IMPORTANT: The Department of Home Affairs has confirmed that South Africa’s new e-visa system is being piloted for citizens of Kenya and India but will not be available online until February 2021. More information
What is the Online Visa for South Africa?
At the moment, the South Africa electronic visa is running a pilot launch in which it is exclusively available for selected Kenyan and Indian citizens.
The e-visa is expected to be launched in February 2021, at first for Kenyan and Indian nationals, and then it will be extended to visitors from China, and Nigeria. It is not excluded that it will be opened to more eligible nationalities in the future.
For South Africa e-visa eligible nationalities, the online application system will eliminate the need to go to a South Africa embassy or consulate.
There is no country quite like South Africa. Its biodiversity, world-class nature reserves, buzzing cities, and 2,500km of golden coastlines make it truly unique.
Why an e-Visa for South Africa?
The introduction of the new electronic visa for South Africa greatly reduces turnaround time for applicants. Most applications will be approved in a few days and sent to the foreign national via email.
The implementation of an electronic travel authorisation also makes it more convenient for travellers to apply for a South African visa since it saves them time and expenses.
The application system for the South Africa e-Visa is going to be quick and easy to complete. The process requires eligible travellers to fill out an easy-to-use online form with their personal, passport and travel information.
The approval process is fast-tracked by cross-checking whether the citizen already holds an approved Schengen visa for Europe or a visa for the United States of America.
When will the South African online visa be available?
The program has been tested since November 2019 for visitors from Kenya and India who fly to Lanseria or OR Tambo airports.
The South African e-Visa is expected to be launched in February 2021. The pilot launch will likely be extended to Chinese and Nigerian passport holders. The South African government may also make the eVisa available to more countries in the following months.
Thanks to this new scheme, authorisations for trusted travellers and returning South African nationals are being processed electronically, eliminating the need to wait in line at the embassy or consulate.
Who needs a South African visa?
Whether one needs a visa for South Africa depends on your nationality, their reason(s) for visiting, and how long they intend to stay. At the moment, there are several types of South Africa visas.
With traditional applications, visitors who require a visa for South Africa must petition it in person, provide biometric data and hold a passport at least valid for 1 month after their departure from South Africa (and with at least one blank page).
Visitors from more than 100 countries that want to do tourism in South Africa are currently required to obtain a visa from one of the South African diplomatic missions. These countries include:
- Burkina Faso
- Central African R.
- Côte d’Ivoire
- DR of Congo
- Equatorial Guinea
- Sierra Leone
- Sri Lanka
Check the complete list of countries ►
Visa-exempt countries for South Africa
At the moment, there are over 50 nationalities who can enter the country without a South Africa visa for up to 90 days:
- Czech Republic
- New Zealand
- St Vincent & the Grenadines
- San Marino
- Saudi Arabia
- Trinidad & Tobago
- United Arab Emirates
- United Kingdom
- United States
There are another more than 25 nationalities who can enter South Africa without a South African visa for periods of up to 30 days:
Other visa exceptions apply, for example for those who hold special or diplomatic passports issued by certain countries. It should be noted that all exceptions are applicable only when travelling for the purposes and for the period of time specified.
If in doubt regarding the type of visa that best suits your needs, nationality, and circumstances, please refer to the nearest South African embassy.
Please note: holding a certain passport or having been issued a visa does not guarantee entry into the country.
Who will need a South Africa Online visa?
As of Febrauary 2021, travellers from the following countries will be able to apply for the South African e-Visa:
Nationals holding passports from the following countries are next in line and will soon be added to the pilot launch of the South African e-Visa. Citizens from both nations will then be able to obtain the electronic travel document entirely online:
For the moment, the e-Visa will not replace traditional visas for the rest of nationalities. However, once the pilot launch for Kenya, India, China, and Nigeria is finalised, more countries may be added to the South Africa e-Visa eligibility list. The final list is still pending confirmation.
Do I need a visa for short stays in South Africa?
Citizens who are not from visa-exempt countries need to obtain a South Africa visa before entering the country. At the moment they can be obtained from embassies and consulates, with the exception of foreigners who are currently testing the online system.
The Online South Africa Visa is being tested since November for Kenyan citizens (Indian nationals were subsequently added to the pilot project). Once it has been tested, the government plans to offer this electronic visa to the rest of the eligible nationalities, hereby simplifying the process of applying for a South African visa.
The list of eligible countries and eVisa requirements will be published on this website once the government has finalized the list. It could be the case that certain nationalities who are currently visa-exempt may need to obtain the eVisa once it is available.
South Africa e-Visa vs traditional visas: Advantages
As mentioned, the electronic visa will make the process of obtaining a visa for South Africa, easier, quicker, and cheaper.
Online simpler application
First of all, the application will be completed entirely online from any device that can connect to the internet. This means that prospective visitors can fill out their request from the comfort of their home or office, or even on the go.
The South African government estimates that the application will only take a matter of minutes. Supporting documentation (i.e. the copy of the petitioner’s passport) will be uploaded in electronic format.
This greatly reduces the waiting times and the costs involved with travelling to a South African embassy or consulate (often multiple times) to obtain a paper visa.
Quicker, more secure border checks
The e-Visa is also expected to make international travel safer and smoother. At the border, the visitor’s details can be checked on an electronic database and the screening process at document control is therefore likely to be much quicker.
At the same time, the South African authorities will have digitised, streamlined information regarding the international travellers who have entered the country on an e-Visa, making the country safer for residents and visitors alike.
Travel to South Africa with an online visa
The new electronic visa for South Africa will be used by eligible holidaymakers and short-term visitors who wish to enter the Rainbow Nation. South Africa has much to offer in terms of tourist attractions and it is the ideal destination for both nature and culture lovers.
The e-Visa will allow for great flexibility in terms of travel planning. Since it is expected to be approved in a very short time, it can be used for last-minute trips.
Please keep in mind, though, that it is always advisable to apply at least a few days in advance in case of delays.
What to do at the airport with the electronic visa
Once the online visa request has been approved, the applicant will most likely receive their e-Visa via email.
Upon arrival at the South African border, they will be asked to show their travel documents and permissions, meaning a copy of their approved online visa and their valid passport. The passport (or other eligible ID) must be the same as the one used during the e-Visa application.
The final decision regarding a foreigner’s permission to enter the country is made by the South African authorities at the border upon examining the visitor’s travel documents and (if applicable) their luggage. At border control, it is important to collaborate with the South African officers and answer all questions that may be asked.