Visas: The what, why, and when

What is a visa?


A visa allows a person the legal right to enter a country for which they do not hold a passport. Traditionally, a visa is stamped or glued to a traveller's passport, but nowadays, some countries allow you to apply for an electronic visa (e-Visa) which is recorded on a database and linked to your passport number.


Here's where it gets confusing. There are different types of visas, each giving a traveller different rights, but every country also has its own set of rules. If you're travelling to another country and aren't sure if you need a visa, our guide below on the different types and what each country requires will help you figure it out.


Visa types

Below is an overview of the most common visa types:

  • Electronic visa (or e-Visa): visa applications, payment, and all communications are made online.
  • Travel or visitor visa: issued for the purpose of tourist and/or leisure activities that is only valid for a predetermined period of time.
  • Work visa: issued to individuals who wish to work or engage in business activities in the visiting country.
  • Student visa: issued to individuals who are enrolled at qualified educational institutions in the country.
  • Asylum or refugee visa: issued to individuals fleeing persecution in which their life is at risk, such as situations of war or natural disasters.
  • Spousal visa: issued to the spouse of individuals who are legally residing in the host country.
  • Transit visa: generally required if a traveller has a layover flight in a country for more than a few hours.
  • Immigration visa: issued to an individual who wishes to permanently live in a country.


When do I need a visa?

If your country has a visa agreement with the country you're travelling to, you won't need a visa. For South Africans, there are few countries we can travel to completely visa-free. Check out the lists below based on our country's 2019 travel agreements to see where you will and won't need a visa.

How do I get a visa?

How you get a visa depends on where you're going, why you're going there, and the laws of the country you're travelling to. Some countries allow you to get a visa when you land at an airport in their country, while others require you to apply no less than one month in advance. If this is the case, you'll need to take quite a few documents with you, some of which might include:

  • Proof of identification such as your passport or ID
  • Proof of address
  • Proof of travel arrangements (air tickets, travel insurance, accommodation, etc.)
  • Proof of the purpose of your travel
  • A letter of invitation
  • Proof of payment of application
  • ID photos
  • Proof of income


Do I need a visa?

If you're a South African travelling to the below countries, you'll need a visa which you can apply for at the relevant country's embassy.

Afghanistan

Czech Republic

Liechtenstein

Serbia

Albania

Denmark

Lithuania

Sierra Leone

Algeria

Egypt

Luxembourg

Slovakia

Andorra

Equatorial Guinea

Mali

Slovenia

Austria

Eritrea

Malta

Solomon Islands

Bangladesh

Estonia

Mexico

South Sudan

Belarus

Finland

Monaco

Spain

Belgium

France

Mongolia

Sudan

Bhutan

Gambia

Montenegro

Sweden

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Germany

Morocco

Switzerland

Brunei

Greece

Nauru

Syria

Bulgaria

Guinea

Netherlands

Taiwan

Burkina Faso

Hungary

New Zealand

Tonga

Burundi

Iceland

Niger

Turkmenistan

Cameroon

Iraq

North Korea

Ukraine

Canada

Italy

North Macedonia

United Kingdom

Central African Republic

Japan

Norway

United States of America

Chad

Kiribati

Papua New Guinea

Vatican City

China

Kuwait

Poland

Vietnam

Congo

Latvia

Portugal

Yemen

Congo (Dem. Rep.)

Lebanon

Romania

 

Croatia

Liberia

San Marino

 

Cyprus

Libya

Saudi Arabia

 


South Africans need an e-Visa to travel to the below countries, which you can apply for online on the relevant country's embassy or government website.

Armenia

Bolivia

India

Suriname

Australia

Cambodia

Kazakhstan

United Arab Emirates

Azerbaijan

Colombia

Moldova

Uzbekistan

Bahrain

Djibouti

Pakistan

 


Some countries' rules are a little more complex. In the list below, some of these countries require either an e-Visa or a visa on arrival, depending on how long you're staying. To make sure you know what's required of you, contact the relevant country's embassy in your nearest city or check their website.
 

Country

Electronic visa

Visa on arrival

Visa for/after

Armenia

No

Yes

0 days

Bolivia

No

Yes

0 days

Cambodia

No

Yes

0 days

Cape Verde arrival

No

Yes

0 days

Comoros

No

Yes

45 days

Ethiopia

Yes

Yes

0 days

Gabon

Yes

Yes

90 days

Ghana

No

Yes

30 days

Guinea-Bissau

Yes

Yes

90 days

Iran

No

Yes

0 days

Jordan

No

Yes

30 days

Kyrgyzstan

Yes

Yes

30 days

Laos

No

Yes

30 days

Madagascar

Yes

Yes

90 days

Marshall Islands

No

Yes

90 days

Mauritania

No

Yes

0 days

Myanmar [Burma]

Yes

No

28 days

Oman

Yes

No

28 days

Palau

No

Yes

30 days

Rwanda

No

Yes

30 days

Samoa

No

Yes

60 days

Sao Tome and Principe

Yes

No

0 days

Senegal

No

Yes

30 days

Somalia

No

Yes

30 days

Tajikistan

Yes

Yes

45 days

Timor-Leste

No

Yes

30 days

Togo

No

Yes

7 days

Turkey

Yes

No

30 days

Tuvalu

No

Yes

30 days

Uganda

Yes

Yes

0 days


In the below countries, you will only need a visa if you remain in the country for longer than a certain number of days.

Country

Visa for more than

Country

Visa for more than

Angola

30 days

Lesotho

90 days

Antigua and Barbuda

180 days

Macao

30 days

Argentina

90 days

Malawi

90 days

Armenia

120 days

Malaysia

90 days

Bahamas

90 days

Mauritius

90 days

Barbados

180 days

Micronesia

30 days

Benin

90 days

Namibia

90 days

Botswana

90 days

Nicaragua

90 days

Brazil

90 days

Panama

180 days

Chile

90 days

Paraguay

90 days

Comoros

45 days

Peru

180 days

Costa Rica

90 days

Philippines

30 days

Dominica

180 days

Qatar

30 days

Ecuador

90 days

Russian Federation

90 days

El Salvador

90 days

Saint Kitts and Nevis

90 days

Eswatini

30 days

Saint Lucia

42 days

Fiji

120 days

Singapore

30 days

Georgia

360 days

South Korea

30 days

Grenada

90 days

St. Vincent and the Grenadines

30 days

Guatemala

90 days

Tanzania

90 days

Guyana

30 days

Thailand

30 days

Haiti

90 days

Trinidad and Tobago

90 days

Honduras

90 days

Tunisia

90 days

Hong Kong

30 days

Uruguay

90 days

Indonesia

30 days

Vanuatu

30 days

Israel

90 days

Venezuela

90 days

Kenya

30 days

Zambia

90 days

Kosovo

90 days

Zimbabwe

90 days


The countries below have unique requirements, but you will need a visa. To confirm what they require, be sure to check the country's website or phone their embassy in your nearest city.

Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

Pre-enrollment

Cuba

Tourist card – 30 days

Nigeria

Pre-visa on arrival

Seychelles

Tourist registration – 30 days

Sri Lanka

Electronic Travel Authorization – 30 days

 
Finally, you don’t need a visa at all in these countries if you have a South African passport!

Belize

Ireland

Liberia

Palestinian Territories

Dominican Republic

Jamaica

Mozambique

 

 
Now that you know what kind of visa you need for your next destination, why not browse through our wide range of affordable travel packages and book your dream holiday today!

 

Sources: Passport Index Traveller24
Prices quoted are correct at the time of publishing this article. The information in this article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as financial, legal, or medical advice.