South Africans are paying more and more for visas when they want to travel, and the United Kingdom and the United States often refuse to grant visas. According to, almost half of South Africans are considering visiting countries that do not have visa requirements or who issue visas on arrival.

Reasons for refusing visas

According to an opinion poll, the reasons given for refusing visas include that applicants do not make the reason for their visit clear enough, that they do not have sufficient funds to support their visit, that they do not have a proper itinerary or that they have an irregular visa or travel history.

The US now even requires applicants to provide their social media usernames and old email addresses and cell phone numbers. Decision makers may decide not to grant a visa based on your posts on social media. Applicants do not always know why their applications were rejected because decision makers are not required to disclose the reasons.

Cost of visas

The time it takes to issue visas is not fixed, and the lengthy visa process has cost many South Africans dearly. In the same study, 22% of South African passport holders indicated they had to postpone their travel, 17% lost money in the process, 10% had to cancel their trip and 6% missed their flights.

The vague visa guidelines are even more frustrating for South Africans than the lengthy application process, lack of payment options and vast distances that many of those who live in rural areas have to travel to major cities.

Tips for visa applications

You can never be sure how long it will take to get your visa; some applicants get theirs within a week and others wait for up to six weeks. According to Travelstart’s report, many local tour agencies have been waiting for up to six months to get an appointment with the US Consulate. However, the process is improving, and most people get their visas on time. About 31% indicated that they received the results of their visa application within two weeks and a further 28% within a week. However, keep in mind that you can wait between two and four weeks for a visa for the UK or Schengen countries.

Book direct flights if possible. It is more expensive but can prevent the challenges of transit visas.

Here are some tips to ease the visa application process:

  • Apply for your visa as soon as possible.
  • Make sure your passport is valid for at least three months after the date you plan to return.
  • Outline your itinerary and thoroughly describe the reason for your visit.
  • When you submit your documents, ask when you can expect feedback so that you know when to follow up.
  • Make sure your social media pages are clean and without any weird posts just like when you apply for work.

Although some countries’ visa application processes are becoming more stringent and expensive, only 4% of South African applications are being rejected. If you feel up to the forms, appointments and costs, you are still rewarded by being able to see the world! If this is too much for you, then just vacation in countries that make it easy for South Africans.

Countries that South Africans can visit without visas

According to the Henley Passport Index, there are 99 countries that South Africans can visit without a visa or with a visa issued on arrival. Here are our top 18 countries to consider (*visa issued upon arrival):

  • Thailand
  • Singapore
  • Sri Lanka*
  • Maldives*
  • Hong Kong
  • Indonesia
  • Ireland
  • Fiji
  • Mauritius
  • Bahamas
  • Brasilia
  • Peru
  • Argentina
  • Panama
  • Israel
  • Georgia
  • Botswana
  • Seychelle*

South African passport holders’ access to the world is improving. But for now, we must get used to long processes and lots of paperwork!

This post is also available in: Afrikaans


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