Kim in line at VFS office to extend her tourist visa
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This guide to how to Extend Your South Africa Tourist Visa is a bonus section of our 5-part Cape Town Upside Down Series.

Tilt the Odds in Your Favor

Based on all the contradictory online reports about how to extend your South Africa tourist visa, it seems like a crapshoot whether applications get accepted, rejection, or something in between.

Kim and I don’t like crapshoots.

We can’t afford to gamble either, so we went to the Visa Facilitation Services (VFS)* offices to get some answers.

Amazingly, we got some!

A surprisingly honest and helpful VFS agent assured us that if we follow the steps he advised, our South Africa tourist visa extension application would be accepted.

Guaranteed. No crapshoot!

And guess what. It worked! We just got approved for an extra 90 days!

Here are the exact steps we followed. Nothing is ever 100% certain, but these tips for how to extend your South Africa visitors permit should at least tilt the odds heavily in your favor.

*VFS is the company to which the South African Department of Homeland Affairs (DHA) outsourced the visa extension process.

MOST IMPORTANT: Don’t Extend Your Visa Too Soon!

The official word from the Department of Homeland Affairs (DHA)—and VFS too—is that you have to apply to extend your South Africa tourist visa within your first 30 days of arriving in the country.

Ignore it.

Do the opposite.

Wait until your visa is about to expire before applying for an extension to ensure you get a full 180 days.

Our insider VFS agent told us that DHA agents who receive applications tend to extend visa 90 days from the extension date, not the expiry date. So if they receive your application a month before your initial 90-day visa expires, your newly extended visa will expire a month sooner than the 180 days you had hoped for.

Not ideal.

To avoid this, the VFS staffer told us to wait until the last month of our current travel visa before applying for our 90-day extension.

13 Steps to Extend Your South Africa Tourist Visa

1. Go to the VFS online application page

2. Fill out the form and click “Submit”

As shown in the screenshot below select “Temporary Residence Visa,” “TRV – Renewal Visa,” “Visitors Visa Section 11(1),” and the city you’d like to apply in.

Screenshot of online South Africa tourist visa extension

3. Create your account

Follow the steps by providing your email, confirming it, then setting a password.

4. Fill out the fields in the “Particulars of applicant” and “Visa details” tabs

passport info screenshot
more application info screenshot
South Africa passport stamp screenshot
Get the info for the “Visa Details” tab from your passport stamps.
  • Get the entry and expiry dates from the stamps on your passport.
  • For “Visa No.”, use the little number under the date on your entry stamp.
  • You can’t leave the “Details of any subsequent visa issued to you, or the most recent thereof” section blank, so in those fields input the same data as in the preceding “Visa details section.”

5. In the “Overview” tab click “Submit’

You’ll be warned that once you click “Submit” you can no longer change the information.

If you make a mistake, though, it’s not the end of the world. Just log in again (here) and create a new application—i.e. repeat Step 4—under your same account.

6. Add applicants as necessary

If you are traveling with friends or family members, click “Add Applicant” in the summary screen (the one shown under Step 7 below).

You’ll have to repeat Step 4 for each new applicant, but then you can pay and schedule your appointments together.

7. Pay R1,775 per person

Schedule visa screen

You can’t schedule an appointment until you pay and you can pay with a credit card.

Save and print the payment confirmation that you will receive via email. You’ll need it for your appointment.

8. Schedule Your Appointment


As you can see from the screenshot above availability was not an issue in our case.

Important tip: Pick an appointment as early in the day as possible because the later your appointment is, the bigger the likelihood there will be a backlog ahead of you.

9. Save the Appointment Letter and Application forms

Click the “Appointment Letter” and “Download Form and Checklist” links to open and print these documents for your appointment.

10. Print off all 9 items in this checklist

Each person applying to extend their visitors permit needs items 2-9 separately. For example, if you paid for two applications at the same time you’ll need two copies of that receipt, one for each person’s application.

  1. Your appointment letter
    • From Step 9. You should get it in your email too. It’s password-protected with your login password from Step 3.
  2. Application form
    • From Step 9 or log in and, in the table you’ll see on your screen, click the “Print” link
  3. Proof of payment of the 1,775 rands each
    • The email receipt you’ll receive if you pay with a credit card.
  4. 3 months of bank statements
    • They just want to see the totals. You don’t need to print all the transactions.
  5. Letter of why you want to extend
    • The VFS staffer we talked to told us to keep it very brief.
    • Here is exactly what we wrote:
      • To Whom it May Concern, We wish to extend our visitors permits in order to remain in South Africa until April 30, 2019 because we would like to have more time to visit more parts of your country while it is summer here and winter where we are from (Canada). Thank you for welcoming us in your amazing country! Best Regards, Kim and Chris
  6. Letter to apologize for not submitting within 30 days of arrival in South Africa
    • Again, keep it short.
    • Here’s exactly what we wrote:
      • We apologize for our delay in submitting our application to renew our Visitors Permit, which we should have submitted before December, in other words within 30 days of our arrival in South Africa on November 1, 2018. During the time we should have extended our permit, we were doing a road trip across the country and by the time we returned to Cape Town, the offices were closed for the holidays. We sincerely apologize for our transgression and request you please be understanding of our situation.
  7. Return flight ticket
    • If you don’t have one yet, buy a ticket on Expedia, save the ticket, then cancel it within 24 hours for a full refund. Visatraveler.com has complete instructions.
  8. Copy of your passport bio page
    • Ensure it doesn’t expire before the date you’re extending to.
  9. Copy of your passport stamp

11. Go to your appointment to submit your application

Kim waiting to submit her application to extend her South African travel visa
  • Here are the addresses of the VFS office locations across South Africa
  • You don’t have to be right on time, but don’t be too late. Our 12:45 appointment started about 20 minutes later than scheduled.
  • Count on it to take just over an hour in total to go through the three steps of the appointment:
    1. Quality control: An agent checks your documents are in order
    2. Submission: Another agent officially submits your visitor permit extension application
    3. Biometrics: They take your photo and fingerprints
  • Keep your application receipt in your passport. You’ll need it when you return to pick up your visa (Step 13).

12. Wait

This is the horrible overflow waiting room at the VFS offices.

The VFS agent and website told us to expect to wait 8 to 10 weeks to get the final word on whether our visa extension application would be accepted or not, but in our case it took only 3 weeks.

Over that period, we received seven automated emails from VFS updating us on the status of our applications.

Screenshot of the 7 emails we got from VFS while awaiting word on whether our South Africa visa extension application would be approved.
The emails we got from VFS. As you can see, it only took 3 weeks.
The final email telling us the response to our application from the VFS office was ready for us to come pick up.

13. Pick up the verdict

Waiting (im-)patiently for our number to be called.

The emails you get don’t tell you whether your application was accepted or not, so the journey to the VFS office to get the verdict is a nervous one.

Don’t make it worse by having to wait forever. Get to the VFS as early as possible to avoid huge lines. Also, make sure you have your receipt from Step 11 or you won’t be allowed upstairs.

In Cape Town, pickups start at 10 a.m., so we came at 9:45 and were fifteenth in line. For some reason, the agents didn’t actually show up until 10:40. From then, we waited another 50 minutes until our number was called, so altogether we waited for 1h45min.

It was worth it, though, because we got the good news that our visa extension application was accepted!

The agent stuck the extension approval to our passports and we were free to leave and enjoy South Africa for a full 180 days.

By the time we left the VFS offices, the waiting list to pick up was at least sixty people deep. Like we said, go early.

Cape Town Tip:

For a pick-me-up, a celebration, or just to kill time, stop by a cafe/restaurant called Brownies and Downies. It’s just around the corner from the VFS offices and one of our picks for the 23 Best Cape Town Restaurants for 23 Unique Occasions.

Important Things to Know

What if my initial 90-day visa expires while I’m waiting on the response to my application?

According to the VFS staffer (and also this helpful account), your tourist visa extension application receipt from Step 11 counts as a temporary visa extension.

The only downside of this is you can’t leave and re-enter South Africa during this period, so if you want your full 180 days in South Africa but also want to explore neighboring countries, don’t plan on doing any international travel during the 8-10 weeks it can take for the DHA to receive and respond to your tourist visa extension.

Can I just do a visa run instead?

There is no official word on whether, or in what circumstances, you can get a fresh 90-day visa by leaving South Africa and returning again.

First, it depends on the South Africa immigration agent at the border crossing you’ll be doing your visa run to. Some will be lax and give you the 90 days. Others may only give you a couple of days or not allow you back in at all.

Second, it depends on which country you go to. If you travel to a non-neighboring country, you’re more likely to get another 90 days. For example, the lady in this forum did so by going to Mauritius. And if you go outside of Africa for your visa run you’re just about guaranteed to get a new 90 days.

What happens if I don’t bother with all this mess, and overstay my visa?

You’ll be declared an “undesirable person” and banned from returning to South Africa for anywhere from 1 year (if you overstay for 30 days or less) to 5 years (if you overstay for more than 30 days).

I’m from [whatever country]. How many days can I stay in South Africa without needing to extend my tourist visa?

Some nationalities only get a 30-day tourist visa upon arrival. Check the official DHA site.

You didn’t answer my question. Now what?

Ask us in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer and update the post accordingly.

What to Do While You’re Waiting…
(Or Once You’re Extended!)

Hiking Noordhoek overlooking Hout Bay
Get the most out of your precious time in South Africa!

Kim and I only moonlight as pro-bono immigration advisors.

Our real “job” is to share ideas for extraordinary experiences that will hopefully help you escape the ordinary.

Here’s what we’ve shared about South Africa:

Idiot’s Guide to Visiting Cape Town

Unearthing the Garden Route

Namibia Dusty-Nation Guide

Tips and Tricks for An Epic South Africa Road Trip

10 Unique and Unforgettable Wine Tastings in South Africa


Disclosure: Whenever possible, we use special links that earn us a cut if you pay for stuff we'd recommend anyway. It costs you nothing, so we’d be crazy not to.

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25 comments

  1. Thank you so much for this! Do you know if applying for this jeopardizes your chances of getting another 90 days in the future? For example, if I apply for the extension and get the maximum of 180 days. Then I return to my home country (USA), if I decide to come back to SA this year, will there be an issue getting the 90 day tourist stamp again?

    1. Good question Cathy. I tried getting an answer because I may want to do the same thing, but couldn’t find an answer. The DHA site is currently down and their phone number doesn’t work either, so I emailed them. If and when they get back to me, I’ll share their answer here.

  2. Hi there,

    Thanks so much for your tutorial! 🙂
    Question. Do I understand correctly that it’s recommendable to plan your appointment (step 11) close to the expiry date of your initial 90 days permit, since the receipt you get can be used as a temporary visa until you get an official approval of your extension? In other words, as long as you manage to make an appointment before the expiry date, you’re good?

    Best regards
    Sarah

    1. Hi Sarah, Yes, correct. You don’t have to push it to the very last day, though. The agent we talked to recommended we do it towards the beginning of our third month. We didn’t ask why not even later, like you say, but maybe pushing it like that puts you at risk of annoying a DHA agent for really flouting their “rule” that you apply for extension within 60 days before expiry. I’m just speculating, though.

      1. Thanks for taking the time to advise!
        I will do just that. If all fails then the only risk is an overstay of a month, resulting in a one year ban which I will survive I guess.

        Happy travels!
        Sarah

  3. Wow, this definitely helps us in applying for an extension!
    Just 2 small questions:
    1. If you apply within 30 days, I assume you don’t need such apology letter?
    2. Is it correct that you will have your passport whilst waiting for 8-10 weeks on the DHA? Or do you have to hand it in during this period?

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Emily,
      1. Yeah, no need to apologize if you don’t break their rule.
      2. They only take a photocopy of your passport, not the passport itself.
      Hopefully your extension goes as well as ours did. Enjoy SA.

  4. Thanks for the information

    I have been waiting for outcome of my wife visa extension application . It’s been exact 2 months from application submitted at VFS. Now we need to leave in a month as my visa is expiring.What options could we exercise for my wife s visa as the same is expired now I.e. 90 days

    1. Hi Pardeep, They tell you it can take up to 10 weeks before you hear back, so I suspect you’ll hear back on your wife’s application within the next two weeks. You or she have been getting the emails tracking her application’s progress, no? If 10 weeks pass and you don’t hear anything, definitely contact VFS.

  5. Hi! I have a problem that is slightly different than the one treated above. Nevertheless, I hope you can help me out! I will be going to South Africa in a few weeks in order to study in Pretoria for one semester. However, I would like to extend my stay in South Africa with two months after I have finished my semester. In other words, I would like to change my study visa into a tourist visa. Do you maybe know what is the best way to handle this? Can I for example go to another non-neighboring country and return after a few days and get a tourist visa? Or should I try to apply for a tourist visa while I am in South Africa under my study visa?
    (Btw, I have a Dutch passport)
    I hope you can help me out!

    1. Hey Jannie, Sorry, I have no idea. Ask the immigration agent when you get in. They’ll probably know. Who knows, maybe they can extend your visa then and there (…ok probably not, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.) Speaking of ask, if you find the right person at your school in Pretoria I’m sure they know. And when you get the answer, please share it here for future readers in similar situations.

  6. Hey guys!

    Thanks a lot for this helpful step-by-step plan, really helpful!

    I was wondering if you do the application on the beginning of your third month and you only get the outcome 7 weeks later, you are good with this temporarily visa extension permit if it get’s approved, but what happens if it is denied. How many days do you have then to still legally leave the country without being banned?

    Thanks again for the info!

    1. Good question, Gust. When we picked up our extensions at VFS, the guy in front of us got denied. Poor guy. I overheard the VFS agent tell him he had 7 days to leave the country. I’d take 7 days as a best-case scenario, though.

  7. Hi there!

    Thank you so much for this helpful guide!

    I’m also travelling from Canada and applying for the visa renewal later than the 30-day window (I decided I wanted to stay longer to explore more of SA quite late). Regarding the apology letter, I was wondering if there were any “unacceptable” (or other acceptable) reasons for the late application that you know of.

    Thanks again for all your help?

    1. Hey Justine. The DHA says you “must” apply within the 30-day window and doesn’t list any acceptable excuses. Your is a good one though. “Sorry for not applying earlier. I thought I was going elsewhere but there’s so much more to see here in SA that I’m scratching those plans and staying here. Please let me stay.”

  8. Hi Guys,

    Quick question, I was in SA for 2,5 weeks in April/May. When I returned in June the guy at Border Control told me I can only stay till July 28, 2019. I didn’t get a new 90 days visa, so I immediately applied for a extension. I only need an extension till August 20, what if I haven’t heard back from VFS before my flight back? Can I just leave and show them the receipt?

    Regards,

    Niels

    1. Hi Niels, I don’t know the answer. If you want to be sure not to be banned from returning for a year or more, you should probably follow up sometime in early/mid July. Fingers crossed that you’ll get your approval before then, though.

  9. Hi Guys,my uncle is visiting South Africa and suddenly got sick and had to go for surgery.how do i apply for extension without him been present

    1. Hi Claudia. Oof, I’m sorry to hear about your uncle. Terrible. And I’m sorry that I don’t have a good answer for you. All I can suggest is A) Go to the VFS office and ask on his behalf and B) Consider not extending? If your uncle doesn’t extend, he’ll be banned from returning for a while, but if it’s a one-time trip to SA maybe that’s not a big deal. I’d like to think the South African embassy back at his country might even have some leniency given his situation. All the best to you and your uncle.

  10. Hi, thanks for the information. I don’t like crapshoots either, so this is encouraging! You may or may not have insight into this question, but I’m preparing to head out to South Africa and hoping to get the extension and be there 6 months. Regarding flights, do I basically have to book my return date for within the original 90 days, even though I hope to extend and would have to change that? I’m worried that if my round trip is outside the bounds of the initial 90 days I might get into trouble at the airport, but I’d love to avoid the fees in changing it.

    1. Hi Ryann, nobody asked us for departure flights when we arrived in Cape Town. We didn’t have any in any case. We just told them we’re visiting for three months. Worst case scenario, they force you to get a flight and you get something on Expedia that you can cancel for free within 24 hours.

  11. Hi guys hope I can get clear advice what can I do
    I’ve been applying my visa xtension last July 03,2019
    and I feel worry if I get my xtension or not my departure is on July 24,2019
    my application is still at DHA as used to track thank you so much

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