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Expats in Cape Town: Visas and Residency

When relocating to Cape Town, make sure you know all the details about the oldest city in all of South Africa! Our InterNations expat guide on Cape Town introduces you to the city’s neighborhoods, gives tips on the search for a new home, and offers info on visas and more.
The Malay Quarter and its colorful houses are very well known around Cape Town and the world.

Visitor’s Visas for Cape Town

Although it is obviously designed first and foremost for tourists, a visitor’s visa is the first, and by far easiest, option for anyone who would like to get a first impression of Cape Town before actually relocating there. As the South African government has long realized the country’s attractiveness for visitors from all over the globe, many nationalities are exempt from the need for a visitor’s visa. The full list is fairly long, and chances are that your home country may be on it. Please keep in mind, however, that citizens from some of the listed countries are only exempt if they hold a diplomatic, official, or service passport.

Temporary Residency Permits

As you are surely aware of, a visitor’s visa is no basis for settlement or legally taking up employment. This is true for virtually every country, and South Africa makes no exception in this regard. For the abovementioned purposes, you have a fairly large variety of temporary residence permits to choose from. For further details and in order to apply, simply contact the South African representation in your home country. A complete list of missions around the world can be found on the website of the Department of International Relations & Cooperation.

In total, there are 12 different temporary residence permits, designed to meet the needs of people from different walks of life. Depending on your age, occupation, or the purpose and duration of your stay, there might be a permit just for you. However, only five of the categories are tailored towards expats:

  • Business Permit: Cape Town is a city that actively promotes entrepreneurship and helps its residents with opening up their own businesses. If this is an idea that speaks to you, the business permit is the one you want. Prepare wisely, as you are expected to present a detailed business plan, invest over 2.5 million ZAR, and hire at least five citizens or permanent residents of Cape Town. You also have to register with the South African Revenue Service and the respective board or council of your trade.
  • General Work Permit: The name says it all. This permit category is open to any interested parties, as long as they can meet the many conditions. Apart from a signed work contract, translated and verified credentials, and documentation on the purpose and duration of your stay, you need to prove that no South African candidate was fit for the position you are going to fill.
  • Critical Skills Work Permit: Brain drain is a serious problem in Cape Town. If you possess special knowledge or skills which are rare locally, you can apply for one of these permits. Proof of your skills must be provided in form of letters from former employers or testimonials from acknowledged and respected academic or cultural bodies in Cape Town.
  • Intra-Company Transfer: As the name suggests, this is a permit designed for employees of foreign companies who are transferred to a Cape Town-based affiliate or subsidiary. Provide your original work contract and confirmation of your future occupation in Cape Town from both parties.

The General Requirements for Your Permit

Apart from the specific requirements mentioned above, all residency permits share these common requirements. Submit them with your application.

  • at least two blank passport pages. The document has to be valid for at least a month after your intended date of return from Cape Town
  • application form DHA-1738
  • medical report BI-811
  • radiological report BI-806
  • birth certificate
  • police clearance certificate
  • proof of your financial means, preferably by submitting bank statements
  • round-trip ticket or deposit covering the cost of your return ticket


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

If there’s something you’re still not sure about, check out the InterNations Forum.

Pascal Tremblay

"Fortunately, I received lots of supportive tips from other InterNations members before moving to Cape Town."

Nora Godfrey

"Here in Cape Town, InterNations consists of a great crowd of expats. Not just anyone can join the site, and I am happy about that."

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