To qualify for a relatives, life partner or spousal permit in South Africa, your accompanying partner or family member must be working in South Africa or hold South African citizenship or permanent residence.
If you are the partner or relative of an expat working in South Africa or a South Africa citizen or permanent resident, you can join them by applying for either a South African spousal permit, life partner permit or relatives permit in South Africa.
This guide provides information on who can apply, requirements and the application processes for:
- Spousal visa and spousal permit in South Africa
- Life partner visa in South Africa
- Relatives visa and relatives permit in South Africa
- How to apply for a family visa or permit
Accompanying family visa for temporary residence
If your spouse or partner is applying for temporary residence in South Africa – such as a work, retired, business, medical or treaty visa – you, and any dependent children, may be included on the visa as accompanying family members. The duration of your family or accompanying spouse visa in South Africa is the same as your relative’s temporary residence visa.
You will need to submit your application at the same time as your spouse. You will need to prove the relationship, co-habitation and sufficient financial means, including the cost of a return ticket. Read more about temporary residence in Expatica’s guide to South African visas and permits.
Accompanying family members are not allowed to study in South Africa, work or set up and business in South Africa on this visa – and this includes school-age children who need to study. To do so, they will instead need to apply for a South African permit in their own right.
If you have been married to a South African citizen or a foreigner with South African permanent resident for less than five years, you can apply for a South African spousal visa. This is a temporary South African spousal permit offered to both same-sex married couples and heterosexual married couples.
You cannot study, work or set up a business on a spousal visa in South Africa but you can apply for an endorsement to the visa to allow you to do so.
A South African spouse visa is typically issued for one year and can be extended or renewed, or up to three years if work or a prescribed activity is appiled for. You must meet the spousal visa requirements for South Africa to qualify, which includes showing your marriage or civil partnership certificate and possibly attending an interview. There is no financial requirement.
The South African spouse visa processing time is a minimum of 8–10 months, and you can track your application online. The general DHA application fee is free for spouses and minor children, while brothers, sisters and older children pay ZAR 425; on top of this, all applicants are subject to pay the VHS service fee of ZAR 1,350 in order for their application to be accepted and processed.
If you have been married to a South African citizen or a foreign national who holds permanent residence in South Africa for at least five years or more, you can apply for a spousal permit in South Africa, which allows permanent residence in South Africa. You must enter the country every three years to maintain the permit but you don’t have to live in South Africa permanently. You are also free to study, work or set up a business as you wish, unlike with a temporary spousal permit.
You will have to prove to the South African authorities that the relationship between you is still valid within the first two years of the permit, along with other documentation. If your relationship ends or your relationship is no longer valid, then your South African spousal permit will lapse – although this doesn’t apply if your wife or husband passes away.
The processing time is 8–10 months for the DHA to make a decision, and the only application charge is the VHS service fee of ZAR 1,350.
If you have been the permanent partner for at least two years of a South African citizen or a foreign national with permanent residence in South Africa, you can apply for a temporary life partner visa in South Africa, provided you meet the conditions. If you’ve been together for five years, you can apply for a permanent South African life partner permit.
The life partner visa and permit are available to both same-sex couples and heterosexual couples. Partners who have been together for less than two years will have to consider other visa options.
According to the Department of Home Affairs, a life partnership ‘must be intended to be permanent, exclude any other person and involve cohabitation, an obligation of mutual emotional support between the parties and a reciprocal obligation to support one another financially’.
You must also prove you have been partners for the specified time periods, for example, by showing evidence of shared financial responsibilities and letters/affidavits from family and friends confirming your relationship. You must be living with your partner at the time of your application and have proof of this. For the life partner permit, it is compulsory to be interviewed, both separately and together, for the authorities to decide whether or not your relationship complies with the official definition.
You usually have to apply from your home country, unless you are already in South Africa on another form of permit (not a tourist or 90-day visa). A temporary life partner visa in South Africa can be issued for up to three years, although you cannot study, work or set up a business but can apply to get an endorsement to the visa to allow you to do so. With a permanent South African life partner permit, you are free to study, work or set up a business without restriction.
If you are the child (biological or adoptive), parent or step-parent – essentially ‘first kin’ – of a South African citizen or permanent resident, you can qualify for either a temporary South African relatives visa or permanent relatives permit in South Africa. If you are the sibling, grandparent or grandchild of a South African citizen or permanent resident – ‘second kin’ – you may apply for a temporary relatives visa in South Africa.
In both cases, you have to prove the relationship by showing birth certificates or adoption documentation; see a list of documents required for temporary and permanent residence. The related South African citizen or permanent resident acts as your ‘sponsor’ and must prove they can support you financially (at least ZAR 8,500 per month). Relative visas in South Africa are issued for one or to two years at a time and can be extended. You cannot study, work or set up a business in South Africa on a relative visa but you can apply for a change of status to allow you to do so.
On a relatives permit in South Africa, you are free to study, work and set a business as you wish. Costs include the DHA service fees (ZAR 1,520) and VHS service fees (ZAR 1,350), with an estimated processing time of 8–10 months to make a decision (track your application).
You must apply at the South African consulate, embassy or diplomatic mission in your country of residence or citizenship, or in the closest country if not available in your own.
Find out where to apply in your own country from this list of South African offices abroad. From abroad, you can call the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) on +27 11 461 9252 for more information. If there is no diplomatic mission in your own country you can apply to the DHA by post. The time taken to process temporary residence applications varies from place to place but can be months. You can expect permanent residence applications to take up to two years.
For a temporary residence or the South African spouse visa application form you must complete and submit DHA-1738, while for permanent residence it’s form DHA-947, together with documentation including:
- A valid passport with at least two free pages for a visa and valid for 30 days after the end of your intended visit.
- A photocopy of any temporary residence visas which appear in the passport
- Two passport size colour photographs.
- Your birth certificate.
- Proof of your relationship, for example, marriage certificate or affidavit of a permanent relationship in the case of unmarried partners, adoption papers.
- Consent from your parents if you’re a minor
- Evidence of your relative’s South African citizenship or permanent residence status.
- Proof of a minimum of ZAR 8500 per month (unless you’re the spouse of a South African citizen or foreigner with permanent residence status).
- Proof of funds equivalent to a return ticket (unless you’re the spouse/dependant child of a South African citizen or foreigner with permanent residence in South Africa.
- Vaccination certificate, depending on where you will be travelling.
- Police clearance certificates from any country you’ve lived in for a year or more since the age of 18.
- Medical and radiology reports (unless you are pregnant or under 12 years of age)
- You may be asked for a full set of fingerprints.
To apply for a renewel or extension on your residence visa or permit, you will again have to prove you still meet the necessary requirements to qualify.