Visas for Volunteers
So you’ve decided to come to sunny South Africa, the land of many different cultures and languages and of course one of the friendliest countries in the world! But before you can get here, you’ll need to make sure you have all the required documentation. Going to another country on exchange or to volunteer can be tricky at times with all those confusing forms and different types of Visa’s and permits! Thankfully FundiConnect is here to guide you through the process!
As you may have read in Step 3 of the Study in SA tutorial, international and study abroad students need to apply for a Study Visa. As a volunteer, however, you can apply for one of 3 different Visas that will enable you to do volunteer work in South Africa.
Regardless of which Visa you apply for, you need to go to your nearest South African embassy or consulate IN PERSON to fill out an original application form and submit it along with all other necessary documents.
If you have read up on SA Visa-related topics before this tutorial, best make sure that information isn’t outdated. The regulations for South African Visas have recently changed and become a lot stricter, which means that you can no longer courier your application form, nor can you ask a third party or family member to submit it for you. You need to go to the embassy in person, because they need to take your biometric fingerprints.
Unfortunately this means that if your nearest SA embassy is in fact not near at all, you will need to pack your bags and get ready for a little trip…otherwise you won’t be able to qualify for a Visa. Yes, we’re not too happy about it either.
Types of Visas
– Visitor’s Visa
A Visitors’ Visa is for someone who wishes to visit South Africa on a temporary basis for a period of 90 days or less in order to visit family and friends, do business, work on a movie set (we wish!) or to do charitable activities such a volunteering for a South African Organisation!
Requirements for a South African Visitor’s Visa do differ from country to country (click here to see which countries are currently exempt), and the requirements are subject to change, so it’s important to make absolutely certain that you know what kind of Visa you are applying for, beforehand. Each application is treated as an individual case and you should make enquiries with your nearest South African mission or consulate abroad or any office of the Department of Home Affairs to see what kind of Visa you might require.
- Your passport (which is valid for 30 days after the expiry of your intended visit and has at least 1 unused page in your passport for the nifty entry and departure stamps you’ll get at the airport).
- An original and completed Form BI-84 which you will need to pick up and complete in person from your nearest SA embassy.
- Payment of the required fee.
- Vaccination Certificate (for Yellow Fever, if you are coming from a Yellow Fever risk country)
- Documentation confirming the purpose and duration of your stay in SA.
- Two colour passport photographs.
- Proof that you have a return ticket if you are flying back home.
- If you have children travelling with you or joining in South Africa, you will also need to provide a proof of guardianship/ custody or written consent from the guardian in the case of an unaccompanied minor.
- Proof that you can finance yourself during your stay (such as a 3-month bank statement).
– Exchange Visa
If you’re 25 and younger and wish to come to South Africa to take part in cultural, economic or social exchange programmes which are organised by a South African organisation or University in conjunction with a foreign organisation or University, then you qualify for an Exchange Visa. It’s important to be aware that the validity period of an exchange permit depends on the length of the programme for which it is issued but it usually does not exceed 12 months.
The exchange Visa differs from the Visitor’s Visa, in that you are coming to SA solely for the purpose to do an exchange with a South African organisation. You are also permitted to stay in SA for up to 12 months whereas a Visitor’s Visa only allows you to stay for 3 months (however the validity of the permit does depend on the length of the exchange programme).
Exchange permits also cannot be renewed or extended either, so soak up the South African sun while you can! Be aware that if you fall head over heels in love with South Africa (as people are prone to do!) while on your Exchange Visa, you will not qualify for a temporary residence permit until you have lived outside South Africa for at least 12 months. This means that you can’t reapply for any kind of ‘temporary residence permit’ for another 12 months after you have completed your exchange.
- Complete the Temporary Residency Form (DHA-1738) in person at your nearest SA Embassy
- Make sure you have a valid passport (with space for the cool stamps you’ll be getting at the airport!)
- Make sure that you have a letter from the University or organisation where you intend to do your exchange programme in South Africa which confirms the details about your programme (the letter should prove that you qualify to register or participate and the organisation or family will be responsible for you during your stay here).
- Get a letter from the organisation or University from your home country, which confirms the status or the existence of the exchange programme which you intend to do in South Africa, and that you have been accepted to register for the programme (In other words, make sure that the two organisations are in contact with one another and can confirm your plans).
– Volunteer’s Visa/ Permit
If you’re planning to be in South Africa for more than 3 months and up to 3 years, in order to do volunteer work you’ll need a Volunteer’s Visa/ Permit. It is important to be aware that, to qualify of the Volunteer Permit, you may not be remunerated (in other words: Get cash-dollars or be employed by the organisation) for your volunteer work.
- You will need to apply for a Volunteer’s Visa/ Permit in person at your nearest SA Embassy by completing a Form BI-840 (which is the application for Visa form).
- You will need to provide some form of proof that you can support yourself while you’re staying in South Africa (such as a 3 months bank statement).
- You will also need to have a valid return air ticket back home (if you’re going to be in SA for less than 12 months) or if you’re staying for more than 12 months you’ll need to pay a deposit to the South African government instead- just to ensure you’ll promise to go back home!
- You must supply an indication as to what activity you’re going be involved in (so do your research beforehand!), and which organisation they are associated with.
And there you have it! It’s really not too difficult when you’ve got some help. Hopefully you’ll be joining us in South Africa soon to volunteer your time, education and skills!
As our former president Nelson Mandela once said: “Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.”
While the process of applying for different Visa’s may be tedious, it is important to remember that the process will be worth it later, when you see the impact you can have on people’s lives while you sacrifice some time and energy by participating in a volunteering or exchange programme in South Africa! If you are interested in studying, check out the study visa in South Africa for more information.