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Obtaining Volunteer Visitor Permit for South Africa

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Obtaining Volunteer Visitor Permit for South Africa


I have arranged to do some volunteer work with a university in South Africa December 2014 to March 2015. I contacted the SA High Commission in Canberra and was told they won't accept an application for a volunteer visitor permit for work starting in December until early September. BUT I leave for South Africa to start a tour through southern and eastern Africa on 18th September and the processing time for the permit is 21 days.

My travel itinerary:

Arrive in SA 19th September

Leave SA 23rd or 24th September for Namibia on a tour.

Return to SA on 30th November or 1st December (~73 days after first entering SA)

Start volunteer work ~3rd December

Finish volunteer work ~16th March

Depart SA for Sydney on 18th March (>90 days since BOTH arrival in, and returning to, SA).

What can I do?

Is it possible to apply for a volunteer visitor permit in December after I return to South Africa? If so, how?

But there is still a problem. When I return to South Africa in early December my return flight to Australia is >90 days later, so will I be denied entry without a pre-approved extension?

Should I apply for an extension before leaving Australia so I can re-enter the country, and then apply for a volunteer visitor permit in person in December?

I'm really hoping someone can help. The High Commission hasn't been helpful at all, basically just repeatedly telling me I need to apply in September.




Brisbane, Australia
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1. Re: Obtaining Volunteer Visitor Permit for South Africa

Hi Dean,

I am not familiar with the Volunteer permit. However I have been in a similar situation with an intra-company visa pending. I was given a receipt of submission of the visa which I showed at immigration and I was granted a 90 day visa. However I also happened to have a trip booked back to Australia within the 90 day period.

SA immigration has recently cracked down on Visa misuse and anyone found overstaying their visa will be deemed as undesirable and be banned from re-entering the country for periods of 1-5 years. As such I'd recommend finding an agent to help you. Which would most likely mean submitting the application when you first arrive in SA. Usually the agent can do this on your behalf, but you would need to surrender your passport for the application submission, it should be returned to you within a day or so, with the receipt of submission. This processing will take longer than doing so in Australia. The university may be able to recommend an agent for you to use.

But as a precaution I would look into changing your return to be within the 90 days on a flexible ticket. Its either that or delay your departure from Australia in order to secure the visa prior to departure.

Please note all of the above is based on my own experience, i'd highly recommend getting an agent/expert.

Port Elizabeth
Destination Expert
for South Africa
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6,235 posts
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2. Re: Obtaining Volunteer Visitor Permit for South Africa

Can you not apply for your visa while you are in Namibia, so that you have it when returning to the country at the end of November? Or do you have to do it in Australia?

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3. Re: Obtaining Volunteer Visitor Permit for South Africa

Thanks for the replies Andrew and lamlee, particularly for the gentle warning that SA is cracking down on visa use. I have also contacted the university and asked the same questions.

In the interim, I'm going to the High Commission in person tomorrow (a 6 hr return drive!) to try and sort it out. I now have a letter from the university that specifies I'll be working as a volunteer for the duration of my time in Africa (i.e. 19 Sept to 18 Mar). BUT BUT BUT I don't know if I'll be allowed to exit and re-enter SA on the visitor permit after a lengthy stay outside the country (~70 days).

I'll need my passport with me the whole time I'm travelling outside of SA (from Namibia I visit eight more countries!), so I don't have the option of applying within Africa after exiting SA.

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4. Re: Obtaining Volunteer Visitor Permit for South Africa

Hi Dean,

Hope the travels and the volunteering is going well, sounds amazing! I just found this post and I am in a similar situation and was wondering if you could offer me a bit of advice from your experience....

I am currently travelling in SA on a tourist visa which is valid until the end of May. However I have just been offered a 6 month volunteering position in SA starting from May 1st. For this I believe that I need to obtain a volunteer visa, so.....

1) How did you get your volunteer visa in the end? Did you manage to get it in SA or in Namibia?

2) When you returned to SA after your 73 day tour were you issued a new 90 visitors permit on reentry or were you allowed in to stay the remainder of the original visitors permit?

Any advice or information would be greatly appreciated



5. Re: Obtaining Volunteer Visitor Permit for South Africa

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