South Africans face the arduous task of obtaining a visa for just about every international destination – even African countries have jumped on the bandwagon!!

SO how do you get a visa? With the increased security measures must present yourself at the embassies for an interview and to enrol your Biometric Information (fingerprints and photograph). Not an easy process if you are a person with a disability!! Hopefully some of this advice will make it easier for you.

Most countries require the original air ticket as well as proof of accommodation. If staying with family or friends, they must provide a letter stating: their address, that they will be hosting you and for what period. If the visa requires an original letter ask the family to e-mail this directly to the visa office, but you must include a copy in your documentation.

Proof of funds – usually three months original bank statements plus a letter from your bank stating that you are using your credit card and the maximum value you may place on it.

Travel Insurance – this is mandatory for most international destinations, and is highly recommended as comprehensive travel insurance will cover costs for various situations such as medical, lost luggage, cancellation and curtailment of trip. Read policies carefully and always take enough insurance to cover the basic expenses of your trip as well as a minimum of R10 million medical cover.

Photographs – different countries = different sizes! Take your Visa Requirements Form to any outlet that does passport photos so they print the correct size. You may also require biometric (digital) photographs.

Proof of employment: letters must state that you are in a permanent position, that your leave is authorised, the exact travel dates and that you will be returning to take up your position within the company. If you are the owner of the company, your accountant or a director must sign the letter.

Marriage certificates or letters of consent for the travel of minors from divorced spouses must all be originals

ALL DOCUMENTATION MUST HAVE COPIES (original official documents will be returned to you)

  1. ALWAYS start the process well in advance so you have sufficient time to gather documentation, and book appointments. You may require multiple visas if you are traveling to different countries. For the Schengen states (most of mainland Europe plus Iceland and Malta), you apply to the country where you shall spend the most time. Check requirements each time you travel as they may have changed.
  2. Either go online or ask a travel agent to find out if a visa is required.
  3. Have a valid passport (that will expire at least six months after your return) with sufficient blank pages for the visa. If you have a valid visa in a expired or full passport then staple the old passport onto the new one.
  4. Make an appointment with the visa office. Many visa services ask for pre-payment to be made into their bank account. Some require original deposit slips, which means a trip to the bank and not an EFT payment.
  5. Gather the documentation stipulated on the visa application requirements form.
  6. Visa Appointment – be in time for your appointment, even though you may have to wait! Visa processing officers can be very strict about working hours. Read the Requirements Form carefully for delivery and collection times. Processing times vary from 7 – 10 working days, but Emergency Visas will be issued in for valid, documented emergencies.

What is 'biometric' information?

Nearly all visa applications require biometric data (10-digit finger scans and a digital photograph) done at their offices. Finger scans are electronic (no more ink!) and you do your digital photo at the same time. The whole procedure should take no more than five minutes. Do not have any decoration (such as henna), or any cuts or other markings on your fingertips. Digital photographs will be of your full face with no cuts or bruises, sunglasses, hat or any other head covering (other than for cultural or religious reasons but the face must not be covered).

Please make sure that assistants’ work permits are in order if they have passports from other African countries, and check the visa requirements for these countries as they may differ from South African requirements.

Should you require more information, please contact me.

Happy Travels !