Visas 101: Everything you need to know about applying for a tourist visa
2018-04-11 – Tourism Update
As a South African with only a Green Mumba passport, you quickly realise that to visit many international destinations you have to go through the admin and documentation nightmare of applying for a visa.
Don’t worry, here’s your How To, basic guide to keep it simple and get your stared on your visa application.
And if it all gets too much, check out our map below of the many visa free countries us Saffa’s can enjoy. As of 1 April 20178 South African citizens had visa-free or visa on arrival access to 99 countries and territories.
Visa applications general requirements
Different consulates require varying documents, so please view the documents need for your application with the consulate you will be applying to and rather be over-prepared than underprepared. Examples of documents usually required are:
Passports & Visa photos
You will need your passport and a copy of it for your visa application. Check the current validity of your passport and ensure that the expiry date is at least 3 months after your return travel date and has a minimum of 2 or 3 blank pages left, for stamps upon your arrival and departure.
For your visa application passport photos, you will generally need two photos. Check the specific destination size and image requirements – eg: ears showing, not smiling, 50mm x 50mm etc.
Proof of funds & bookings
You need to prove, in most visa applications, that you have sufficient funds to support yourself while travelling. The exact monetary requirements differ from one country to another but you will in all cases need to supply 3 months’ worth of bank certified and stamped statements showing your available funds. Skip the bank queue though and get these certified statements direct. Capitec Banking App offers this feature to all clients and allows you to email your certified statements.
On most visa applications you will also have to indicate that you have accommodation and flights booked and some form of itinerary for your trip. The only consulate who does not require this is the USA, who suggests ‘applicants should obtain a visa before purchasing tickets or making irrevocable travel plans.’
You need to provide a copy of your return airfare tickets and also a confirmation of the address of your accommodation. There are two different ways to prove this depending on your accommodation type:
• If you are staying at the home or residence of a friend / family member, they need to send a letter with their address and their ID or Passport number and signature. It can be typed or hand written.
• If you are staying at a hotel, B&B etc, you can fill in the details in the section provided in the tourist visa form.
Other documents usually required
• Signed and completed tourist visa application form – these can be found on each consulates website for download on online submission.
• A letter from your employer stating that you are taking leave and that you will be returning to work after you return from your holiday.
• Letter from your health insurance company/ travel insurance documentation
These are just a few documents required and there may be more. Please read the visa requirements on your travel destinations applicable consulate website.
When should I apply for a visa?
There is no fixed answer to this particular question due to different time-frame policies of the embassies/consulates. However, it is recommended that you apply for a visa around six weeks to 60 days prior to your departure. Processing a visa can take anywhere from 3 days up to 21 days, depending on a variety of factors, so plan ahead and get your visa done in time. Applicants are free to apply up to 90 days prior to their date of travel.
Where do I apply?
This again varies from consulate to consulate. Most allow you to make the application online and then book your visa application appointment at your nearest consulate or affiliated visa processing company. For your appointment you will be required to submit biometric information (photographs and fingerprints). Your application will then be sent to the relevant embassy/consulate for processing.
Shengen visas can be the trickiest for some travellers as this visa covers 26 European countries. The rule of thumb is if you are visiting several Schengen Areas, you need to apply to the consulate of the member state where you first enter; or the member state where you will be staying the longest. For example: If you are travelling to Holland for 7 days and then France for 15 days, you would need to apply at the French Consulate for your Schengen Visa. However, if you were staying in Holland for 7 days and then going to France for 7 days, you would apply where you first landed and stayed, in this case the Dutch Consulate.
Non-refundable application fees
Keep in mind that if your visa application is unsuccessful, you won’t be refunded your application fee, so read the requirements carefully and submit everything needed the first time.
Don’t let a complicated list of documents prevent you from getting your visa. Keep it simple and work though the requirement.