Ever thought about packing your bags and taking a study trip across the border? If yes, the first thing you’ll need to load in your luggage is a study visa.
It’s no secret that South Africa (SA) has many internationally recognised tertiary institutions with a range of study options. This makes the country a popular choice for foreigners who are keen to study abroad.
Wait, What’s a Study Visa?
All international students in SA need permission to stay in the country for the duration of their studies. So, basically, a study visa is a temporary resident permit. If you’ve got this, you’ve got a guarantee… to not be kicked out the country while you’re studying. Yay!
In other good news, a study visa:
- allows students to apply for a change in visa status or renewal from within SA
- has no limit to the number of times it can be renewed
- allows students to work part-time in SA (for no more than 20 hours per week)
- is valid for a lengthy amount of time
The Study Visa No-no’s
On the flip side of the coin, there are some freedoms that a study visa holder does not have in SA. For your own sake, it’s probably best to know about these limitations sooner rather than later.
A study visa does NOT allow you to:
- run a business in SA
- qualify for permanent residency in SA
This step is pretty important. There’s every reason to celebrate. Applying to a SA institution and getting accepted is goal number one. You’ll be able to find all the details on how to apply to SA universities here. Also, there’s no point in applying for a study visa when you have no where to study. Let’s be real.
As soon as you’re certain SA will be your study spot, this will need to get sorted. Not all medical aid schemes are recognised by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) so it’s important to get covered by one that is international-student friendly. The list of SA medical aid options above is a good place to find reliable cover.
The form you’ll need to get your hands on is the DHA application form: BI-1738. Where would you find such a form? The South African Embassy in Namibia is a safe bet. Ruairi explains that getting the forms is easy,
“You just walk into the Embassy and say you want a study visa then they give you a stack of forms.”
The challenging part is actually filling out the forms. Only original forms are accepted so there’s no choice but to do this in person. The DHA is all about trying to be efficient so they’ve chosen a company, Visa Facilitation Services (VFS), to handle and process applications. These guys are just the messengers; at the end of the day, DHA makes the final call on visa approvals.
This is where the process gets interesting. Thoughts of giving up on the whole study-in-SA thing might bounce around in your head. Remind yourself that it’ll be worth it in the end.
The best approach is to get each document checked off the list, one at a time. Here’s a rundown on the supporting documents you’ll need:
- Your original passport. This should be valid for at least 30 days after the visa’s expiry date
- Certified copies of your passport and any previous visas
- Full medical and radiology report — no older than six months
- Certified copy of your birth certificate
- Proof of medical insurance provided by a medical scheme that’s registered in SA
- An official acceptance letter from the SA institution you will be attending
- A police clearance certificate — this cannot be older than six months
- Proof of sufficient financial support while living in SA
To get all of this sorted can take time, Ruairi says that he waited about two months for his police clearance. It is best to plan your time around this.
You’ll need to get a full medical check-up. Medical requirements also include a yellow fever vaccination before entering SA.
In Rand value, the general DHA application fee is R425 for the study visa and the processing fee charged by the VFS is R1350.
In general, the wait will be 3 – 4 weeks. However, this could be longer. Ruairi explains,
“You wait another few months for it to come back. They don’t actually call or message you. You basically come in on a Wednesday. They do South African study visas on Wednesdays. So you pitch up at six in the morning, wait in line and see if your passport is there”
If in doubt, it’s best to contact the Embassy or VFS office to check up on the situation.
The SA Embassy in Namibia: +264 61 205 7111
VFS Office: +27 (0)12 425 3000
Aaaand now you can do a happy dance with your study visa!
If you’re changing institutions, you’ll need to apply for a new study visa since the acceptance letter with the duration of study will be different.
The good news is your study visa can be extended or changed in SA. Hash tag VFS to the rescue. No missioning back to Nam only to turn around. Cue the sighs of relief.
SA is an awesome place to study. People are friendly and tertiary education is on point. Not to mention the culture and diversity is top notch. A study visa is your ticket to an adventure that begins with a process and continues with memory-making and scoring a cool qualification. So bag your visa: SA is keen to welcome you.
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