• 1. What is a study visa?

    It is an immigrations document issued by the Department of Home Affairs to a non-South African seeking to register at a learning institution approved by the Department of Higher Education and Training. This document is required if the international student does not hold South African citizenship, a permanent residence permit, or another temporary residence permit endorsed for study. International students who intend on studying at UCT must be in possession of a study visa, specifically endorsed for study at UCT and covering the duration of the study programme, as indicated in the letter of study offer.

  • 2. What is a critical skills visa?

    Updated on 22/12/2021

    This is a permit issued to applicants in possession of exceptional skills or qualifications that are scarce in South Africa. A critical skills work visa shall be issued for a period not exceeding five years. Where there is no offer of employment, a critical skills visa shall be issued for a period not exceeding one year. Click here for a list of critical skills.

    The draft Critical Skills list has not been implemented. It is being ratified and is still to be signed off by the National Economic Development & Labour Council. The current Critical list dated 3 June 2014 is still valid.

  • 3. What is a short-stay visitor’s visa?

    It is an entry stamp issued upon entering South Africa which allows access to the country on a temporary basis for tourism or business purposes, for a period of 90-days or less. See the list of countries which are visa exempt and permitted to access South Africa for 90-days or less:

    International students registering for a full degree or semester length programme must be in possession of a study visa and will not be permitted to register on a 90-day entry stamp.

    Note. Exception is made for international students who are registering for modular programmes which require them to be in South Africa for no more than 3-months at a time e.g. postgraduate modular programmes offered through the Graduate School of Business. In order for students to be cleared to register on a short stay visa, they are required to provide proof of their study offer and the dates of their course modules.

  • 4. If an international student or researcher is staying in South Africa for longer than 90 days, what visa will be applicable?

    International students or researchers visiting UCT for longer than 90-days, who do not intend on registering for coursework, can apply for a visitor’s visa endorsed for:

    • voluntary or charitable activities;
    • an academic sabbatical;
    • research; or
    • any other prescribed activity (see section 11(1)(b) of the Immigration Act)

    Note: The Section 11(1)(b)(iii) visitor’s visa endorsed for Research is commonly used by visiting academics, international research affiliates and postdoctoral research fellows visiting UCT for more than 90-days.

  • 5. Where can I apply for a visa for South Africa?

    First time applicants, applying for a new study or long-stay visitor’s visa should apply through the South African Consulate or Embassy situated in their home country. Once in South Africa, should the international student or researcher wish to extend their study, their visa renewal application should be made through the VFS Centre situated on 7th Floor, 2 Long Street, Cape Town. Other locations across South Africa can be found at:

    The International Office has a guidelines document for students/researchers needing to renew their visa in Cape Town. These students/researchers can be referred to IAPO for assistance.

  • 6. Can an international student be registered without a study visa?

    Yes, international students who will not take up coursework or physically conduct their research in South Africa can be registered remotely. In order to be cleared for remote registration, the student must provide:

    • a scanned copy of their passport ID page
    • a letter from their academic supervisor and/or academic department, stating that they will be conducting their studies from outside of South Africa and therefore will not be required to hold a study visa to enter South Africa.
    • Proof of fees
  • 7. Can an international student enter South Africa on one passport and have their study visa sent to them in a different passport?

    No. When entering South Africa for study purposes, the international student will need to already be in possession of a study visa (endorsed for study at UCT) in the passport used to enter South Africa. Upon entering, they will receive an entry stamp at passport control (at the airport), which will activate the conditions of their visit in South Africa i.e. study. If a student, studying full-time or for a semester at UCT, does not present their study visa and the corresponding passport entry stamp, they will not be permitted to be pre-registered.

  • 8. What letters of support are issued by IAPO for international students? How do I request a letter?

    Updated 21.01.2022

    We provide students with the following letters of support:

    • For study visa:
      • A letter of undertaking for new applications for study visas (B84 automated letter generation through PeopleSoft)
      • A letter of undertaking for current students needing to renew their study visa for continued study at UCT
      • Accommodation support, confirming we will advise on accommodation options and connect students to available services
    • For visitor visa:
      • Letter of support in line with the study/ research offer i.e. for modular programmes, applying for visitors’ visa or postdoctoral research fellows, applying for a visit endorsed for research, in line with the postdoctoral award
    • Other letters:
      • Bank application support letters (for those on study visas)
      • Termination of South African medical aid cover for those on study visas, once they have left UCT or no longer on a study visa therefore, no longer in need of medical aid cover.

    Note: We do not provide letters in support of applications for permanent residence or critical skills permits.

    To request a letter of support, please complete sections A, B (select the required letter type from the drop-down menu) and C of the Letter request webform.

  • 9. How do students obtain letters to support their study visa application?

    The letter is system generated and is released, after the conditional/firm offer is sent from the Faculty. PLEASE CHECK your email for:
    SENDER:     Subject heading: Letter of Undertaking for Visa
    The Body of the EMAIL communication guides you with information pertaining to their visa application; fees; medical aid; housing; and relevant dates.
    The email will have a UCTB84.pdf (the letter of undertaking) as an attachment.
    ** Check your spam/junk mail folder as it may have ended up there**

  • 10. I have received an offer to study, but not receive the automated letter of undertaking to apply for a study visa. What should I do?

    Updated 21.01.2022

    To request a letter of support, please complete sections A, B (select the required letter type from the drop-down menu) and C of the Letter request webform.

  • 11. I am a part time / modular student and required to attend 1-week to 2-week block lectures every quarter. What visa should I apply for?

    You can apply for a South African visitors’ visa for study purposes (max stay 3-months/ 90 days). For more information, kindly check

    Note: A 90 day visitor’s visa does not require a letter of undertaking.

  • 12. Can students apply for a study visa using a conditional offer of acceptance into a study programme?

    Yes. If any students who are offered conditionally study report that the South African Embassies/Consulates reject their study visa application because their study offer is conditional, please report this to

    Note: The timing of the conditional offer and firm offer for a study place has a direct and significant impact on the student’s ability to apply for their study visa. If a student receives a study offer in the same year in which they are expected to commence their studies, it is likely that they could arrive late for registration.

  • 13. Can the faculty offices expect to receive requests to verify students study offers?

    Yes. Sometimes the South African Embassies/ Consulates will write to us to ask for confirmation on the study offer letter and the letter of undertaking. We can confirm the letter of undertaking/ letter of support that we issue from our office. We will refer requests for confirmation on study offers to the respective faculty offices.

    Should there been any concerns about verifying the study offer, please email

  • 14. If a student is awaiting the outcome of their visa renewal, can they depart South Africa?

    We recommend that the student remain in South Africa while they await the outcome of their visa renewal.

  • 15. If a student is awaiting the outcome of their readmission appeal, should they remain in South Africa?

    No. we recommend that the student depart before their visa expires, failing which, they risk being marked undesirable if they overstay.

  • 16. Is police clearance necessary for study visa renewals?

    Yes. Each time a student makes application for a study visa, they are required to apply for police clearance. When applying for a visa renewal from South Africa through VFS (the agency that receives visa applications on behalf of the Department of Home Affairs), the police clearance application can be applied for at the same time as the view renewal application. VFS will facilitate the police clearance application at a charge of R175.

  • 17. What kind of visa should occasional students and supernumeraries apply for?

    Anyone who will register for a degree programme at UCT will be required to obtain a study visa endorsed for studies at UCT.

  • 18. What visa should postdoctoral research fellows apply for?

    Updated 21.01.2022

    There is no prescribed visa for postdoctoral fellows. We have pre-registered postdocs who have study visas and visitor’s visas endorsed for research. There are pros and cons to each visa type. We will issue a letter of support based on the visa that the postdocs is applying for and in line with the terms and conditions of the postdoc award letter.

  • 19. Will there be any consequences if an international student/researcher remains in South Africa after their visa has expired?

    YES! When a foreigner overstays the validity of their visa it is illegal. This will likely be detected when the international student/researcher leaves South Africa and goes through passport control to have their passport and visa checked. Once they are identified as having overstayed, they will be declared undesirable and receive a ban on re-entering South Africa until a certain period have lapsed.

    The duration that the person overstays, after their visa has expired, determines the duration of time that they will be banned from re-entering South Africa.

    • Overstay for less than 30 days: given undesirable status and a 12-month ban from re-entering South Africa.
    • Overstay for more than 30 days: given undesirable status and a 5-year ban from re-entering South Africa.

    Re-entry will only be granted once the ban has lapsed and a new visa has been obtained.

    Note: A declaration of undesirability and a ban on re-entry can be applied to anyone and everyone who overstays the valid period that they were allowed entry to South Africa that includes the dependents of students and researchers who study at UCT.

    Note: It could happen that when a student applies for a study visa and they are rejected, they are marked as having overstayed. This can be appealed, see question 18.

  • 20. What options do students have if they did not submit a visa renewal application timeously?

    Students are expected to apply for a new visa no later than 60 days before their current visa expires. In the case of short-stay visas, they should renew their visa no later than 30-days before their current visa expires.

    If the student/ researcher does not apply for their visa in good time, they should leave South Africa before their visa expires, otherwise they risk being declared 'undesirable'. Once they are back in their home country they can apply for a new visa. It is the responsibility of the student to keep their respective faculty office informed of their visa status and any plans to travel to renew their visa, especially if there will be any impacts on their academic status or their ability to take up their academic place at UCT.

  • 21. What are the consequences if a student/ researcher remains in South Africa after their visa has expired?

    If a student overstays the validity of their visa without applying for a renewal prior to 60-days of the expiration, they will need to immediately go to the nearest Home Affairs office to obtain a Form 23. This form will enable the student to apply for the Form 20, which is an application for concession from penalty for having overstayed on good grounds. If the student is approved for having overstayed on good grounds, they will receive the Form 20. Once they receive this form, they should apply for the visa renewal as soon as possible.

    Note: The DHA does not take kindly to overstays therefore, the transition from Form 23 to Form 20 (to receive concession from any penalty for overstay) can be protracted for several months. We cannot pre-register anyone using the Form 23 or Form 20. The student will be required to use the Form 20 to apply for a visa renewal and once successful, they should come to the International Office with their visa and all the other documents for pre-registration and we will then lift the block on their student record so that they can register for courses.

    Note: If the student choses to depart South Africa once they have overstayed and does not undertake the process to obtain the Form 23 and Form 20, they will be marked undesirable upon departure and banned from re-entering.

  • 22. Can the undesirability status be appealed?

    Yes. If someone is declared undesirable, they can appeal this status from within South Africa or once they return home.

    The following documents must be submitted:

    • Written motivation, documenting the reasons for the overstay and any supporting documents which will support the case for appeal
    • A copy of the declaration of undesirability (form 19) that was issued at the port of entry
    • Copy of the passport bio page and visa
    • VFS receipt confirming their visa renewal application. This applies in cases where the applicant has applied to renew their visa and the status is still pending at the time of their departure from South Africa and their current visa has also expired.
    • If the applicant overstayed due to medical reasons a medical certificated must be submitted.

    The abovementioned documents must be sent to: 
    For confirmation that the appeal has been received applicants may contact the IMS Deportations at 012 406 4985.

    Note: The application for appeal cannot be made by a third party and neither can a third party follow up on any application for appeal. This means that the International Office and the faculty offices (also a parent or relative) cannot appeal on behalf of a student or researcher who is marked undesirable, they would need to make the appeal directly.

  • 23. Can an international student attend classes if they have not yet pre-registered and registered?

    All students are subject to the General Rules & Policies of the university (see Handbook 3 in the series). If anyone is not a registered student of the university, they should not be allowed access to University facilities. Access to classes and University facilities will be at the discretion of the faculty office through which the student is completing their courses.

  • 24. If international students arrive late due to delays in receiving their visa outcome, are the faculty offices obliged to permit late registration?

    Faculty Offices are guided by the university-wide late registration dates. Students can appeal to the Dean of Faculty for permission to register up to one week after the published date for academic registration. The Dean (or nominee) will consider the documents submitted in support of the appeal for late registration and will exercise their discretion in authorising late registration, depending on the level of study and degree programme being registered for.

  • 25. What happens when a student has been excluded and still has a valid study visa?

    When a student is excluded from their programme of study, the study visa for that student immediately becomes null and void. The International Office has a responsibility to report to the DHA according to the following terms:

    • Provide proof of registration as contemplated in the relevant legislation within 60 days of registration; or
    • In the event of failure to register by the closing date, provide the Director-General with a notification of failure to register within 7 days of the closing date of registration;
    • Within 30 days of de-registration, notify the Director-General that the applicant is no longer registered with the University of Cape Town; and
    • Within 30 days of completion of studies, notify the Director General when the applicant has completed his or her studies or requires to extend such period of study.
  • 26. Can an international student work while on a study visa?

    Yes. Students on a study visa can work up to 20-hours per week.

  • 27. What is an Asylum seeker?

    This is a person who has fled his or her country of origin and is seeking recognition and protection as a refugee in the Republic of South Africa, and whose application is still under consideration. In case of a negative decision on their application, they will need to leave the country voluntarily or face deportation.

  • 28. What is a Refugee?

    This is someone who has been granted asylum status and protection in terms of the section 24 of Refugee Act No 130 of 1998. Under the 1951 United Nations Convention, a refugee can be a “convention refugee” who has left their home country and has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or a membership in a particular social group.

  • 29. What is an 'Undesirable' status?

    Updated on 22/12/2021

    According to South African Immigration Act, a foreigner may, therefore, be declared undesirable by the Director-General of Home Affairs if he or she has overstayed his or her South Africa visa. Regulation 27(3) stipulates that a person who overstays after the expiry of his or her visa will be declared as 'undesirable'.


  • 1. Are postdoctoral research fellows required to have medical aid from a South Africa medical aid scheme?

    According to the Immigration regulations, if the postdoctoral research fellow is on a study visa, they will be expected to obtain medical aid cover from a South African medical aid scheme. If they are on any other visa, it is highly recommended that they obtain medical aid cover.