This page caters for leisure based visits to the United Kingdom. South Africans look to tour or visit England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. This page also caters for South Africans looking to visit their family and friends in the UK (and visit the UK for leisure purposes).


If you would like to find out more about UK visa basics of understanding, we have put the content together to answer the following questions:

Do I need a visa?
What is the difference between a visa and a passport?
How do UK visas work?

Details regarding South Africans asking permission to visit the UK (for leisure purposes) are listed below. If applicants however are looking to visit the UK (for business related purposes), please take a look at our “business visitor visas explained” page.

If your intent to visit the UK falls outside the motive to leisurely visit, we have also put together a unique visa page. To help create awareness of visas that are available.

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Visitor Visa Conditions

UK’s visitor visa start date timing:

The ECO (Entry Clearance Official)’s in Pretoria issue permission for a minimum set period of 6 months. This permission is granted with set start and set end date.
This means that whether you are going to visit the UK for 48 hours or if you are visiting the UK for 3 weeks, the British government are going to give a minimum permission to enter the country for a set 6 month period.
This permission is granted with a set start date and a set expiry date.

With the above set dates in mind, it is important to note the timing of a visa submission (which is the timing when an applicant can apply for a visa) needs to be within 3 months of the applicants expected departure date.

The reason for this 3 month requirement is simple. The ECO has so many factors to take into consideration in each visa application. The last thing they are concerned about is the timing of the applicants departure date. Therefore, once the ECO has seen that their security requirements are met and that the applicant will most likely honour the visa conditions, they simply want to award the visa.

What happens in reality is that the ECO’s make the set start date of the visa to be the date that they award the visa. This impacts applicants who apply more than 3 months before their departure date. Hence the ECO’s insist that South African apply within 3 months before departure date.

UK’s visitor visas Permitted activities:

UK’s standard visitor visa makes provision for:

– South Africans looking to visit the UK (England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales) for tourism and leisure purposes.
– South Africans are permitted to have their travels financed by third parties (friends, family and even SA based employers). Flights, accommodation and spending money is permitted to be given for leisure travel purposes (within reason).
– South Africans are permitted to collect prize money with this standard visitor visa.

o This in turn means that South Africans are permitted to partake in competitions whilst in the UK. There are other special types of visitor visas available for sportsman though.

– South Africans are permitted to partake in a short course (maximum 30 days) in the UK. This is subject to the course not being their main reason for visiting the UK. There are other visas available for courses longer than 30 days.

Not permitted with this standard visitor visa:

– South Africans are not permitted to work (paid or unpaid) in the UK.

o This includes taking employment in the UK (working for a UK employer) – full time or part time.
o Also includes work placement or internship in the UK (not permitted).
o South Africans are not permitted to directly sell to the UK public under this visitor visa.
o South Africans are not permitted to provide goods or services with this visitor visa.

– South Africans are not permitted to change visa status whilst in the UK (from visitor status).

o Therefore, South Africans are permitted to apply for visitor visas and once in the UK (with visitor status), they are not permitted to change status to other visa categories (whilst in the UK). South Africans are expected to return to SA to change their visa status. This serves to stop South Africans from trying to compromise the visitor visa system.

– South Africans are not permitted to marry (or register a relationship) in the UK with this standard visitor visa. There are visas available for this though.
– South Africans are not permitted to live in the UK for long periods with this visitor visa status (longer than 180 days per annum). Maximum stay is therefore 180 days per year.
– South Africans are legally not permitted to request access to the UK public funds (to try claim welfare benefits) whilst in the UK with visitor status (standard visitor visa).

If South Africans are looking to work or live in the UK, we encourage them to complete our quick and easy visa assessment to see what options are available.

Apply Now

More details of the UK visitor visa, in terms of costs, processing times and permitted activities can be found on the following pages:

If you are not sure which visa best applies to your application, we encourage you to try our quick, easy and free visa assessment.

Alternatively get in contact with our team of friendly visa consultants.

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