Requirements for Students to Enter South Africa During the COVID Pandemic

Learn about the requirements that students must meet to enter South Africa during the COVID pandemic and enroll at a South African university

Students considering enrolling at a South African University for the coming academic year may be concerned about the restrictions to enter the country during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Nevertheless, other than the need to obtain a South Africa visa for Indian citizens in advance of travel, there are actually very few requirements they need to meet to gain entry to the country and start their course.


At present, South Africa is one of the few countries worldwide that does not specifically ban travelers who have recently been in India. All passengers arriving from India are able to enter South Africa as long as they arrive at one of 5 approved airports:


  • Cape Town (CPT)
  • Durban (DUR)
  • Nelspruit (MQP)
  • Johannesburg: Lanseria International (HLA)
  • Tambo International (JNB)


It is also necessary for Indian travelers to have a negative COVID-19 PCR test result to gain entry to the country. The test must have been taken a  maximum of 72 hours before departure from the passenger’s first embarkation point.


While it is not necessary to take a COVID test or to quarantine on arrival, passengers are subject to medical screening at the point of entry. They are also required to complete a “Traveller Health Questionnaire” upon arrival.


Other than the need to meet these sparse COVID-19 requirements, it will only be necessary to have a valid passport containing at least 2 blank pages to receive entry stamps on arrival. And of course, an approved visa for South Africa.


If the student is only planning to enroll in a short course that lasts no more than 3 months, then they are able to apply for a South African visa online through a simple electronic application. However, if their intention is to enroll in a full study program at a university, then they will need to apply for a student visa from the nearest South African embassy or consulate in India.


In order to submit a student visa application, it is first necessary to have received a letter of acceptance from a South African university. This document must then be supplied to a South African consular official alongside the following:

  • A completed BI-1738 (temporary residence permit) application form
  • An Indian passport valid for at least 1 month after the student’s course ends
  • Evidence of sufficient funds, such as bank statements, to cover tuition fees and estimated living expenses for the full duration of the study program
  • Proof of medical insurance cover for the entire period of study
  • A cash deposit to cover return flight tickets
  • Medical and radiology reports
  • A yellow fever vaccination certificate
  • A police clearance certificate from each country in which the applicant has been resident for 12 months or longer since the age of 18

Minors under the age of 18 must also supply a birth certificate and consent from both parents for the trip. Parents with sole custody of the child must supply proof of this. It is also necessary to supply the details of the person in South Africa who will act as the child’s guardian during their stay.

Once all of these requirements have been met, it will be necessary to pay the student visa processing fee before the request can be submitted. As it can take between 6 and 8 weeks for the visa to be processed and approved, students are advised to begin the application process as soon as they receive their acceptance letter.

The validity period of the approved student visa varies on the duration of the course the student enrolls in, whether at a higher education situation (a maximum of 4 years), high school (a maximum of 5 years), or a primary school (a maximum of 8 years).

If the visa holder decides to extend their study period, they are required to renew their visa or apply for a new one in order to avoid overstaying on an expired document, which can incur consequences such as a 5-year travel ban from South Africa.

Holders of a student visa holder over the age of 18 are also legally permitted to undertake part-time employment during their stay in South Africa, as long as they do not work more than 20 hours per week or during academic breaks.

South Africa is becoming an increasing population destination for Indian students looking to study abroad. Studying at a South African university is a more affordable option than undertaking a course in Australia, the United Kingdom, or the United States.


Nevertheless, the level of education remains incredibly high. The country is home to several renowned higher education institutions such as University of Johannesburg, and the

University of Cape Town, among many others, which boast world-class academics and instructional practices.


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