From the scenic heights of Cape Town’s famous Table Mountain to the rugged wilds of the dry Karoo, South Africa’s landscape is almost diverse as its population. Home to the largest economy in Africa, the country is an influential player in both continental and international politics. Stable and secure, it has a well-developed infrastructure that, well-tested by the demands of the 2010 World Cup, boasts all of the modern amenities and technologies international students have come to expect. Moreover, several of its universities – including, notably, the University of Cape Town – rank among the world’s top 500 universities. This, taken together with the unique ESL and English immersion experiences it offers thanks to that language’s prominent role in the country, make it a study abroad destination like no other.

If you are thinking about studying in South Africa, however, you will you need a student visa. Accordingly, here are a few commonly questions about applying for a student visa in South Africa:

Who needs a South Africa student visa?

Nearly all foreign nationals require a study permit to study in South Africa at any level (be it at the primary, secondary, or college level). Although the application process is slightly different for those aged 6-16 (thanks to the country’s compulsory education system and parental consent), the overall structure of the process is the same for students of all ages. Moreover, although South Africa offers a number of short term visitor visas to nationals of other countries, students cannot enter South Africa on a visitor visa and then apply for a study permit. Thus it is imperative that prospective students apply for a South Africa Student Visa prior to leaving for South Africa.

So how do I qualify?

In order to get a South African student visa, prospective students must apply (and be accepted) for a course of study from a recognized South African educational institution prior to submitting their application. That’s because, in applying for a student visa in South Africa, the government emphasizes the distinction between program acceptance and registration. That is to say, while acceptance to a program is a prerequisite for obtaining a study permit from the Ministry of Home Affairs, schools themselves will not register students for classes until the visa application itself has been successful.

In order to successfully complete that application, students must satisfy the requirements of acceptance, maintenance, insurance, repatriation.

The acceptance requirement, as outlined above, can be proved by including a letter that formally offers you a place of study at the relevant institution.

The maintenance requirement, on the other hand, requires that students supply evidence that they have sufficient fund to cover their tuition and living expenses for the duration of their studies in South Africa.

The insurance requirement , similarly, requires that student provide a formal certificate of good health and adequate insurance coverage that is applicable in South Africa.

The repatriation requirement refers to the guarantee – either by way of a South African sponsor or cash deposit – that the costs associated your return to your home country will be covered in the event that you fail to comply with your visa conditions. (Note: Many, including short-term students and those enrolled at religious institutions, are exempt from this requirement.)

How long can I stay?

A South African student visa is granted for the duration of study only and cannot exceed one year. Students enrolled in courses of study that last longer than one year can renew their permits annually from South Africa directly.

Can I work while there?

Student visa holders can work up to 20 hours a week during the academic year. However, students are eligible to work longer during holidays and semester breaks if written consent is provided by their sponsoring institution.

For more information, check the Ministry of Home Affairs official application. The adventure of a lifetime is only a click away!

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