UK visa requirements for South African citizens

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Many South African citizens have some connection to the UK which may give rise to a basis on which they can apply for a visa to move to the UK. For example, as a citizen of South Africa, you might have a British parent, grandparent, or partner. In this post we look at the options you might have as a South African with a British parent, grandparent or partner.

Do South Africans need a visa for the UK?

If you are South African and you have a British parent, you may be a British citizen, and may be able to apply for a British passport rather than a visa.

If you were born after 01 January 1983, and you have a parent who is British “otherwise than by descent”, you may be a British citizen.

Establishing whether your parent is British by ‘descent’ or not can be complex. It will depend on where and when they were born.

If your parent was born in the UK, they are probably British “otherwise than by descent”, so you may be British yourself.

If you are British, and want to come to the UK with your family, you may be able to sponsor them to join you under Appendix FM to the Immigration Rules (see below).

UK visas for South Africans

UK Visas for South Africans with a British grandparent

If you are a South African citizen and you have a British grandparent, you may be able to apply for an Ancestry visa. In summary, you will need to show that you:

  • Are a Commonwealth citizen (which you are, as a South African citizen);
  • Are aged 17 or over;
  • Have a grandparent who was born in the UK and Islands (a grandparent by adoption counts as long as the adoption is recognised by the UK);
  • Are able to work and intend to take or seek work in the UK;
  • Will be able to accommodate yourself (and any dependents) in the UK./li>

If you are successful in applying for an ancestry visa, you will be able to live in the UK for up to five years.

If you have lived in the UK for five years with an ancestry visa, and meet some additional requirements, you can apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR), which would allow you to live in the UK permanently.

Once you have ILR, you can apply to naturalise as British, if you wish. You do not have an automatic entitlement to citizenship, as discussed here.

If you have a partner and/or children, they can come with you to the UK if you have an ancestry visa.

UK visas for South Africans with a British partner

If you are South African and your partner is British, your partner may be able to sponsor you to travel with him/her to the UK or join him/her in the UK. For the purposes of the Immigration Rules a “partner” is a spouse or civil partner, a fiancee or proposed civil partner, or “a person who has been living together with the applicant in a relationship akin to marriage for at least 2 years prior to the date of the application”.

An application as a partner is made under Appendix FM to the Immigration Rules. The requirements are, in summary:

  • The Sponsor is British or holds Indefinite Leave to Remain;
  • You are both over the age of 18;
  • You have met in person;
  • Your relationship is genuine and you intend to live together permanently;
  • Any previous relationships have broken down permanently;
  • There is adequate accommodation for you and any dependants;
  • You speak and understand English to the required level (there is a specific test which you need to take to demonstrate this, or you may be able to rely on a degree taught in English).

In addition, there is a specific financial requirement which must be met in most cases. It is usually necessary to show that the Applicant or Sponsor has an income of at least £18,600 per year. The amount required is higher if you have children who are not British. You have to have an additional £3,800 per year for the first child and an additional £2,400 each for any further children. To find out more about meeting the financial requirement with children read this.

If the income you rely upon is salary from employment or income from self employed work it is necessary to show that the Sponsor alone has a sufficient income. There are a variety of different sources of income on which you can rely, so it is not always essential to be able to meet the financial requirement by relying on salary alone (see here for further information about this).

If you are South African and have no family ties to the UK, or you cannot meet the requirements of the categories mentioned above:

You may still have options depending on why you want to come to the UK.

The type of application you should make will depend on why you want to come to the UK.

For example, if you have experience running a business, and want to establish a business in the UK, you could consider the Innovator visa. You will need to have funds to invest in your business.

If you do not want to run your own business, but have funds to invest, there is a route specifically for Investors.

There are also options for South Africans who wish to study or work as employees.

Contact our Nationality & Immigration Barristers

If you are a citizen of South Africa and you would like to discuss your enquiry with one of our immigration barristers, including issues around ancestry applications, family applications and dual citizenship, contact us on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.

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