Visitors and Transit Visas

South African nationals are required to apply for a tourist / visitors visa prior to travelling to the UK.

Standard Visitor visa

You can apply for a Standard Visitor visa if you want to visit the UK:

  • for leisure, eg on holiday or to see your family and friends
  • for business, or to take part in sports or creative events
  • for another reason, eg to receive private medical treatment

The Standard Visitor visa has replaced the:

  • Family Visitor visa
  • General Visitor visa
  • Child Visitor visa
  • Business Visitor visa, including visas for academics, doctors and dentists
  • Sports Visitor visa
  • Entertainer Visitor visa
  • Prospective Entrepreneur visa
  • Private Medical Treatment Visitor visa
  • Approved Destination Status (ADS) visa

If you visit the UK on business

You can apply for a Standard Visitor visa if you want to visit the UK for business-related activities, eg:

  • you’re coming to the UK for a conference, meeting or training
  • you want to take part in a specific sports-related event
  • you’re an artist, entertainer or musician and coming to the UK to perform
  • you’re an academic and are doing research or accompanying students on a study abroad programme
  • you’re a doctor or dentist and are coming to the UK to take a clinical attachment or observer post
  • you want to take the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board (PLAB) test or sit the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE)
  • you want to get funding to start, take over, join or run a business in the UK

What you can and can’t do

You can:

  • take part in any of the business-related activities mentioned in the Visitor Rules.
  • study for up to 30 days, as long as it’s not the main reason for your visit
  • take part in an exchange programme or educational visit (if you’re under 18)
  • convert your civil partnership into a marriage

You can’t:

  • do paid or unpaid work
  • live in the UK for long periods of time through frequent visits
  • get public funds
  • marry or register a civil partnership, or give notice of marriage or civil partnership

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Permitted Paid Engagement visa

You may be able to get a Permitted Paid Engagement visa if you’ve been invited to the UK as an expert in your profession.

You can apply for a Permitted Paid Engagement visa if you:

  • are invited by a UK-based organisation or client
  • want to come to the UK to do specific paid work without having to be sponsored under the points-based visa system

You can stay in the UK for up to 1 month.

You can be invited by a UK-based organisation or client to:

  • be a student examiner or assessor
  • take part in selection panels as a highly qualified academic if you’re invited by an education, arts or research organisation
  • give lectures at a higher education institution, as long as it’s not a part-time or full-time role
  • examine UK-based pilots so they meet the standards of the country you come from if you’re invited by an approved UK training organisation regulated by the UK Civil Aviation Authority
  • provide advocacy in a particular area of law
  • take part in arts, entertainment or sporting activities including broadcasting
  • take part in fashion modelling assignments

You can also do minor activities related to your work or business overseas, eg attend meetings.

You can’t:

  • do specific paid work unrelated to your main job or area of expertise at home or sell merchandise, other than what’s allowed by your visa
  • extend this visa or switch to another visa
  • live in the UK for extended periods
  • get public funds
  • study for more than 30 days – studying can’t be the main reason for your visit
  • marry or register a civil partnership, or give notice of marriage or civil partnership
  • bring family members (‘dependants’) with you on your application – they must apply separately

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Standard Visitor – Sport

Sportsperson, amateurs and professionals, going to the UK to take part as an individual or as a team in a specific event or tournament or to attend trials. This visa is also for officials or technical support staff of this amateur or professional sportsperson/s.

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Marriage Visitor visa

You must apply for a Marriage Visitor visa if:

  • you want to get married or register a civil partnership in the UK
  • you want to give notice of a marriage or civil partnership in UK
  • you’re not planning to stay or settle in the UK after your marriage or civil partnership

You don’t need a Marriage Visitor visa to convert your civil partnership into a marriage – you can apply for a Standard Visitor visa.

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Transit Visas

South African nationals are required to have a transit visa to transit/connect in the UK but there are certain exemptions to the rule.  One such an example is:

  • You may be able to transit the UK airside without a visa. To qualify for this exemption:
  • you must arrive and depart by air; and
  • your onward flight must be confirmed, and must depart within 24 hours; and
  • you have proper documentation for your destination, including a visa if necessary.

Additionally, you must hold:

1) a valid entry visa for Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the USA, and a valid airline ticket for travel via the UK, as part of a journey to or from one of those countries;

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