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New Rules for South African Visitors to the UK

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 20 Oct 2020 | comments*Discuss
Uk Visa South Africa Immigration

The UK government has added South Africa to a list of countries whose citizens require a visa to visit the UK. The change follows a review of current visa rules. South Africa was amongst a number of countries which had been warned that stricter rules would be implemented if they did not improve the security of their own passport and immigration systems. The change is part of a wide-ranging and ongoing overhaul of the UK immigration system intended to increase the security of the UK’s borders.

Implementation of the new rules for South African visitors began on 3rd March 2009 with full implementation scheduled to be completed by later in the year.

Visa Nationals and Non-Visa Nationals

Foreign nationals are divided into two categories for UK immigration purposes: visa nationals and non-visa nationals. Visa nationals require a visa to come to the UK – the majority of foreign nationals come under this category. Non-visa nationals do not usually require a visa to come to the UK for up to six months. Non-visa nationals may need a visa if they intend to stay in the UK for longer than six months or if, for example, they wish to work or study while they are in the country.

A full list of all visa national countries can be found at the UK Border Agency’s dedicated visa website. It should be noted that the nationals of some countries will require a visa even if they only wish to transit through the UK en route to another country. Indeed, foreign nationals wishing to transit through the UK from South Africa may now require a transit visa to do so.

Other countries added to the list of those whose citizens require a visa to visit the UK as part of the same review were Lesotho, Swaziland, Bolivia and Venezuela.

South African Visitors to the UK

Previously South African nationals did not require a visa to come to the UK for short tourist visits of up to six months. Prior to this change visitors from South Africa came fifth in terms of the number of visitors to the UK by nationals of countries outside the European Union.

The rules have been changed because of growing concerns about the possible national security threat posed by South African passport holders, as well as the risk that they may breach immigration rules or commit crimes whilst in the UK. In particular there were concerns that the South African passport system was open to abuse by nationals of other countries who would apply for a South African passport so that they could come to the UK.

The Impact of the New Visa Rules on South African Visitors to the UK

All South Africans visiting the UK for the first time will now have to be fingerprinted and apply for a visa. The cost of the visa will depend on whether it is a six-month visitor’s visa or one which allows the applicant to work while they are in the UK. A first-time six-month visitor’s visa will cost £65.

Some South African visitors who have previously travelled to the UK may be able to apply for an exemption from the visa requirement - but only until the new system is fully implemented later in 2009.

South African nationals who wish to come to the UK to work will already have felt the impact of the points-based immigration system for workers, which is considered to be stricter than the previous system it replaced. South Africans may also be affected by the general tightening of the rules for foreign nationals wishing to work in the UK which have been introduced to protect the interests of UK workers during an economic downturn.

Assurances have been given by British diplomats in South Africa that extra UK visa processing services will be provided to ensure that the disruption to genuine South African visitors is kept to a minimum. The South African government has said that it will begin introducing new passports which comply with international immigration and security requirements. This may lead to the new rules being relaxed at some point in the future.

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Hi all , I have best friend in Africaand I wanna see him in UK for Two Weeks holiday, please tell me what we can do to get him here for holiday see friends and nice country? Please any Information will be grateful)) thank you
Max - 20-Oct-20 @ 4:01 PM
My son (who passed away on Feb 7th 2020) his wife is south Africa she left him and his 7 year old daughter when he was taken Ill in Feb 2019 myself & my husband looked after them both until he passed away. She's come to the UK and taken my granddaughter back to south Africa with her she don't reply to my call or messages. We are heart broken do we have any grandparents rights My granddaughter was born in south Africa she as a British passport and lived in the UK from when she was 3 month old
Katie - 11-Mar-20 @ 9:48 AM
Hi I would like to apply for a visitor visa for my brother in law to visit me and my wife from South Africa his hasn’t see his sister(my wife) for ten years since we got married or his nephews and niece can you help on what to do
Arfan - 14-Sep-19 @ 6:12 PM
I have a very dear friend in SA who i would love to come live here in my home in England. I can get her a job Working with me ... could this be possible... any advice will be greatly helpful. Thank you.
Bev50uk - 25-Jun-19 @ 10:50 AM
I'm a South African now living in Bahrain. I want to marry a lady that is a British citizen living in the UK. How would we go about getting married and living in the UK? Please help
Al - 25-May-19 @ 12:23 PM
@Valeska - It will be easier for you to come to the UK with your husband directly rather than passing through Germany. All you would need to do is apply for a EEA family permit which will allow him to live and work with you in the UK for 5 years.
TJ. - 24-Apr-19 @ 11:20 AM
I am a German citizen living in South Africa, married to a South African only passport holder. I can go to the UK as I have EU passport to live and work. How does my husband gain approval to travel to UK also. The question is, do we have to enter EU zone via Germany first. Husband will not be working ie no work permit needed. Please help us.
Valeska - 23-Apr-19 @ 11:27 AM
Hi I'm a British citizenI came on holiday and met my boyfriend who is from africa why I was there we want to get married in the UK but he didnt come to Spain on a plane from Africa he came illegallyso he has no visa for this country and has been here for 2 years now can he board a plane with he's passport or will he get deported when he gets to the airport please help we love each other so much thank you
Mandy - 9-Apr-19 @ 3:36 PM
Im a British citizen and i want to get married to an asylum seeker in South Africa. Will he be allowed to get married to a non South Africa resident in South Africa
Bem - 16-Mar-19 @ 7:33 AM
My son who is a British citizen has been living in South Africa and is moving back here, he has a fiance who is south Africanand coming with him. They've been together for 5 years and dont want to marry yet.. without havingto get married how can we get her here. She's a fully qualified teacher.. they live and work together...
Vee - 14-Mar-19 @ 11:49 PM
I have a friend from SA who has been in the U.K. On a marriage visa but has just split from his wife are there options for him to stay in the U.K. He has no British descendants. He works full time but has no qualifications please advise? Many thanks
Sb - 8-Mar-19 @ 3:25 PM
@Chazz - The easiest way to bring your nephew to live with you in the UK would be to formally adopt him as your son which would make him a British citizen automatically. This would only apply if your nephew is below 18 years.
TJ. - 5-Mar-19 @ 4:41 PM
I am a British citizen living in the UK, originally from South Africa. My brother passed away and I would like to bring my nephew (my brothers son) to the Uk to live with me. He lives with his mother, but she cannot solely manage the upbringing of my nephew financially, therefore I am financially supporing everything and would be easier to provide for them from here Please advise
Chazz - 4-Mar-19 @ 5:34 PM
@Nat - He can only re apply for a visa if the circumstances that led to his first application being denied have changed. The fact that you are now married should improve his chances.
TJ. - 26-Jan-19 @ 10:53 PM
Good morning, I am a british citizen living over-seas in the Caribbean, my husband is from south africa and only holds a south african passport, we planned on visiting England together before we were married in 2017 but his visa was denied. We've been married for over a year now, what is the best way to go about getting him entry into the UK to visit?
Nat - 24-Jan-19 @ 2:06 PM
@Vincent - The new settlement rules are only for EU nationals. If your wife is legally in the UK she does not need to change anything.
TJ. - 21-Jan-19 @ 4:47 PM
Im British born and bred. My wife and i have been married for 23 years. She was born in south africa we have 2 children and a grand child. She came to the UK 1992 with her father and adoptive step mother.She has all her documents regarding permanent residence in the uk. Naturalisation etc. She has been trying to get her original birth cert from south Africa without success. But has one with her step mothers name on it.. her biological parents are both dead. She knows nothing of her family as she was very young when they came to the uk..does she need new status to remain with all the new rules. .she has a national insurance number everything to be a uk citizen. Help please.
Vincent - 20-Jan-19 @ 10:48 PM
@funkynorm - you will require a visa to come to the UK.
TJ. - 22-Dec-18 @ 12:20 PM
Can someone with a South African passport visit the UK without obtaining a visa if they have a Aufenthaltstitel German residency card?
Funkynorm - 20-Dec-18 @ 5:07 PM
@Gary - EU citizens can live, work and study in the UK without any restriction.
TJ. - 20-Nov-18 @ 5:40 PM
Hello Can South African born, (mom and son) who both hold Italian Passports come and live and work in the UK? Would they need visas or anything other than their Passports. Thanks in advance.
Gary - 17-Nov-18 @ 5:53 AM
@Eve - it depends on where your daughter was born. If your daughter was born in the UK, then your grand daughter is a British citizen but must apply for a British passport before coming to the UK. If your daughter was not born in the UK then your grand daughter is not a British citizen and will require a visa to visit the UK as a South African citizen.
TJ. - 19-Sep-18 @ 6:06 AM
Hi , I am a British citizen living in the UK. My daughter who is also a British citizen and holds a British passport is living in South Africa and wants to come over with my 19 month old granddaughter for a holiday. My granddaughter was born in South Africa and has a South African passport . Does she need a visa to enter the UK ?
Eve - 18-Sep-18 @ 6:19 PM
My husband and I have been living in the UK for 3 years. He has dual citizenship (Italian & South African), I have an EEA visa with SA passport. We have a 5 month old baby who has already received her SA passport and we have applied for her Italian passport but not yet received (10 weeks and waiting). We are travelling to SA in less than 2 weeks. What do we need if the Italian passport does not arrive in time? Will she need a UK visa in her South African passport to re-enter the UK or will all of our documentation (including UK birth certificate and proof of Italian passport submission) suffice?
Jo - 3-Aug-18 @ 10:22 PM
Hi there, I am currently living in the UK as an EU citizen with my husband who is South African and has an EEA family permit. We are wanting to travel to South Africa with our baby, who has a South African passport, but are worried about re entering the UK when we return. Do we need to get him a UK visa even though he was born here and lives here or will his original birth certificate suffice at border control?
Kitty - 2-Aug-18 @ 9:44 AM
Good day, I am a South Africanpassport holder and will be travelling home to South Africa from the USA via Heathrow soon and would like to find out if I need a transit visa to spend the day in London.I do have a validUS visa and the time between flights is approximately 12 hours. Your response would be appreciated.
Ang - 24-Jul-18 @ 1:57 PM
@Maxine - EU citizens are allowed to live, work and study in the UK without any restriction or visa. Your friend can come to live in the UK any time she chooses but she should take note of events surrounding Brexit.
TJ. - 17-Jul-18 @ 3:05 PM
Hi, I have a question on behalf of my best friend who has lived in South Africa since birth. She has a German passport which she inherited from her parents and is interested in moving from South Africa to the UK. Please can you advise what steps she needs to take in order to do this, is this possible? Thanks for your help
Maxine - 16-Jul-18 @ 9:47 PM
charlien - Your Question:
Hi There,I am a British Citizen, currently living in South Africa. I am looking at relocating in the next few months to the UK on a permanent basis. My boyfriend, a South African Citizen would like to join me as well. What procedures will we need to follow in order to allow him to stay in the UK with me. Thanks in Advance.

Our Response:
You would have to be living in the UK (for at least six months) and other pre-requisites in order to be able to apply for your boyfriend to live with you. Please see link here .
AboutImmigration - 13-Jul-18 @ 12:23 PM
Hi There, I am a British Citizen, currently living in South Africa. I am looking at relocating in the next few months to the UK on a permanent basis. My boyfriend, a South African Citizen would like to join me as well. What procedures will we need to follow in order to allow him to stay in the UK with me. Thanks in Advance.
charlien - 12-Jul-18 @ 8:47 PM
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