Travelling to the UK for South African passport holders has become somewhat daunting with the current visa restrictions that were introduced in 2008. The days of travelling freely in and out of the UK are something of the past.

While Isabel Potgieter, SA’s British High Commission spokesperson, is making no promises about any change in the foreseeable future, she has given South Africans a glimpse of hope that we will once again be able to travel in and out of the UK as we once did.

Isabel Potgieter says, “There are no current plans to change the UK visa requirement for South Africans. The UK Government keeps its visa regime under regular review and we continue to work closely with South Africa on migration and border security issues.”

“The UK offers a high quality visa service in South Africa, with a clear and simple application process. In year ending June 2016, 98% of South Africans who applied for a UK visa were successful in their applications, with 99% of all visit visa applications resolved within our global service standard of 15 working days.”


The UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) is responsible for decisions about who can come into the UK and who can stay here.

We recently attended UK visa training conducted by UKVI in partnership with British T.I.P.S  (a fully fledged wholesaler offering an extensive range of products and services for budget, corporate and leisure travelers) and were given some key insights and a clearer understanding of the current requirements needed to apply for your UK visa.

Since the introduction of the visa restrictions the requirements have become less complex and far more streamlined over the years, making the visa application experience less intimidating. To keep you up to date of the current process Travelstart  have drawn up a few frequently asked questions which we hope to provide clarity.



When Applying for a UK Visa

Whether you have plans to work, study or merely just to visit family and/or friends, all visa applications are required to be completed online using the Access UK service.

Once online complete the application form. The application form will be presented in a variety of languages but only applications completed in English will be considered. Pay the visa fee online, print out your form and book your appointment at the visa application centre (VAC). You will be able to book an appointment at any VAC within 5 working days of your online application.



  1. Non-Settlement VS Settlement

Non-Settlement Visa

A non-settlement visa applies to anyone who is visiting the UK with no intention of staying long-term. These visas take up to a maximum 15 days to resolve from date of VAC meeting and are valid for up to a maximum of 6 months. There are 4 types of ‘visitor routes’ which fall under this category:

  1. Standard Visit – This covers leisure and business purposes
  2. Marriage and Civil Partnership Visit – If you intend to enter the UK to get married only and return back to your original destination
  3. Paid Engagement – If one is paid by a UK based company to perform a service such as a concert or a lecture. This not a multiple entry however. It is a single entry specifically for the event they wish to attend
  4. Transit Visa – When your connecting flight is via London Heathrow or Gatwick Airport.

99% of non-settlement applications are processed within 15 working days.


Settlement Visa

A Settlement visa applies to any anyone who intends to moves to the UK on a long-term basis and not return to South Africa in the foreseeable future. This visa application can take up to 60 days to be resolved.

*In the event you are needing your visas to be resolved a bit quicker than expected you will be able to purchase a priority service at the time of application only. You will NOT be able to purchase the priority service once the application has been submitted at a later stage.*

For all other visas including study and work visas the Visa4UK service would be applicable.


  1. What if My Passport has expired?

If you are in possession of one (South African) passport and it has expired then you will have to have your passport renewed.

If you are in possession of both a South African passport and a British passport you still have the authority to travel freely in and out of the UK.

If you are a South African with a British passport and South African passport and your British passport expires, as a British citizen you will not be able to apply for a visitor visa on your South African passport.

If you are traveling on a South African passport and your passport book runs out of pages with your 6 month visa period and you are required to order to renew your passport, you will not however have to apply for a new visa but you will need to be able to present both passports at immigration.



  1. I’m only travelling in 3 months’ time. Is it too early to get my 6 month Visa?

The sooner you apply for your visa the better. However if you apply 3 months in advance ensure that you stipulate this in your application and your visa will be post-dated from intended date of travel.

  1. What Visa will I need if I am travelling for a Business Visit?

A standard visit visa is suitable to travel to the UK for a short time to carry out activities relating to your business or work. The following business activities would apply to a standard visa:

  • Attend a meeting or conference.
  • Negotiating or signing trade agreements.
  • Undertake fact finding mission.
  • Checking details or goods.
  • Conducting site visits.
  • Promotional activities.


Business visits mean you will not be conducting weeks of work in an office as you would normal business hours (8am – 5pm).


If you find you travel to the UK quite regularly for business, you should probably consider a long term visa. You can apply for a 2 year, a 5 year, or a 10 year long term visa.



  1. What Other Visa Routes Should I be Aware of?

Here are a few other scenarios which will require visas other than the standard visas previously mentioned:


  • Minors – Anyone under the age of 17.
  • Domestic Workers – A domestic worker/Nanny may accompany you on your trip as long as they have been employed for a minimum of 1 year, there is an employment contract in place and you the employer requesting the visa will need to be able to pay the domestic the minimal UK wages of 7.50 GBP an hour over the duration in the UK.
  • Overseas Dependant Territory – such as British Virgin Islands or Gibraltar. If the traveler goes via or into the UK they would need to apply for either a Visit Visa or a Transit Visa.
  • EEA Family Permit – If a family member is an EU passport holder. They can travel with that passport holder with no visa fee. You HAVE to travel with the passport holder.
  • UK Ancestor Visa – If you are able to prove that a grandparent was born in the UK and you are able to provide their birth certificates as well as your unabridged birth certificate.
  • Vignette Transfer – In the event that your passport is complete destroyed and you were in possession of a long-term visa, you may apply for a vignette visa transfer.


  1. Do I need proof of my flights and hotel booking when applying visas?

UKVI will never ask for any proof or travels details when applying for your visa. However they do provide guidelines on the website for what supporting documents are needed. All of the below would be advised:

  • Proof of income – i.e. Payslip and Bank accounts to prove you can fund your visit.
  • Genuine reason and intention to travel to the UK. A letter from a family member or a friend / an invitation from a company.
  • Intent to fully return to your country of residence or carry on with your journey.



  1. I am travelling via the UK. Do I need a UK visa?

If you are travelling via the UK and catching a connecting flight to your next destinations you will need a transit visa. Depending on which airport your connecting flight is flying out from will depend on the type of transit visa:

  • Direct Airside Transit Visa – London Heathrow to London Heathrow Transits


  • Landside Transit Visa – London Heathrow to London Gatwick transits

SA Passport holders require a transit visa when transiting through the UK at all times. With the following exceptions:


  • Valid USA, Canada, Australia or New Zealand visa in a passport and you are travelling via the UK to any of those countries. If you need to change airports (London Heathrow to London Gatwick) passenger needs to arrive and depart by air. Must depart by 23:59 the following night.
  • Transit with any of these counties visa in passport and travelling to another destination. I.e. Germany, Netherlands etc. but have to be transiting through the same airport and only be travelling to a Schengen state.


*Schengen Visit visa is not an exception document for a transit waiver.*



  1. I have an emergency and I need to get to the UK immediately?

In the event that you find yourself in a situation where you need your visa within the minimal time possible there are added value services provided by UKVI, but it will cost you:

  • 5 Day turnaround time for a visa – Priority fee of 184 GBP over and above your visa fee
  • 24 hour turnaround time – Super Priority fee of 919 GBP over and above your visa fee


  1. What happens if I miss my VAC appointment?

Unfortunately if you miss your VAC appointment or you arrive late you will either have to apply for a new appointment online and pay for a new visa application or you have the option to pay for a priority appointment


While there is still quite a process when applying for a UK visa, if you can afford the opportunity to plan timeously then follow the steps carefully and collect as much proof required so that UKVI has no reason to send back your application. More often than not there may be 1 or 2 minor issues and you will be able to resolve it and start the application process again.

For information on the visa process contact the UK Immigration Service. Each email inquiry will cost 5.48 GBP.







Our Readers Comments

  1. Thanks for the information! I’ve finally come to know what is the process and what are the requirements needed in applying for a UK Visa if you are an African Passport holder. There are really a lot of things to do in order to get a visa. It gives me a headache. I would also want to know what if I am applying for a work visa? I am planning to work in the UK someday. Are there also Visas Consulting Firm like here in the Philippines who assists visas / working visas?

    • Hi there,

      Thanks for contacting us.

      Travelstart is based in South Africa, for this reason we don’t know the official visa handling agencies based in the Philippines. Maybe you could contact the Embassy and they can point you in the right direction and give the most up to date information.

  2. I am going to Spain in December 2017 with my family. I have a 10 year UK visa and on an SA Passport. My adult children have SA passports. How do we apply for a visa for a day visit to Gibraltar? When I was in Spain last July I was told I need a separate UK visa for Gibraltar.

    • Hi Elaine,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      For this you would need to contact the Embassy. They grant the visa’s and will be able to provide you with the most up to date information on the correct procedures to follow.

  3. Good day,
    We will need a Transit Visa. Traveling to Funchal, Portugal in December 2017.
    Is this visa valid for 3 or 6 months?
    Kind Regards

    • Hi Michelle,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      For this you will need to contact the Embassy direct. If you have already applied and received your transit visa they will have your visa details on record and will be able to advise accordingly.

  4. Great work guys, keep good work! 2 years ago travelstart helped to get cheap flight and accomodation to dublin for 3 weeks, please let me know if there is some special from january or march 2018. Thanks.

    • Hi there,

      Great to hear from you.

      Should you wish to receive our awesome and latest deals on flight specials and packages you welcome to subscribe to our newsletter by logging onto our website: http://www.travelstart.co.za and scrolling to the bottom. On the left you will be able to enter your details. That easy and you will be notified of all our amazing deals so not to miss out.

  5. My wife and I applied a month ago for our visas which have been granted with no hiccups. We supplied :
    1. copies of bank and investment accounts
    2. return flight details (thank you Flight Centre Glen Marais)
    3. accommodation details.

    One thing I noticed is that our visas are dated as at the application date although we will be entering the UK on the 22nd August 2017.

  6. Our children have just received UK citizenship and during the next few years we would want to visit them regularly to see them and our grandchildren. Is it possible to enquire beforehand what the possibility would be for our application for a 10 year visa to be granted? We cannot pay that enormously expensive visa fee for an application for a 10 year visa and in the end it is not granted and we loose the money. Or do they reimburse you of not granted?

    • Hi there,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      To my knowledge they do not reimburse one if their visa is denied.

      As we are not the ones granting the visa’s or deal with visa applications I would suggest contacting the UK Embassy or official visa handling agent to get the most up to date information.

      British High Commission (Pry)
      Physical Address : 255 Hill Street, Arcadia, Pretoria, 0028
      Tel No : 012 421 7500

  7. Hi there, thanks for the guidelines but they are very overwhelming I must admit. I am a UK passport holder, sadly however it has expired and I am not able to renew it in time before travel as I am also doing a name change with my UK passport renewal application to have UK Passport in married name, which is a long process all on its own. I received my SA passport today and my Husband got his SA Passport last week. If I am understanding your guidelines correct, I wont be able to travel to UK and back to SA using a UK Visa against my SA Passport …this because I have an expired UK Passport? Is this correct?. I don’t want to go the the unnecessary expense only to loose the money in the end because my UK Visa application is declined on this bases (expired UK Passport) and my Husbands UK Visa lands up being approved. Looking forward to your confirmation. Many thx in advance.

    • Hi Denise,

      Thanks for getting in touch and for the interest question.

      Yes, as mentioned in the FAQ’s blog, “If you are a South African with a British passport and South African passport and your British passport expires, as a British citizen you will not be able to apply for a visitor visa on your South African passport.”

      However I do recommend you contact the British Embassy direct or the Visa UK Application Center as they will be able to provide you with the most up to date information on the way forward.

      TLScontact (UK) Visa Application Centre
      08h30-16h30 Mon to Fri
      Johannesburg : 2nd – 3rd Floor, 24 Central Building, 6 Gwen Lane, Corner of Gwen and Fredman Drive, Sandton
      Pretoria : 1st Floor, Menlyn Corner, Frikkie de Beer Street, Corner of Lois Avenue and Atterbury Road, Menlyn
      Durban : 430 Peter Mokaba Ridge, 3rd Floor, Office Tower, The Atrium Overport City, Durban
      Cape Town : Upper Ground Floor, Media Quarter Building, Corner of De Smit and Somerset Road, De Waterkant, Cape Town
      Port Elizabeth : Ground floor, Building 66, Fairview Office Park,
      Greenacres, Port Elizabeth
      Web Address : http://uk.tlscontact.com/

      UK Visa & Immigration – International Enquiry Service
      Tel No : 021 300 3758 or 00 44 1243 218 173

  8. Good day

    We planning to travel to Uk in December to visit my brother-in-law with our 2 kids for a week and then go to Europe for a week and return to them for the last 4 days of our stay in UK. This portal for the visa application indicate a cost of 89 British Pounds is there any other fees involved going thru this website GOV.UK? I see agents charge a lot to handle the application on your behalf looking at cost between R10 to R15K just for visas… can I do it myself to be able to save costs?

    • Hi Hannelie,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      For this you would need to contact the Embassy direct. They specialise in this area and would be able to provide you with the most up to date info on correct procedures to follow when applying, documents required as well as what all the cost are involved when applying.

  9. Hie! I applied for a UK visa last month and it was refused how soon can i re apply when i habe new enough documents.

    • Hi there,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      As we are not the ones granting the visa’s or doing the applications we are not able to say.

      Please contact the Embassy direct or the official visa handling agency you applied through and they will be able to provide you with the most up to date info.

  10. What I would like to know…we want to travell 17 Dec 2017 to Scotland and be back on 28Jan 2018….our passports expires on 24th of April, can we still use the passport or do we have to apply for a new one?
    We do have enough blank pages left abaout 4 each in every passport. Ook. Please answer me quickly, We have to travel far to apply for renewal.

    • Hi there

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      A passport needs to be valid for 6 more months from date of return. If you are only returning end January 2018 your passport will need to be valid for 6 months or more from date of return have 2 blank pages next to each other. However for the most up to date information please contact the Embassy as well as airline you will be travelling with. They will be able to provide you with the most up to date information.

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