South Africa is straightforward and hassle-free to enter, although airport customs officers often check bags for expensive gifts and items purchased overseas.
Immigration officials rarely ask to see it, but travellers should technically be able to show an onward ticket – preferably an air ticket, although an overland ticket is also acceptable. The same applies to proof that you have sufficient funds for your stay; it pays to be neat, clean and polite.
- Immigration rules have been changing with regards to travelling with children, which involve unabridged birth certificates etc, so check the latest details well before departure.
- If you have travelled in a yellow-fever area within six days of arriving, or even transited for more than 12 hours en route, you need to show a vaccination certificate to enter South Africa.
- For more information see www.brandsouthafrica.com.
- You're permitted to bring 2L of wine, 1L of spirits and other alcoholic beverages, 200 cigarettes and up to R5000 worth of goods into South Africa without paying duties.
- Imported and exported protected-animal products such as ivory must be declared.
- For more information, visit www.brandsouthafrica.com and search for its customs guide.
Travellers from most Commonwealth countries (excluding New Zealand), most Western European nations, Japan and the USA receive a free, 90-day visitor's permit on arrival.
- Your passport should be valid for at least six months from the date of your entry to South Africa.
- For any entry – whether you require a visa or not – you need to have at least two completely blank facing pages in your passport, excluding the last two pages.
- Children aged under 18 must show an unabridged birth certificate, with additional paperwork needed in some cases. Your airline will likely alert you to these immigration regulations when you buy your flight.
- Immigration officers rarely ask to see it, but you should technically be able to present evidence of a return flight, or onward travel, from South Africa.
- If you have an onward flight, print a copy of your e-ticket, or ask your airline's help desk at the departing airport to print a copy of your itinerary.
- If you aren't entitled to a visitor's permit, you'll need to obtain a visa at a South African diplomatic mission in your home country, or one nearby. New Zealand citizens require visas.
- Visas are not issued at the borders.
- If you do need a visa, get a multiple-entry visa if you plan to visit Lesotho, Swaziland or any other neighbouring country. This avoids the hassle of applying for another South African visa.
- For more information, visit websites such the Department of Home Affairs (www.dha.gov.za), Brand South Africa (www.brandsouthafrica.com) and the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/south-africa/entry-requirements).
- It is possible to extend your visitor's permit for an additional 90 days. Apply soon after arrival through VFS Global (www.vfsglobal.com/dha/southafrica).
- VFS Global also processes applications for temporary residence permits, which last anything from two to five years. It has offices in 11 cities, including Cape Town, Durban, Jo'burg and Port Elizabeth.
- Immigration consultants include the International English School in Somerset West, near Cape Town.
- Extension applications cost R1775 and take eight to 10 weeks to process. They must be submitted in person, and required documents include an onward flight ticket, three months' bank statements and medical and radiological reports.
- Changes made to the immigration regulations in 2014 preclude 'visa runs'. If you reenter South Africa with a still-valid visa, you will not be given a new one unless you are coming from your country of residence. If your visa has expired, you will be given a visa allowing entry for up to seven days, unless you are coming from your country of residence, in which case you will be granted your full entitlement.
If you have travelled in a yellow-fever area within six days of arriving, or transited through one for more than 12 hours, you will need to show a vaccination certificate to enter South Africa.