UCT International Students Study Permit Overview
All international students who are resident in the country for the duration of their studies are required to have a study visa to study in the Republic of South Africa. UCT is not permitted to register you unless you have a valid temporary resident permit (i.e. a study visa). This includes International Full Degree students (students pursuing a Bachelors, Masters or Doctoral Degree) and students participating in the Semester Study Abroad programme for one or two semesters.
Study visas are obtained from the South African Embassy, High Commission or Consulate in your home country, and you will need to refer to the application requirements on their website. Your study visa needs to be valid at all times and gives you entry into South Africa for study purposes for the duration of your study period, i.e. the minimum time period taken to complete the degree or studies pursued.
Please note that if you are currently enrolled at a South African High School or at another tertiary education institution in South Africa, you are required to apply for a study visa valid for studies at UCT.
Refer to the website for the study visa application requirements from the South African Consulate General in your home country.
Note: The South African visa regulations do not permit students to enter on a tourist visa and change the purpose of their stay from within South Africa, i.e. you CANNOT change from a tourist visa to a study visa from within South Africa.
In South Africa, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has officially outsourced the handling and processing of visa applications to a company called Visa Facilitation Services (VFS). The Visa Application Centres are located in major cities across the country. However, the VFS does not have the authority to grant or refuse visas and this decision still lies with the DHA. All visa applications ultimately go to the DHA for adjudication. VFS only accepts visa applications on their behalf.
All applications accepted from the Visa Facilitation Centre will have a minimum processing time of 4 – 6 weeks pending the outcome from the DHA. You can track your application online on the VFS Global website to determine the status of your application.
We advise that applications for new study visas should be submitted at least 12 weeks before the intended departure date for UCT, as it takes time to process these applications.
First time application for a study visa: Requirements in South Africa
1. Department of Home Affairs application form (BI-1738).
2. Original passport, valid for no less than 30 calendar days after expiry of the intended visit.
3. Copies of passport and previous visas.
4. A non-refundable application fee of R425 for the study visa as well as the VFS processing free which is R1 350.
5. Medical and radiology reports, not older than six months.
6. Unabridged birth certificate.
7. An official letter from UCT confirming provisional acceptance and the duration of the course. This is a letter from the relevant faculty offering a study place, together with proof of your acceptance of the offer.
8. A police clearance certificate not older than six months old.
9. Relevant certificate if married, widowed, divorced or separated.
10. A Yellow Fever vaccination certificate, if required by the Act.
11. An undertaking by the registrar of the learning institution to provide proof of registration of the learning institution as contemplated in the relevant legislation.
12. An undertaking by the registrar of the learning institution to submit to the Director-General a report on students who are no longer registered with such institution and a notification when the student has completed his or her studies or wishes to extend such studies.
13. In the case of a minor (i.e. a person under 18):
a. the particulars of the person, including a juristic person, residing in the Republic, who is, or has accepted to act as such learner’s guardian, including a confirmatory letter from that guardian;
b. and written consent for the intended stay from both parents or from the custodian parent, along with proof of sole custody in the latter case.
14. In the case of a foreign state accepting responsibility for the applicant in terms of a bilateral agreement, a written undertaking from such foreign state to pay for the departure of the applicant.
15. A deposit (a cash amount not exceeding the cost of a single ticket to the applicant’s country of origin). Students from other African countries are not required to pay this deposit provided that the government of their country submits a written undertaking to pay all costs relating to deportation of the student should it become necessary.
16. Proof of medical cover with a medical scheme registered in/and/or recognised in South Africa. NB: For Semester Study Abroad students this letter is obtainable from your insurance company. * For more information about Health Insurance, visit (LINK)
17. Proof of sufficient financial means to cover tuition fees, subsistence and incidental costs (in the form of a bursary, or bank statement).
18. A return plane ticket (For Semester Study Abroad Students ONLY).
19. Details regarding arranged accommodation, if any.
Please note that the documents must be originals or *certified copies.
* A certified copy is a photocopy of the original document with an original certified stamp indicating that the authorised person, e.g. a Commissioner of Oaths or police officer, has seen the original document.
An uncertified photocopy of the original or a photocopy of a certified copy is not sufficient.
Renewing an existing study visa
The below information applies to students who wish to renew an existing visa, and postdoctoral fellows who wish to extend a visa.
NB: Postdoctoral fellows require an official letter from the academic host at UCT confirming continuance of research at UCT, the terms of the fellowship, the amount of the fellowship award and the duration for which an extension is required.
Renewal of an existing study permit is done within South Africa. All applications should be submitted at least 60 days before the expiry date of the previous permit. Students/postdoctoral fellows with pending visa applications can no longer travel home with a receipt confirming submission of a visa application. One must await the outcome of their application before leaving South Africa.
When renewing visas, applications must first be submitted online via the VFS website. Once submitted, applicants will be notified via SMS and requested to provide biometric data for processing.
1. Valid passport (valid for at least 30 days after expiry of the intended visit).
2. Completed Home Affairs application form (BI-1739).
3. Application fee of R425, as well as the VFS processing fee which is R1350.
4. Official letter from your faculty / department administrator / supervisor confirming that you will be continuing studies at UCT including the duration for which an extension is required.
5. Proof of registration of the learning institution as contemplated in the relevant legislation.
6. An undertaking by the registrar of the learning institution to submit to the Director-General a report on students who are no longer registered with such institution and a notification when the student has completed his or her studies.
7. In the case of a foreign state accepting responsibility for the applicant in terms of a bilateral agreement, a written undertaking from such foreign state to pay for the departure of the applicant.
8. Proof of medical cover with a medical scheme registered in/and/or recognised in South Africa. *For more information about Health Insurance, click here.
9. Proof of sufficient financial means to cover tuition fees, subsistence and incidental costs (in the form of a bursary, or bank statement).
10. Police clearance certificate less than six months old (anyone 18 years or older). Note that police clearance certificates can take up to 6 months to process therefore applicants are strongly encouraged to apply for this document in advance. In the US, students are required to provide an FBI Clearance report and this takes up to 12 weeks to process before the study visa application documents can be submitted to the South African Embassy.
11. Medical and radiological reports less than six months old.
12. Proof of repatriation undertaking or, in the case of African countries only, proof that your country has signed a written undertaking to pay costs for deportation should it become necessary.
13. Accommodation (copy of lease arrangement, letter from landlord, etc).
Please note that it is student / fellow’s responsibility to ensure that they proceed to the VFS with all the requirements for their visa application. It is your responsibility to ensure that your application is complete and has all the accompanying documentation required for processing through the Department of Home Affairs Offices in Cape Town or the South African Embassy in your home country before you go there. Whilst IAPO can help you to check your application, the ultimate responsibility for this remains with you, the applicant. IAPO does not accept liability for applications that are incomplete, returned, invalid or refused.
To find more information on the Department of Home Affairs, and their nearest office, click here.
Visa Information for Students Coming into South Africa for 90 days or Less
Students from countries exempt from South Africa visas for visits to South Africa for 30 / 90 days or less are not required to apply for a study permit. In those cases students get issued with a temporary residence permit or a stamp on arrival at the port of entry in South Africa. For a list of visa exempt countries according to the intended duration of stay (30 / 90 days) please access the Department of Home Affairs website.
Students who are not from visa exempt countries and will be in the country for 90 days or less must apply for a visa at the South African embassy in their home country. You will be issued with a visitor’s visa for the duration that you intend to be in the country for.
Study permits: Working in South Africa
The provision that previously allowed full time work during vacations for students on study visas has been withdrawn. International students may conduct work for not more than 20 hours per week – even during vacations.
IAPO will issue permission for a student to conduct such work activities. A student has to obtain an official letter granting employment from the potential employer before IAPO issues the permission to work.
As a holder of a study permit you may also apply for permission to work for the purposes of getting work experience, as part of your studies to obtain a diploma or degree by submitting:
• an offer to do practical training
• consent from the educational institution
• proof that your are still a registered student
The Department’s consent to get practical training as part of your studies is issued free of charge provided that you are a registered student and that your study permit remains valid for the entire duration of the training period.