In this post you’ll find out how to apply for a UK visa from South Africa in 6 easy steps:
- STEP 1: how to get started with your UK visa application
- STEP 2: how to make an online UK visa application
- STEP 3: how to calculate the UK visa fees
- STEP 4: how to book an appointment at a visa application centre to enrol your biometric data
- STEP 5: how to find out UK visa processing time information
- STEP 6: how to book your travel to the UK
This information is provided by the Founder & CEO of Help with my visa! Gareth Richards, who has set up and ran UK visa application centres in 89 different countries and was personally responsible for setting up the UK visa application centres in South Africa.
STEP 1: How to get started with your UK visa application
You’ll need to do a number of things before you even start making your UK visa application.
The first thing may seem obvious but it’s surprising how often it’s overlooked, and that’s to define your travel purpose.
Why are you applying for a UK visa?
This dictates everything you do from now on, so it’s extremely important to define why you’re planning to travel to the UK.
After you’ve defined your purpose, you need to decide which UK visa is best for you.
And here you might have several options.
We have 3 resources you can use to help you decide which UK visa you need:
- Check out our What UK visa do I need? blog post to get a detailed view of every type of UK visa
- Use the Help with my visa! Signposting Tool to find out exactly how to get the right help preparing your UK visa application
- Book a Visa Consultation with a professional immigration advisor, who will answer all your questions and tell you exactly how to proceed
You’ll also need to check whether you need to take a Tuberculosis (TB) test for the type of visa you’re applying for.
Once you have all your supporting documents prepared and in order, you can start your online UK visa application.
STEP 2: How to make an online UK visa application
Virtually all UK visa applications are now made online.
You should only start filling your UK online visa application form once you’ve gathered and properly prepared all your supporting documents and have checked that you passport is valid for travel, otherwise you could waste a lot of time having to re-do the online application.
The UK online visa application form isn’t a ‘form’ as such, but rather a series of questions that you’ll be asked to complete.
It’s super important you know which type of UK visa you need as the information requested during the online application process differs depending upon which type of UK visa you’ve apply for.
And if you apply for the wrong UK visa type, you significantly increase the risk of a visa refusal.
So before you begin, make sure you’ve completed Step 1 above, then find a quiet space with a good internet connection to get started on your online UK visa application form.
Even with all your supporting documents and passport prepared in front of you it typically takes 1 hour or more to complete the UK visa application form.
When you start the form you’ll be asked to create an account – make sure you enter an email address that you have access to as you’ll need to verify your account before you can begin.
Filling out the online UK visa application form is relatively straightforward, but it just takes time. You’ll need your passport and other supporting documents with you to fill out the UK visa application form, including the dates you’ve been out of the country.
At the end of the form you’ll be given one last chance to review and amend any of the information you’ve entered.
DO NOT click the button to confirm unless you’re sure everything is correct as after this point you won’t be able to make any more changes. When you confirm, your online UK visa application form is sent directly to UKVI and the only way to change anything is to start a completely new visa application form.
STEP 3: How to calculate the UK visa fees
You’ll pay a number of different fees when making a UK visa application depending upon the choices you make and the type of visa you’re applying for.
All fees are paid online so as part of your preparations it’s worth checking with your bank or card issuer that your account is set up to make international payments and payments in GBP. Not all bank accounts and credit cards have this capability as standard so it’s good to check as this is a frequent issue for people applying for a UK visa from South Africa and other African countries.
Unfortunately you can’t pay the UK visa fees any other way than online, so if you don’t have a suitable payment card you should see what other options may be available to you, such as:
- asking a trusted friend or family member to make the online UK visa fee payment for you
- buying a pre-payment credit card that has international and foreign currency payment authorised
- using a UK-based immigration advisor to prepare your entire UK visa application who will accept a bank transfer from you and then make the online UK visa fee payment on your behalf
Here’s more details on the fees you’ll be asked to pay.
UK Visa Fees
UK visa fees are mandatory fees and differ depending upon:
- the type of UK visa application you’re making
- the duration of the visa
- whether you’re a lead applicant or a dependent
- other factors
It’s therefore not always easy to understand what the UK visa fees will be.
UKVI publishes all UK visa fees online and updates them frequently.
Here’s a quick overview of the current UK visa fees for the most common visa types:
- UK Visitor visa fees:
- UK Visitor visa <6 months: £95
- UK Visitor visa <2 years: £361
- UK Visitor visa <5 years: £655
- UK Visitor visa <10 years: £822
- UK Work visa fees:
- UK Skilled Worker visa fees: between £610 and £1,408
- UK Health and Care visa fees: £232
- UK Settlement Visa fees:
- UK Settlement visa fees: £1,523
- UK Settlement visa fees (other dependent relatives): £3,250
- UK Settlement visa fees (refugee dependent relative): £388
- UK Study visa fees:
- UK Study visa fees (>18 years old): £348
- UK Child Study visa fees: £348
Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS)
If you apply for a UK visa from South Africa that’s >6 months in duration and you intend to reside in the UK you may also be required to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS).
This charge is levied against visa nationals residing in the UK and goes towards healthcare provision on the NHS.
The IHS charge is £624 per year and is applied pro rata for the duration of your visa.
For example, if you’re issued with a 30-month Skilled Worker visa your IHS charge will be £624 x 2.5 years = £1,560.
You don’t need to pay the IHS charge if you’re applying for a UK Visitor visa or if you meet other criteria, such as if you’re applying for a UK Health and Care visa.
Priority Visa and Super Priority Visa Fees
UKVI offers two fast-track services to speed up the decision time when you apply for a UK visa from South Africa.
The Priority Visa service reduces the UK Visitor visa processing time to 5 working days, and also reduces the processing times for many residency-type visas from several months to 3 weeks.
The Super Priority Visa service is only available for a limited number of UK visa types and offers a next working day decision.
Priority Visa and Super Priority Visa fees aren’t cheap and the service standard is only guaranteed if there are no irregularities with your visa application:
- UK Priority Visa fees:
- UK Visitor visa: £212
- UK Settlement visa: £573
- UK Super Priority Visa fees: £956
You’ll be asked to select the Priority Visa or Super Priority Visa (if it’s available in your location) during your online application process. You’ll also pay the fees online at the same time you pay your visa fees.
There are 5 visa application centres in South Africa: Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Pretoria (currently temporarily closed) and Port Elizabeth.
All UK visa application centres in South Africa are free to use and don’t require any additional payments, unless you choose to use an added value service such as a Premium Lounge or Prime Time appointment.
STEP 4: How to book an appointment at a visa application centre
After you’ve submitted your online UK visa application form and paid the required fees, you’ll need to book an appointment at one of the 5 UK visa application centres in South Africa to enrol your biometric data.
Your UK visa application isn’t complete until you do this.
The UK visa application centres in South Africa are operated by a UKVI commercial partner, TLScontact, and are located in Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Port Elizabeth. Pretoria is currently temporarily closed and visa applicants are being asked to book appointments at Johannesburg instead.
Cape Town and Johannesburg are the largest UK visa application centres. Pretoria is an average size, while Durban and Port Elizabeth are somewhat smaller. You may wish to factor this in when deciding where to enrol your biometrics as you’re free to choose any location.
UK Visa Application Centre (Cape Town)
Upper Ground Floor, Media Quarter Building
Corner of De Smit Street and Somerset Road
UK Visa Application Centre (Durban)
430 Peter Mokaba Ridge, 3rd Floor
UK Visa Application Centre (Johannesburg)
2nd – 3rd Floor, 24 Central Building
Gwen Lane and Fredman Drive
UK Visa Application Centre (Port Elizabeth)
Ground Floor Building 66
Fairview Office Park
UK Visa Application Centre (Pretoria – currently closed)
1st Floor, Menlyn Corner
Growth Point Building
Corner of Lois/Atterbury Road (Opposite to Menlyn Park Shopping Centre)
To book an appointment, click the link on the UKVI website after you’ve submitted your UK visa application form and you’ll be taken to the TLScontact website.
Here you need to create an account and book an appointment at your chosen UK visa application centre.
TLScontact also offers a number of other added value services to enhance your visa application experience, and you can select them as you go through the appointment booking process. Before you can confirm your appointment you’ll need to make another online payment for any of the added value services you’ve chosen.
When you’e finished, you’ll be sent an email confirmation (and receipt for any added value services purchased) to the email address you used to register the account.
Keep this email confirmation safe and print a copy to take to the visa application centre with you.
STEP 5: How to find out UK visa processing time information
UK visa processing times depend on many factors so should only ever be taken as guidelines.
UKVI publishes its UK visa processing time service standards so you can see how long it can take for you to receive a decision.
UK visa processing times start from the day you enrol your biometrics at the visa application centre and work on the basis that 1 week = 5 working days. Therefore if you’re applying for a UK visa from South Africa around South African or UK public holidays it may take a day or two longer than the published service standard.
Here’s an overview of the UK visa processing time service standards for the most common types of UK visa:
- UK Visitor visa processing time: 3 weeks
- UK Work visa processing time: 3 weeks
- UK Study visa processing time: 3 weeks
- UK Settlement visa processing time: 12 weeks
If you need your UK visa faster, you may be able to use the Priority Visa or Super Priority Visa services to reduce the processing time.
You must select and pay for these services during the online visa application process as they can’t be added to your application afterwards.
Service standards for the Priority Visa and Super Priority Visa are:
- UK Priority visa processing time: 5 working days
- UK Super Priority Visa processing time: next working day
When your UK visa application has been processed you’ll receive emails from UKVI and TLScontact informing you that your passport is being returned and when you can pick it up from the UK visa application centre.
You can only pickup your passport from the UK visa application centre at which you originally applied and enrolled your biometric data.
If you purchased the courier return service from TLScontact, they’ll mail your passport back to you at the address you provided.
STEP 6: How to book your travel to the UK
Unlike many other destination countries, you don’t need to book your travel and accommodation before you make your UK visa application.
In fact, UKVI actively discourages it.
So when you’ve got your UK visa from South Africa you can look at making your travel arrangement and organising everything else you need for your trip.
Here are just a few affiliates and partners we work with whom we’d highly recommend.
COVID-19 PCR Testing
COVID-19 restrictions are currently in place for travel from South Africa to the UK.
South Africa is on the UK’s ‘amber list’ of countries. To travel to the UK from South Africa, you must:
- show a negative COVID-19 PCR test result dated no more than 72 hours before your departure from South Africa
- complete a Passenger Locator Form prior to travel
- quarantine for 10 days upon arrival in England
- pay for and take further PCR tests on Day 2 and Day 8 of your quarantine
We’ve partnered with a Government-approved testing organisation who can provide you with Day 2 and Day 8 PCR tests upon your arrival in the UK. You can order and pay for the tests before you leave South Africa and have them securely shipped to your UK residence, hotel or other location.
Get Around by Train with Trainline
Trainline is the largest independent train ticket booking service in the UK. If you need to travel by rail during your stay, you can book your train tickets in advance on Trainline.
Flexible tickets are available so you can take a different service if you need to change your schedule.
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