Are you planning to study in South Africa? The ethnically diverse country is establishing itself as an affordable higher education hub when compared to traditional locations such as the US, Australia and the UK.

Institutions such as the University of Cape Town, University of the Witwatersrand, Stellenbosch University and the University of KwaZulu-Natal are among the top 400 universities in the country, according to Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021

Being home to leading universities aside, the country also boasts of incredible natural wonders that will stir your wanderlust. Before you jet off to South Africa for the adventure of a lifetime, you’ll first need to obtain a South Africa student visa. Here’s a rough guide on how to go about it: 

How can I apply for a South Africa student visa?

According to the South African Department of Home Affairs (DHA), international students can apply for a study visa by completing the BI-1738 FormYou can apply at a VFS Centre near your university or at your nearest South African embassy, mission or consulate abroad. Your visa will be valid for the entire duration of your stay in South Africa.

What documents do I need?

Alongside the completed BI-1738 form, you’ll also need the following:

  • A passport valid for no less than 30 days after the expiry of intended visit
  • Payment of the prescribed fee
  • A vaccination certificate (if required) 
  • Proof of financial means to cover envisaged living expenses during the sojourn in the Republic and to also pay for the tuition fees (eg. bank statements, cash available,or travellers’ cheques)
  • Proof of medical cover
  • A cash deposit equivalent to the value of a return ticket
  • In the case of African students, an undertaking from the relevant government to take full responsibility of the student and to pay all costs, should it become necessary to deport the student 
  • Medical and radiology reports 
  • Complete birth certificate (for minors)
  • In the case of a minor, the particulars of the person in South Africa who will act as their guardian and a letter from such person confirming guardianship
  • Consent from both parents for your stay in South Africa, or from the parent who has sole custody, along with proof of sole custody
  • An official letter from the educational institution where you intend to study
  • Proof of medical cover renewed annually for the period of study with a medical scheme registered in terms of the Medical Schemes Act
  • If you’re 18 years and older, a police clearance certificate from each country in which you resided for 12 months or longer since the age of 18 years is required

Can I work with a student visa?

DHA notes that foreign students are permitted to work part-time for a period not exceeding 20 hours per week. Part of the application requires students to show proof of sufficient funds to pay for their day-to-day living expenses, accommodation as well as tuition fees during their stay in South Africa. Students must also have adequate medical cover with a registered South African medical scheme and proof.

Take note that the process can take up to eight weeks, so avoid delaying your application once you’ve gained admission to a university. For details, refer to the department’s website.

Liked this? Then you’ll love…

5 spots international students in South Africa must see

Student accommodation in South Africa for international students