South Africa
South African study visa requirements

What you need to know about applying for a South African study visa

If you’re planning to come to South Africa to study, you’ll need to apply for a study visa.

This can seem like a massive undertaking, but being prepared and getting all the right documents ready before you start can make the process easier.

What is a study visa?

Study visas allow non-South African citizens to stay in the country while they are completing their studies at an educational institution – from primary and secondary school to a registered tertiary educational institution.

Where can you apply for your visa?

You can apply for a study visa at a South African Embassy in your country or a Visa Facilitation Services (VFS) Centre.

Xpatweb is also a useful service that can guide you through the visa application process. If you are a student and have a Standard Bank account, you can also take advantage of their services at discounted rates.

You can reach out to Xpatweb by sending an email to [email protected] or by giving them a call on 011 467 0810.

Requirements for a South African study visa

The most important form you’ll need to familiarise yourself with and submit is the BI-1738.

Available from the South African Department of Home Affairs (DHA), you’ll also need to submit other documentation along with the application form.

Your document checklist:

  1. Your passport – it must be valid for at least 30 days after your studies in South Africa are complete. As an extra precaution, it’s advised that your passport be valid for at least 6 months after your studies have been concluded and that your passport has at least 3 blank pages.
  2. Proof that you have registered at an educational institution and that you have provisional acceptance.
  3. Proof that you have paid your visa application fee.
  4. A letter from the institution you’ll be studying at that specifies:
  • The duration of your studies,  
  • What you’ll be studying,
  • That you aren’t taking the place of a South African student, and  
  • The institution itself will inform the DHA when you deregister or fail to re-enrol for your study programme.

5. Proof that you are a member of a South African medical aid. Learn more about medical aids for international students.  

6. Medical reports, a vaccination certificate and radiology reports. Note that your medical and radiology reports should not be older than six months.

7. Bank statements, traveller’s cheques or proof of your available cash showing you’re able to pay for tuition fees, accommodation and other living expenses while you’re studying in South Africa.

8. Proof that you have the amount needed for a return ticket to your home country.

9. If you are 18 years or older, you’ll need a police clearance certificate* from every country you have stayed in for 12 months or longer. This is only applicable to the countries you have stayed in from the age of 18 onwards.

*A police clearance certificate is a confirmation of whether you have a criminal record or not.

In certain instances, you’ll also need the following documentation:

  1. If you are from an African country, you’ll need an undertaking from your home country’s government that, should it become necessary to deport you, your government will take responsibility and pay the associated costs.
  2. If you are married, divorced, widowed, or separated, you’ll need to submit the relevant certificates with your application.
  3. If you are a minor (under the age of 18), you’ll need:
  • An unabridged birth certificate.  
  • Proof that you have a guardian while you are in South Africa along with all the needed details of your guardian.
  • A letter from your guardian confirming that they will be acting as your guardian while you are in South Africa.
  • Consent from your parents or legal guardian(s) that you are allowed to stay and study in South Africa. Note that your parents or legal guardian(s) will also need to provide proof of their identity.

How long is a study visa valid?

Your South African study visa is valid for the entire duration programme you’ve applied for and been accepted to.

However, if you transfer to another tertiary educational institution, you’ll have to reapply for a visa.

For primary school, visas are valid for a maximum of 8 years, and for secondary schools (or high school), visas are valid for a maximum of 6 years.

When doing your research and going through your visa application process, always keep in mind that requirements can change. Also remember to check if your educational institution has specific requirements.

Learn more about being an international student in South Africa by visiting our international students page.

Disclaimer: This article is solely intended for information. It does not constitute financial, tax or investment advice or recommendation. Please speak to a financial advisor or registered financial professional before making any financial decision(s).

Standard Bank, its subsidiaries or holding company, or any subsidiary of the holding company and all of its subsidiaries make no warranties or representations (implied or otherwise) as to the accuracy, completeness or fitness for purpose of the information provided in this article or that it is free from errors or omissions.