The Different Types of Student Visas and Permits for South Africa

Most international students are familiar with student visas and permits. However, those travelling to South Africa may be surprised to learn that there are 5 different types of permits you can apply for, depending on your circumstances. This guide on the different types of student visas and permits in South Africa will help you learn more about each permit and how to apply for one.

The Different Types of Student Visas and Permits

There are five different types of student visas and permits in South Africa. These include the following:

Student Visa

This is usually acquired by students who want to study at a higher institution of learning to gain qualifications on a long-term basis. International students wanting to study in South Africa must apply for this type of student visa if they are citizens from outside the country. It entitles them to take up short-term education programmes such as English language courses. However, it only entitles them to work with a work permit after completing their course programme.

Study Visa

This visa is issued to those students who are only interested in studying at a higher institution of learning for less than 12 months, and their course duration is at most 6 months. The student will also be required to stay with their sponsor, a relative or a guardian living in South Africa.

Education Visa

This visa allows students from other countries to come and take up studies or courses that last up to one year at an educational institution in South Africa. If they have received permission, they can extend this visa for another two years if their purpose is academic.

Work Permit

South Africa has a very strict policy regarding working permits. Foreigners who wish to work in the country must obtain a work permit from the Department of Home Affairs. Work permits are usually only issued to highly skilled workers in critical skills shortages.

Exchange Permits

There is no formal process for exchanging permits in South Africa. However, exchanging permits with other climbers registered with the South African National Parks Board is possible.

Permanent Residence Permit

All foreign nationals who wish to live and work in South Africa must apply for a permanent residence permit. This permit is issued in terms of the Immigration Act and is valid for five years. After five years, the permit may be renewed.

The Application Process

Applying for a Student Visa in South Africa is relatively easy. The requirements differ from country to country, but they are usually:

  • A valid passport with at least six months before the expiration
  • A letter of acceptance from the institution you will be studying
  • Proof that the applicant has enough money to support themselves while living in the country
  • Proof that they have health insurance.

The Benefits

To find out which type of visa is right for you, you’ll need to determine your goals, how long you plan on being in the country, and how much money you want to spend. If you’re coming to study English as a second language, your best option is the Student Visa. If you plan on staying longer than three months or if English isn’t your first language, it’s best to get a Study Visa. Students studying at a university will also have an easier time getting this visa. The Student Visa Processing Time is typically less than 2 weeks, but there can be delays depending on your nationality.

The Drawbacks

All of these visas have advantages but also drawbacks. For example, the Study Visa Processing Time is only a few days, but it costs the most. There are many factors to consider when deciding which student visa you should apply for. We recommend that you do some research before making your decision. If you choose correctly, getting permission or re-entering the country may be challenging. You might want to speak with an immigration lawyer or immigration agent to ensure you are applying for the correct student visa for your needs.


In conclusion, the five types of student visas and permits in South Africa are a study visa, temporary residence permit, work permit, permanent residence permit and international education program. Studying abroad in South Africa can be done through one of these various types of visas or permits.

Getting any student visa or permit requires students to submit their passport, proof that they have enough money to survive in South Africa and other documents which vary depending on what type of student visa or permit they want. The process usually takes around two weeks, but it can take up to two months, depending on your country’s embassy.

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