plane Tickets: Applicants should obtain a visa BEFORE purchasing tickets or making irrevocable travel plans.
- Visa interviews are by appointment only. We suggest that appointments be scheduled at least 60 days before the travel date wherever possible.
- Appointments are available Monday – Thursday.
- Cellphones and other portable electronics are not allowed in the Consulate. Arriving at the Consulate with these items will delay your entry. (I had to lock my cellphone in a locker before entering).
- Paid parking is available in the vicinity of the Consulate.
Where you are based in SA will determine which Consulate you need to go to. You can find the info here.
Steps as follow:
- Complete the online visa application form (DS-160). Each applicant must complete this form before using any services on the website.
- Access https://ais.usvisa-info.com and complete the following application steps to schedule a Consular Section appointment:
- Create a user account
- Enter the DS-160 confirmation number for each applicant applying for a Visa
- Complete the courier document return process
- Pay the Non-immigrant Visa (MRV) application fee(s)
- Schedule a Consular Section appointment
Bring these documents to the interview
- A valid passport which has unused visa pages (not amendment pages). Please bring all prior passports.
- The application confirmation page from the DS-160.
- The appointment confirmation page.
- A recent front-facing, 50 mm x 50 mm photograph of each applicant.
- Please bring all prior passports.
Fees : The standard US tourist visa costs
- Student and tourist visas: USD $160
After a successful interview they will courier your passport to a specific location where you can pick it up. In Cape Town, they courier it to ENS Cape Town. The processing time can be anything from 5 days to a week. They are quite jacked up!!! When I applied for a visa it took me 10 minutes from entering the Consulate to leaving. People were friendly (unlike the moody people I encountered applying for my Schengen visa).
Read more about USA here.
1D: The Australian Visa
In an effort to get first hand info for our readers, this section was written by Bee, see her work at Bee du Jour.
South African passport holders will need to apply for a visa before entry into the country. I applied for my tourist visa while working abroad, outside of South Africa. Visa applicants will require:
- A copy of your resident card
- A copy of your current work contract (so that they know your are currently employed)
- Your passport and a copy of it
- A copy of your bank statement over the past 3 months
- A tourist visa form, which you can download online. You then print and fill it in.
- Passport photos x2
- You also will need to confirm the address of your accommodation. There are two different ways to prove this depending on your accommodation type:
- If you are staying at the home or residence of a friend / family member, they need to send a letter with their address and their ID or Passport number and signature. It can be typed or hand written.
- If you are staying at a hotel etc, you can fill in the section for lodgings provided in the tourist visa form.
- You need to provide a copy of your return airfare tickets.
- You can either send the documents to the embassy or hand it in person.
The tourist visa will be valid for 3 months and for a single entry only, unless otherwise stated. You can even study for 3 months on that visa too. If you are living outside of South Africa, you should apply to the embassy of the country you reside in.
I did this trip in 2011 and the visa processing fee was only R300. Today, it will cost South Africans around R1500 or more for a tourist visa. The visa you will apply for is known as the subclass 600 visa for temporary visitors and tourists. Transit visas are free.
It took me less than 72 hours to get the visa, which was delivered to my home. This was 2011, so the rules might have changed since then. Also, I noticed that tourist visas seem to be much easier to obtain while working abroad. My Japanese visa only took a few hours!
Please visit the Australian Border and Immigration website for more updated info regarding visas and fees at: http://www.border.gov.au/
For more details and info visit the Australian Embassy in South Africa’s website at: http://southafrica.embassy.gov.au/pret/Visas_and_Migration.html
Read about Bee’s trip to Australia here
So, if you anything like me and hate travelling to countries requiring fussy, expensive visas, I suggest you consider visiting one (or some) of these easy-visas and visa-free destinations for South African passport holders.
Countries where an e-visa is sufficient
As a holder of a South African passport, the first time I visited Turkey, I didn’t need to pre-apply for a visa as I intended to stay for less than 30 days. To my surprise they changed the rules and now you need to apply online for this visa. It’s free and takes only 5-10 minutes. They basically send it to you via email 20 minutes after you apply. You can print the e-visa and take it with you when entering and leaving Turkey.
You can apply for the visa here.
Read more about our Turkey adventures here.
This one is also very simple. You can either get it on arrival or pre-apply. Some people pre-apply for an e-visa, mostly because there have been complaints about corruption at airports (such as being overcharged or not being provided with change). We got the visa on arrival and had no problems. The e-visa costs 30USD and there’s a 7USD processing fee. All you need is a passport sized photo (in digital format) and a credit card. If you get it at the airport, you can pay cash. It allows you 30 days in the country.
Read more about our Cambodian adventures here.
These visas are actually free but you have to go through a company called BLS. So, to be technical, it’s not really an e-visa. BLS charges a service fee of R48 and they charge to courier the documents. Visas are valid from 1-6 months and may be single or multiple entry. Requirements:
- 3 months bank statements reflecting your physical address. In the absence of the physical address on the bank statement, provide a utility bill to confirm the physical address.
- Online filled visa application form.
- 2 passports sized coloured photographs as per specification.
- Return air-ticket with detailed itinerary.
Visit the BLS website here.
Other countries requiring an e-visa:
- Ivory Coast
- Sri Lanka
3. VISA FREE COUNTRIES/ VISA ON ARRIVAL
Currently (in 2016) there are 114 countries around the world that are visa free or visa on arrival for South African passport holders. So…. if you do not want to do any visa admin then one of these countries are a must for an awesome holiday!!!
South America is a great place for South Africans to visit with most countries being visa-free/ on arrival. These include Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Guatemala, etc. Now, if only the flights to South America were cheaper…
Then there are the lovely South East Asian destinations. Many of them have visas on arrival. This includes Thailand (1 month), Malaysia (90 days), Singapore (90 days) and the Philippines (30 days).
A few other highlights are Republic of Ireland (90 days), New Zealand (90 days) & Fiji………
We hope that this post has helped our fellow travellers and soon-to-be travellers! If we have missed anything, please feel free to add to it in the comment section below.
Email us with any questions or queries you might have on firstname.lastname@example.org
“I haven’t traveled everywhere…. yet!! But it’s on my list!”
“Travelling is the only thing that you buy that makes you so much richer!”, so make it work and have fun!
Thank you to our guest writer, Bee. Check out her blog here.
Images taken from google images