UK Visa South Africa - what you should know
As a South African, you will need to apply for a visa to enter the United Kingdom, even if you only plan to visit for a short period of time.
There are a variety of different UK visas, ranging from simple short-stay visitor visas to long-term settlement applications.
Each UK visa has different requirements and eligibility criteria, and you must submit a number of documents as part of the application process.
If you would like any information on UK visas specific to South African citizens and residents, please call us now on 0333 305 3750.
UK Family Visas for South Africans
Family Visas are for family members of UK citizens or people with settled status. With Family Visas, a South African can emigrate to the UK on the basis of their relationship to their UK-based family member.
- You are the parent of a British national/settled person: You can apply for immigration permission if you are the parent of a UK citizen or someone with settled status who is under 18-years-old
- You are the child of a British national/settled person: If a child who is under 18 has a parent who is a British citizen or person with settled status, they will be eligible to join their parent in the UK
- For care giving: The applicant must be at least 18-years old, and require long-term care from an immediate family member who is a UK citizen or person with settled status. The family member can be a son, daughter, brother, sister, parent or grandchild
- UK Ancestry Visa: This is a popular UK visa among South Africans. It is for those who can prove that at least one of their grandparents was a UK national
- EEA Family Permit: You might be eligible to move to the UK if you have a family member who is from a country in the European Economic Area
UK Partner Visas
Partner Visas are some of the most popular UK visas. They are designed to enable the long-term partner of a UK citizen or person with settled status the opportunity to emigrate to the UK on the basis of their long-term relationship to their partner.
Applicants will need to submit a substantial portfolio of evidence to prove their eligibility. Partner Visas are some of the most difficult UK visas to acquire.
The visas within this category are:
- Spouse Visa: The Spouse Visa is perhaps the most popular UK visas. It is available to South Africans who are married to/in a civil partnership with a British citizen or person with settled status. If you apply for this visa from South Africa, the visa is valid for 33 months
- Fiance Visa: This is only a short-term visa – lasting up to six months – but it is classed as a partner visa. The Fiance Visa is designed for those who wish to get married to their UK-resident partner in the UK. The visa is valid for six months, and it is expected that you will get married within that time frame. The Fiance Visa offers an easy transition to the Spouse Visa too
- Unmarried Partner Visa: If you are in a relationship with your UK partner which is akin to a marriage/civil partnership, you could be given the same immigration permission as you would if you were married to/in a civil partnership with your partner
UK Tier 1 Visas
The Tier 1 visa is designed for entrepreneurs who wish to start a business in the UK. Those eligible for Tier 1 visas are deemed to be of ‘high value’ and must have a business idea which has been endorsed by an approving body.
- Investor Visa: The Investor Visa is the most exclusive of the Tier 1 visas. To qualify or this visa, you must have at least £2,000,000 to invest in the UK
- Innovator Visa: The Innovator Visa replaced the old Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa. Applicants must have at least £50,000 to invest and their business idea must have been endorsed by an approving body
- Start-up Visa: This visa is designed for entrepreneurs with less than one year of experience. Applicants must have their business idea endorsed by an approving body. However, you do not need to have a specific amount of money to invest in your company
- Global Talent Visa: You could be eligible for this visa if you are a leader, or potential leader, within academia or research; arts and culture or digital technology
The Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa was fazed out in 2019. However, you can apply to switch to this visa as a South African if you are living in the UK already under a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Visa or if you switched to a Start-up Visa from a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Visa during your second year.
UK Tier 2 Visas
Tier 2 Visas are designed for those entering into long-term positions in the UK.
To come to the UK from South Africa on this visa, you must have been offered a position in a UK company with a sponsorship licence to be eligible for a Tier 2 visa. Also, you will need your unique certificate of sponsorship number to apply for a UK visa.
The four different visa categories are as follows:
- Tier 2 (General): This visa is for those deemed to be skilled. Accountants, engineers, IT professionals and doctors and nurses are just some of the professionals who qualify under this visa category
- Tier 2 Intra-company Transfer Visa: If you work for a multinational company which has a branch in the UK, you could be eligible for this visa
- Tier 2 Minister of Religion Visa: This is for religious workers and missionaries who wish to take undertake employment within a UK faith-based community
- Tier 2 Sportsperson Visa: This is for internationally recognised professional sportspeople
All of the Tier 2 visas can be extended, provided you apply for the extension before the current visa expires.
Our UK immigration lawyers can provide expert assistance with UK Tier 2 Visa applications. Please call us now on 0333 305 3612 to find out more about how we can help you to begin an exciting new life in the UK.
UK Tier 4 Student Visas
Tier 4 Student Visas are for international students who wish to undertake studies in the UK at a school, college or university.
You must intend to study a full-time course, and you must have been offered an unconditional place on the course.
The three student visas are as follows:
- Tier 4 (General) Student Visa: This is the main student visa for those who are at least 18-years-old. This is the visa you will need to apply for if you intend on studying at a UK university
- Tier 4 (Child) Student Visa: This visa is for those who are under 18-years-old. Applicants who are 17 are permitted to work for up to 10 hours per week under this visa
- Short-term Study Visa: This is a permit for those who wish to undertake a short period of study in the UK, such as a training course
UK Tier 5 Visas for South Africans
Tier 5 Visas are designed for those who wish to undertake short-term employment in the UK. The UK Tier 5 Visas are not intended for those who wish to remain in the UK for long periods of time.
The visas within the Tier 5 category are as follows:
- Tier 5 (Charity Worker): This visa is specifically for workers who have a voluntary or unpaid job offer in the UK
- Tier 5 Visa (Creative and Sportspersons): This visa is specifically for highly skilled creative people and sportspersons who have been offered temporary employment in the UK
- Tier 5 Visa (International Agreement): This visa is for workers who have been offered a job which is covered by international law. Typically, embassy and diplomatic workers are covered by this scheme
Do You Need UK Immigration Legal Advice?
If you are thinking about emigrating from South Africa to the UK, we can help to make your dream a reality. Our UK immigration lawyers offer assistance in all areas of immigration law. This means we can help you with any UK immigration query you might have.
We offer a specialist, industry-leading advice package for those who are looking for bespoke advice on their situation. We have helped several South Africans and we can help you with a personalised solution.
You can discuss your case with one of our UK immigration lawyers, who will take the time to understand your circumstances.
Your caseworker will analyse your case and explore the options available to you, deciding on the one most appropriate for your needs. They will advise you on each step of the process, providing you with the understanding you need to reach your desired outcome.
To find out more about our advice package, please call us now on 0333 305 3612.
Do you Need Assistance with a UK Visa Application?
We can help you to secure your UK visa with our application package. This comprehensive service is designed to support you through the entire application process.
We will pair you with an immigration lawyer who is experienced in helping South Africans with UK imigration and knowledgeable in the area of UK immigration law which your case relates to, and they will work with you closely through every step of the application.
They will help you to gather and compile all the required documentation for your portfolio of evidence, which is a crucial part of any UK visa application. Also, they will complete all necessary application forms and write a letter of representation to highlight the merits of your case.
We will liaise with the UK Home Office throughout the processing stage and will keep you updated on the progress of your application.
With our support, you will maximise your chances of achieving the outcome you are looking for. Call us now on 0333 305 3612 to find out more about our application package.
UK Visitor Visas
If you would like to visit the United Kingdom for a short period of time, whether for tourism, to visit family friends or for business purposes, you will need to apply for a visa.
You can apply for a short-term visitor visa for a variety of different purposes. You must be able to demonstrate that you are obligated to return to South Africa when your visa expires.
The three main types of UK visitor visas are as follows:
- Standard Visitor Visa: This is the main UK visitor visa. You can apply for this visa if you plan to visit the UK as a tourist, to visit family and friends, for businesses purposes and to receive private medical treatment
- Visitors in transit: This visa is for tourists who are passing through the UK in transit and wish to leave the airport during their stop-over in the UK
- Permitted Paid Engagement Visa: This is for individuals who have been invited to the UK on the basis of their professional expertise. Performers, academics and journalists are just some of those who can apply for this visa
- Marriage Visitor Visa: This visa is for those who wish to travel to the UK to get married. You must be able to prove that you will get married in the UK and will return to South Africa when the visa expires
UK Settlement Applications for South Africans
After you have spent a certain period of time living in the UK, you will be eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), provided your circumstances haven’t changed significantly.
ILR is a form of permanent residence, which means you can remain in the UK without any restrictions imposed as an ILR holder. It is open to South Africans who stay in the UK on an eligible visa.
Typically, you can apply for ILR after you have spent five years living in the UK. This applies to those living in the UK under a Tier 2 work visa, Spouse Visa, Unmarried Partner Visa and Ancestry Visa.
If you have been living in the UK under an Innovator Visa or Investor Visa, you could be eligible for ILR status after just three years, or even two.
After you have spent one year living in the UK under ILR status, you will be eligible for British citizenship, which will complete your immigration journey.
You do not need to renounce your South African citizenship if you want to become a British citizen. This means that you can become a dual citizen, and hold a British and South African passport.
Comprehensive immigration advice tailored to your circumstances and goals.
Designed to make your visa application as smooth and stress-free as possible.
Fast Track Package
Premium application service that ensures your visa application is submitted to meet your deadline.
Ensure you have the greatest chance of a successful appeal. We will represent you in any case.
The Advice Package
With our untimed Advice Session, our professional immigration lawyers will review your case and provide you with comprehensive advice, completely tailored to your needs and your situation.
The Application Package
With our Application Package, your dedicated caseworker will advise you on your application process and eligibility. Your legal advisor will then complete and submit your forms to the Home Office on your behalf.
The Fast Track Package
Our Fast-Track Application Package is a premium service for those who need to submit their application in time with their deadlines. Your case will become a top priority for our lawyers and you will benefit from our highest-quality services.
The Appeal Package
By choosing our Appeal Package, you can rely on our lawyers’ legal knowledge and experience to ensure you have the highest chance of a successful appeal. We will also fully represent you in any hearings/tribunals.
Generally, you cannot extend short-term visas in the UK but you can extend long-term visas.
Visa extensions can be a key steppingstone towards fulfilling minimum residency requirements for permanent residence in the UK.
If you do wish to extend your visa, you must do so before your current visa expires. You will also need to prove you have lived in accordance with the conditions of your current visa and that your current circumstances haven’t changed significantly.
Some of the UK visas/immigration permissions which can be extended include:
- Spouse Visa
- Unmarried Partner Visa
- Other Family Visas/immigration permissions
- Tier 1 Innovator Visa
- Tier 1 Investor Visa
- Tier 2 visas
- Tier 4 Student Visa
- Ancestry Visa
If you are living in the UK under a short-term visa such as the Standard Visitor Visa, Fiance Visa or a Tier 5 visa and you wish to stay beyond the validity period of your visa, you will need to apply for a different immigration permission.
Yes, you will need to apply for a visa to visit the UK, even if you only plan to stay for a short period time.
The particular visa you need to apply for depends on the circumstances of your visit. To find out more about which visa/immigration permission you will need, you can get in touch with our UK immigration lawyers now on 0333 305 3612.
We recommend that you submit your application no sooner than 90 days before you intend to arrive in the UK. The very latest you can submit your application is 15 working days before you visit the UK.
The processing time depends on the visa category or status you are applying for as well as the specific nature of your application.
Some visa/immigration applications are relatively straightforward, whereas others are more complex.
The UK Home Office states that standard visa applications will be processed within 12 weeks of the date they are received.
Settlement applications typically take longer to process. The Home Office aims to process settlement applications within six months of the date they are received.
You can choose to speed up the processing of your application with the priority service. With the standard priority service, your application will be processed within five working days at an additional cost of £500. With the super priority service, your application will be processed in one working day at an additional cost of £800.
- Tier 1 Investor: £1,623
- Tier 1 Innovator: £1,021 – £1,277
- Tier 2 Work Visa: £610 – £704
- Tier 4 Student Visa: £348
- Tier 5 Temporary Worker Visa: £244
- Spouse/Partner Visa: £1,033 – £1,523
- Fiance Visa: £1,033 – £1,523
- Ancestry Visa: £516
- Adult dependent relatives: £3,250
- Visit visa: £361 – £822
This depends on the visa which the person is living under. Typically, temporary visas last for no longer than 24 months.
Tier 2 work visas last for 3-5 months, and family visas, such as the Spouse Visa, are usually valid for 30 months.
We understand that it can be devastating news to receive a UK visa application rejection.
The first step is to understand why your application was rejected. The reason/s for the refusal will be highlighted on your refusal letter. If the reason for the rejection is clear, the best option is to rectify the mistakes of the application (if possible) and then resubmit your application.
However, if you believe your application was unfairly rejected, you can usually choose to challenge the Home Office’s decision.
If you believe a mistake was made when your application was considered, such as a piece of evidence not being taken into consideration, you could choose to have an administrative review. With this option, your application will be reconsidered by a different UK immigration official.
In certain circumstances, you might be able to lodge a full legal appeal in the UK courts against a Home Office decision. If you choose to go down this route, our UK immigration lawyers can support you every step of the way, including full legal representation in front of the upper tribunal.
To find out more about our specialist appeal package, please call us now on 0333 305 3612.
You will be eligible for a refund if your application was made from South Africa and you withdrew your application before it was processed. However, if the visa application is made from inside the UK, you will not receive a refund, even if your application is withdrawn before it is processed.
Bear in mind that you will not receive any refund if your visa application is rejected.
There are two forms of UK work visas: Tier 2 and Tier 5. Tier 2 visas are for long-term positions, whereas Tier 5 visas are for short-term employment.
If you want to work in the UK, you must have received a job offer from a UK company with a sponsorship licence to be eligible for a UK work visa. Also, you will need to quote your unique certificate of sponsorship number in your application.
We can help you with all UK work visa applications with our application package. Please call us now on 0333 305 3612 to find out more.
You will need to apply for a Tier 1 Visa if you want to start a business in the UK. The Tier 1 visas for entrepreneurs are:
- Investor Visa: Must have at least £2,000,000 to invest
- Innovator Visa: This replaced the Entrepreneur Visa in 2019. Your business idea must have been endorsed by an approving body and you must have at least £50,000 to invest
- Start-up Visa: This is for entrepreneurs at the beginning of their journey. Your business idea must have been endorsed by an approving body, but you do not need to prove that you have a specific amount of money to invest
The Spouse Visa is perhaps the most popular UK visa. If you are married to/in a civil partnership with a UK citizen or person with settled status, you could be eligible for a Spouse Visa.
The main requirements for the Spouse Visa are as follows:
- Must be at least 18-years-old
- Must be in a marriage/civil partnership with your UK-resident partner which is recognised. (You will need to provide a marriage certificate in your portfolio of evidence)
- Your relationship must meet the ‘genuine relationship’ requirement
- You must have lived together for at least two years
- You must intend to live with your partner in the UK and have suitable accommodation to live in
- You must have a combined annual income of at least £18,600. If you have any dependents, this sum increases by £3,800 for the first dependent and a further £2,400 per dependent for every other dependent
In most cases, you can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain after you have spent five years lawfully living in the UK, provided your circumstances haven’t changed. With ILR status, you can stay in the UK without any restrictions.
You could be eligible sooner if you have been living in the UK under an Investor Visa or Innovator Visa, depending on your business activity. In these circumstances, you could be eligible for ILR after three years, or even two.