Answer to a question from a reader

What visa/permit will allow my non-South African wife to stay in the country for longer than 90 days? I am a citizen.

The short answer

You can apply for a temporary spousal visa or a spousal permit.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

I am a South African citizen living in Scotland with my Scottish wife. We have a property outside Durban and, as retirees, we would love to spend more than the 90 days in South Africa she would get with a tourist visa. Is there another permit or visa that would make this possible? 

The long answer

There are two types of spousal residence in South Africa:

  • a spousal visa, which is a temporary residence permit and is usually issued for up to three years at a time, for people who have been married for less than five years;
  • a spousal permit, which enables you to apply for permanent residence as a spouse, for people who have been married for longer than five years.

Because it can take in excess of 24 months to get the spousal permit, it is advisable to apply for a spousal visa initially. It is supposed to take 8-10 months to get a spousal visa, but since the Covid pandemic, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) is taking even longer to issue visas.

All visa and permit applications for DHA are done through VFS Global, which is the company to which DHA has outsourced its Visa Facilitation Centres. This is what VSF Global says on their website:

  • VFS Global manages Visa Facilitation Centres for Department of Home Affairs in South Africa, where you should submit your completed application form, supporting documents and biometric data;
  • Your visa application will be processed and decided by Department of Home Affairs, Head Office in Pretoria. VFS Global does not play any part in or influence the outcome of your application process;
  • The company will not render any advisory services but merely technical services relating to the submission of applications which include compliance with the checklist of requirements as instructed by the Department of Home Affairs;
  • In addition, VFS Global will handover outcomes to applicants in the form of visa and permit labels, rejection letters, appeals and any other document destined for clients.

For a temporary spousal visa, these are the documents your wife needs to submit:

  • A marriage certificate;
  • Proof of her South African spouse’s citizenship;
  • A letter of support from her South African spouse;
  • Proof of good health and standing;
  • A completed temporary residency application form.

VFS charges a R1,350 application fee.

With temporary residence or spousal visas that have already been granted but will expire, a person is required to apply for an extension 60 days before the current visa expires. 

The following is the list of requirements from the DHA for a spousal permit (I have bolded the requirement for the temporary spousal visa):


Note: all documents issued by the issuing authority of the country of origin shall be original or certified copies and where applicable translated into English, which translation shall be certified as a correct translation by a sworn translator. Applicants must renew their temporary resident visa whilst awaiting the outcome for permanent residence permit VFS appointment letter.

  • A duly completed DHA-947 form online. Handwritten forms will not be accepted by the Department of Home Affairs;
  • Payment of the application fee of R1,350. If the application fee was paid to VFS bank account or the mission, an original bank payment receipt, where the application fee was paid using the Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT), receipt for each applicant;
  • Present a valid original passport in respect of applicant and passport photograph. A recent, passport-type, full face photograph bearing the names of the applicants on the reverse side thereof. (Machine-type or instant photographs are not acceptable);
  • A valid spousal visa for temporary sojourn at the time of application in respect of applicant, if the application is made in the Republic;
  • Unabridged birth certificate, or extract from birth record for applicant(s);
  • Original police clearance certificate issued by the police or security authority in each country where the relevant applicant resided for 12 months or longer after attaining the age of 18 years except for South Africa, in respect of criminal records or the character of that applicant, which certificate shall not be older than six months at the time of its submission: Provided that the certificate shall not be required from a foreign country in the case of renewal or extension of a visa;
  • Radiological report (not required in respect of children under the age of 12 years or a pregnant woman). The certificate must not be older than six (6) months at the time the applicant submits an application;
  • Medical report for all applicants. The certificate must not be older than six (6) months at the time the applicant submits an application;
  • Yellow fever vaccination certificate if that person travelled or intends travelling from or transit through a yellow fever endemic area: Provided that the certificate shall not be required where that person travelled or intends travelling in direct transit through such area or where an application is made in the Republic;
  • A marriage certificate, a notarial agreement, a customary union certificate and a civil union certificate as proof that the applicant has been the spouse of a citizen or permanent resident for five years at the time of application;
  • A notarial agreement signed by both parties attesting that – (i) the permanent spousal homosexual or heterosexual relationship has existed for at least two years before the date of application for a relevant visa and five years at the time of application for permanent residence permit and that the relationship still exist to the exclusion of any other person and (ii) neither of the parties is a spouse in an existing marriage or a permanent homosexual or heterosexual relationship;
  • Divorce decree to prove the dissolution of a marriage in the case where a party was a spouse in the previous marriage or the death certificate of the deceased spouse;
  • Declaration of support for the application by the spouse who is a citizen or permanent resident;
  • Proof of financial support to each other;
  • Copy of the identity document of the spouse who is the citizen or permanent resident;
  • Copy of permanent residence permit if the spouse is a permanent resident;
  • Present yourself for biometrics at the visa facilitation centre. notes the following: “You must enter the country every three years to maintain the permit but you don’t have to live in South Africa permanently. Also, you’re free to study, work, or set up a business as you wish, unlike with a temporary spousal permit. You must prove to the South African authorities that the relationship between you is still valid within the first two years of the permit, along with other documentation. If your relationship ends or your relationship is no longer valid, then your South African spousal permit will lapse – although this doesn’t apply if your wife or husband passes away.”

Wishing you the best,

Answered on Aug. 2, 2022, 3:08 p.m.

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