Marrying and Moving to South Africa- Tips and Experiences

*Updated to include DISCLAIMER:
The following blog post is in no way meant to provide any individual with specific advice. An immigration specialist, or the South African Department of Home Affairs should always be contacted directly for advice. The following describes my experience from August 2013-July 2014, and laws and/or protocol could vary greatly depending on your specific case details and/or method and/or place of application.

Original Blog Post:
If any of the following seems boring or provides you with stress, anxiety, or headaches- just remember that I actually did it all- and if you are contemplating taking the same route, I pray for your emotional well-being.

If you are one of the few that wishes to marry in and/or move to South Africa, this is going to be the best thing you’ll ever read, and I will be your new best friend. You’re welcome.

Goal: Marry a South African, in South Africa, and then live there as a temporary resident.
*Note: You must be a temporary resident for 5 years before you can apply for permanent residency. A RSA ID Book will only be issued once a permanent resident.

Steps to take:
1. Take a deep breath. Audibly say “It will be fine. I will survive.”.
2. If you have never been inside a South African Department of Home Affairs, brace yourself for this upcoming experience.
3. Visit the Department of Home Affairs website on Marriage in South Africa, call and/or visit a South African Embassy in your home country, call and/or visit a VFS Global representative, or consult and/or hire an immigration specialist.
4. Write down all of your questions, and the answers that each person, from which entity, gives you after speaking with them.
5. Get “Letter of No Impediment”.
6. Meet with an Immigration Officer and receive necessary document.
7. Get Married.
8. Apply for Temporary Residency of a Spouse.
9. Wait to have it issued, and then collect at the same office where you placed your application.

*Note- When/How you decide to change your name is debatable. I would suggest changing your name on your passport, at the USA Consulate in Johannesburg, no later than two weeks after your wedding. (Make your appointment date at least a month in advance.) To apply to change your name on your passport, you will need to submit a copy of your marriage certificate, (which can only be issued by Home Affairs- after they ‘capture’ your marriage register that your marriage officer (officiant) submitted to them, at the office of which he/she is registered). Pay the extra fee to expedite your new passport. (I received mine in about 7 working days.) AFTER you get your new passport, with your married name, apply for Temporary Residency and use that new passport number on the application. Please trust me that this will save you R1350.00 and lots of headaches- I changed my name on my USA Passport after submitting my application for Temporary Residency- I now have to apply for a transfer of my visa into my new passport, which costs the aforementioned, and also apply for a Change of Conditions on my visa, because Home Affairs issued my Visa as a Visitor with a 5 year validity, instead of a Temporary Resident. Oy.

The only fees I incurred were when doing the following:
FBI Criminal Clearance (+/-$80)
TX DPS Criminal Clearance (+/-$30)
Medical Certificate (Cost of Doctor’s Visit +/-R500)
Radiological Report (Cost of Doctor’s Visit and X-Ray +/-R700)
Yellow Fever Vaccination and Vaccination Certificate (Because I went on Honeymoon to Victoria Falls in Zambia) (Cost of Doctor’s Visit +/-R500)
Hiring our Wedding Officiant/Marriage Officer (R1750)
Printing our Marriage Certificate (R100)
Changing my Name on my Passport (+/- $110, with extra pages)
Plus the gas for lots and lots of driving, and $15 for my International Drivers License.
And now, I may have to pay to transfer my visa to my new passport, as mentioned above, – but all in all, not too many expenses are associated with the whole process.

I am a USA Citizen, and my goal was to marry a South African Citizen, in South Africa, and then live there as a Temporary Resident.
This is what I did in order to achieve that:

In August – November of 2013 I visited South Africa, and tried to gather all of the information about how exactly to go about getting married, and all of the rules and paperwork associated- because I’m a goody-two-shoes and terrified of accidentally doing something illegal. This included numerous calls to overseas RSA (Republic of South Africa) Embassies, long, tiresome visits to several different Department of Home Affairs offices, and visits to the USA Consulate in Johannesburg.

*Note: If wanting to stay in South Africa, on a 90 Day Visitor’s Visa, you can NOT get another visa by simply visiting a neighboring country, and then re-entering South Africa. Your original Visitor Visas’ Date of Expiration will apply. If intending on staying for more than 90 days, you should either apply for a visitors visa in your home country with a RSA Embassy/Consulate for your intended period before coming to South Africa, OR apply for an extension, while in South Africa at a Department of Home Affairs.

I (finally) found out all of the information I needed.

Needed To Get Married:
-Letter from the South African Citizen of intention to marry and support foreigner
-Certified Copy of South African Citizen’s 3 Months’ Bank Statements
-Copy of South African Citizen’s ID Book
-Copy of Foreigner’s Passport
-Letter of No Impediment – This is an affidavit, that was declared by myself in front of the USA Consulate General at the Johannesburg Consulate, stating that I am legally single, and there is no impediment against myself getting married. You have to schedule an appointment on the Consulate website in order to do this.

In December-February I went back to Texas to get all of the necessary documents for my residency application.

Once I was back in South Africa in February, I brought the above mentioned documents, along with our original passports/ID book, and pictures of ourselves throughout our relationship, to the Akasia Department of Home Affairs, located in Pretoria North. We met with an Immigration Officer, of whom asked us questions validating our relationship, and then issued us an “Immigration Report / Interview to Ascertain the Existence of a Good Spousal Relationship” that was signed by myself, my now husband, and the immigration officer. A certified copy of this document must be submitted, along with your marriage register and Form BI-31, by the marriage officer (officiant) when he logs your marriage with Home Affairs after your wedding. The officiant will need to see the document before marrying you, or agreeing to do so. I suggest getting Form BI-31 from Home Affairs when doing the Immigration Interview. Both parties will also need passport-style photographs when completing your marriage register.

Our wedding was on March 15, 2014. We signed and completed the marriage register at our wedding, and then our marriage officer (officiant) submitted our register to where he is registered, at the Centurion Department of Home Affairs in Pretoria South. You should get married and submit your Temporary Residency application within the validity of your 90 day visitors visa that you were issued upon your arrival into South Africa.

Documents to Accompany Application for Temporary Residency of a Spouse (Form BI-1738)
1. Your Passport that is valid for no less than 30 days after the expiry of the intended visit, and copies thereof.
2. A Medical Report (Form BI-811)
3. A Radiological Report (Form BI-806)
4. Marriage Certificate*
5. Completed Form BI-1712A , Affidavit of Relationship
6. Letter from South African Citizen requesting approval of Temporary Residence Permit,  Intention of support, cohabitation, and financial and emotional responsibility towards their spouse.
7. Certified Copy of South African Citizen’s 3-Month Bank Statements
8. Documentation proving cohabitation and the extent to which the related financial responsibilities are shared by the parties.
9. Divorce Decree, if applicable
10. Death Certificate, in respect of a late spouse, if applicable
11. Police Clearance Certificates**, in respect of all countries where the person resided one year or longer since having attained the age of 18.
12. A vaccination certificate, if required by the act. (Yellow Fever Vaccination, if traveled to a Yellow Fever Area.)

* You must get this from a Home Affairs Office by submitting Form BI-130, after ensuring that your marriage register has been ‘captured’ and in logged in the system at the office of which your marriage officer is registered.
**Police Clearance Certificates for USA Citizens:
I did criminal clearance on both Federal and State Levels. For the State Level in Texas, you can go to the DPS website, and schedule to have your fingerprints done and the form issued.
For the Federal Level, I did my clearance through a Certified FBI Channeler, National Background Check, Inc.. Make sure to request the original certificate mailed, and a copy emailed to you.

At the time of submitting your application, you will be given a “receipt”. Keep this very safe, and make sure that you ask what your application reference number is. This receipt, that proves you submitted a residency application, allows you to remain in South Africa until your residency visa is issued. You can check on your application by calling, a surprisingly helpful and efficient, Home Affairs Call Centre phone number: +27 080 060 1190. If you are unsure of your application reference number, they can search your application status with your passport number.

You are supposed to be notified of when it is ready to be picked up and issued, at the same office of application, by text message. But I never got one, I just kept checking by calling the call centre every 2-3 weeks. It took 2 months for my visa to be “issued” and then another month for it to make it to the Akasia office in order for me to get it, after it was “dispatched” from the Head Office.

*BONUS! If you want to drive while in South Africa, you can get your international drivers license from AAA. It is valid for a year and in almost every country.
When I go back to Texas this December, I am going to figure out how to get the DPS to verify all ways my Texas Drivers’ license is valid, and then I am supposedly able to use that letter, to receive my South African Drivers’ License, without having to take a test at all. …That seems like another post waiting to happen. ;)

I hope all this can at least help one person!

Cheers,
-Victoria

UPDATE (August 2014)
As mentioned above about the headache with changing my name, my appointment is this Thursday to re-submit my Temporary Residency Application. I will post an update when it ends up (finally) getting issued correctly, and what hiccups there were, if any.

UPDATE (May 2015)
I have reapplied for a revision of my visa TWICE, and it has been issued back to me each time with the same errors on the visa- it states “Visitors Visa” instead of “Temporary Resident”. This is apparently because of the fact that I got married and applied for my original Temporary Residency as having originally entering the country on a normal 90 day Visitors Visa. Now that I have gone back to the US (over christmas) and come back into the country on my visa (and 11.6 Special Visitors Visa), when I reapply to revise my visa now, it should finally be issued back to me with the corrected type of visa (Temporary Residency). Within the next month or two I plan on doing that, and I will update again.

21 thoughts on “Marrying and Moving to South Africa- Tips and Experiences

  1. Thanks for sharing your experience. My intentions are to marry my fiancee in October2016, I am from Mississippi and have seen her twice. This information should be helpful.

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    1. Hi! Just wanted to let you know this process has changed drastically in the last two years- you will have to do your visa for marriage BEFORE you leave the US through the South African consulate in the US. Contact them by phone or their website, but good luck with getting them to answer the phone. Otherwise, get into contact with an immigration company. I would strongly advise against doing it the way I did, apparently there was a law passed about a year after my experience prohibiting it on RSA soil- you’ll have to do it through your home country. Just FYI!!

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  2. Victoria,

    Really?? From all the people I’ve talked to, that’s definitely not true.

    From what I’ve been told, there are 2 options for us, visa-wise, as spouses:
    1) a temporary residence permit as the spouse of a South African. But you legally cannot work on this visa, you only have the right to live there. That’s part of why they have you prove your financials, to show you/your husband can support you completely on this visa.

    2) if you want to work, you have to get an 11(6) visitors visa (http://www.southafrica-newyork.net/homeaffairs/spouse_unqualified.htm)

    This is the ‘endorsement’ (though it’s actually a completely new visa) that allows you to work, but only at a specific company. This is the downside – if you want to change jobs, you’d have to get a new visa with the new company on it.

    I’m not sure how it works with studying, I haven’t done much research about that.

    I’m so surprised you’ve been told you can work on a regular residence visa…it sounds like you were issued the correct visitor’s one in the first place. Are you now trying to change the visitor’s one back to a TR one?

    Bc from what I’ve heard, then you wouldn’t legally be allowed to work on that one.

    Keep me updated on how it goes! Maybe it does depend on where you are in the country…

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    1. Also about the marriage certificate – we have the handwritten abridged one, but getting the unabridged is the last hurdle we’re waiting to clear before I can apply for the visa.

      I’ve heard it can take 6-9 months just through DHA, so we’re paying a company to expedite it and praying for the best! :/

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      1. That sounds like it spells out separation for you and your husband, as newly-weds. :( I am so sorry, if that is the case. That was my worst fear, and why I went through the process the way I did. I am truly sorry about the law change, and that you couldn’t apply while in SA as I did. :(

        If you are still in SA, I would strongly suggest going to the specific Home Affairs office where your wedding officiant/marriage officer logged your application (where they are registered to do so), and explain your situation, and ask them to ‘capture’ it into the system ASAP. Then, that Home Affairs can print you an Abridged Marriage Certificate, which you should be able to use for SA Applications, as Unabridged Certificates are for international purposes.
        (I wish I could show you the look I got from our Texas DPS office when I showed them my Unabridged South African Marriage Certificate for changing my name on my drivers license. lol. Would you believe that they wouldn’t accept my federal issued passport to change my name? ha!)
        They can also give you your unabridged certificate the same day you are at Home Affairs, but this one involves some handwriting and signatures from HA, not just printing, so you may need to do some waiting, begging, and pleading to get this accomplished.

        Bare in mind that each application for the Unabridged/Abridged marriage certificate, involves waiting in line to pay for it, and then waiting to receive it. But as soon as you get your paid receipt for the abridged certificate, you can have it printed.

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    2. What the french toast?!

      Hmmmm… well it was told to me by the VFS Global DHA officer- but maybe that is why DHA has issued me the same visitors visa, twice! (thankfully in the right passport the second time, however)
      I accompanied my application both times with a nice little letter explaining my intention to work for our company- so the visa I received must be the 11(6) visitors visa, although it doesn’t say that anywhere on either of my visa’s. It says “DHA-1635C” at the top right corner, as well as: multiple entries, has a five year validity, and at the bottom includes two endorsements- To reside with sac spouse ID: ————-, To be employed by _________.

      BUT, the VFS Global DHA Office has assured me, multiple times, that this visa is not what I should have received based on my application, and that I can legally work and study with a Spousal Temporary Resident Visa. AND they told me that if I don’t change my visa to a Temporary Resident visa, five years from now when I try to apply for Permanent Residency, I will be unable to do so because I have not in fact been a temporary resident, only a visitor, for the last five years! Oy!

      I think i’m going to ask them to put their knowledge about working/studying on a spousal temporary residency visa in writing…… and potentially make a couple of phone calls to the New York office or others to verify, although they hardly ever answer their phones….

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      1. Also, If you could please let me know if you had to go through the same process as I did for getting married (meeting with an immigration officer, impediment letter, etc.), I would greatly appreciate it! I would like to update the blog post to include the new law info, etc. Thanks!

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      2. How long did it take you to receive the unabridged one? Since I’m applying overseas, that’s the one I’ll need. They should be capturing it in the system this week and then we will apply for it…

        About the process, yes, pretty much! I think key things to emphasize are – be patient, leave plenty of time, but don’t be afraid to push firmly, politely, and repeatedly until things get done!

        We got married in Cape Town. Both partners have to be present to even schedule the marriage interview, and I was only there for 3 weeks for the wedding. We went straight from the airport to DHA to schedule, but the woman in charge wasn’t there. They promised to call (but didn’t get our phone number)…we ended up going several times and got a booking on the third try. Yes, all we needed were passport copies, a copy of my visa stamp, and the non-impediment letter. They originally tried to book us for 3 months later but upon our firm insistence that the wedding was happening NEXT WEEK they wrote us in for a booking for four days later.

        The interview went really smoothly – she separated us, asked us some standard questions about our families and how we met, then gave us a form at the end clearing us to get married.

        I’d also say, bring copies of everything!! We were so worried when we went in for the interview because, to book it, we had given them the original non-impediment letter and hadn’t made any copies. If they’d misplaced it somehow, we’d have been screwed. My greatest sympathies and encouragement to anyone else attempting this process.

        Liked by 1 person

    3. Kristen,

      It took us about three months, and lots of handwork, to finally get our correct unabridged marriage certificate. Even though all is correct in the system with our names and marriage date when auto-printing our abridged certificate, with the unabridged certificate, someone has to actually type it out- meaning laziness and inattentiveness causes errors. Apparently, there is only one person with the skills or authorization to type them per office, so you have to wait until that person is back from leave, etc. Two weeks after first putting in the application (thats when they told us to come back) for our unabridged certificate, we went back to Home Affairs, my last name was spelled wrong. The second time, my birthdate was wrong. The third time, our marriage date was wrong. The fourth time we went to pick it up (did I mention HA is more than an hours’ drive from our house?), it was finally correct.

      The bringing copies tip is VERY important- in each of our applications, I only submitted certified copies of everything and kept all of the originals. A little bit more work to get all of the copies certified, but it left me with a lot more peace of mind that I wouldn’t have to re-do a process for any of my treasured paperwork (Criminal clearance, etc) because I had the originals. :)

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  3. This is very helpful. I am curious–when you entered South Africa to get married, what kind of visa were you on? My fiance and I will get married in America, hopefully, but I am trying to decide if I would be better off applying there or in SA. I think in America, I might–just MIGHT–have faster processing times (no guarantee), but then we might be separated for a crazy long period as well. Any insight would be helpful. I would be interested in hearing about your journey toward receiving work endorsement, as well.

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    1. FYI Samantha (and Victoria) – the SA laws have changed since Victoria got married, and now the way she applied for her visa (in SA) isn’t possible. You now have to apply for the visa from your home country (for me it’s the States as well) at the nearest SA consulate. The spectacular news, though, is that processing is super quick: 5-10 days turnaround time.

      If you want to work in SA though, (and you don’t qualify for a critical skills visa) you have to a) first receive a job offer, then b) apply for a new type of visa – an 11(6) visitor’s visa that allows you to work at that specific company (the name will be printed on the visa).

      It’s all very confusing but I have done a ton of research on it – I’m going through the same process now. If you have questions about the work endorsement I’d be happy to help.

      (Victoria, just to update you, I got married last week and preparing to apply for my visa in LA in March! Thanks again for all your help :))

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      1. That is wonderful, Kristen! Congratulations!

        Dealing with applications with a USA SA Consulate may be a lot easier than a local SA Home Affairs, so that’s great!

        I was told by several high-ranking Home Affairs Officials that with a Temporary Residency of a Spouse permit, I am legally allowed to work and study freely- have you found out otherwise?

        Thanks! So happy for you!

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      2. By 5-10 days, do you mean that you receive the visa 10 days after applying? Or do you mean that it takes 10 days for them to send it off to Pretoria, where they will deliberate for a couple of months?

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      3. Hi Victoria,

        I am currently in SA going through the whole process. “what a trip”, I must tell you; I never thought it would be so complicated. My husband and I married in the States and he applied for his american residence right there. We did not have to be apart from each other. But here in SA is crazy how the person applying needs to go back to his/her country of origin. I will have to be away from my husband probably 3 months at least, and I am not happy about that :( I entered SA with on a visitors visa back in May 2016, now my time will be up in August, and since I have to apply directly from the States, I will basically leave the day my visa expires. I have to go get my FBI clearance (which I am not sure how long it will take…)… then after I get that I can submit my application in one of the offices (L.A, New York, or DC).

        From your experience, How long did it take you to get the FBI clearance?

        We live in Cape town, it is beautiful here, but to be honest I am a little worried about the economy and political stability of this country Vs living in the States, I have been a speech pathologist for 15 years now, and I had a very stable career and life style in Miami and San Francisco; I am not sure how things will be here for me as far as being able to make a decent living that will still allow me to do what I love the most which is traveling. I love my husband, but sometimes I wonder if this will be beneficial in the long run for our careers and our relationship. Was all this worth it for you? are you truly happy in SA?

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Hi, Marcela. Thanks for visiting- I am continually astounded by how much traffic my sporadically-written post has received. There is true necessity for a stream of (correct and consistent) information involving South African immigration laws and procedures. :(

        For the FBI clearance: It took about 3 weeks if I remember correctly- use the FBI channeler I listed in the post- they were super easy and friendly.

        For living in RSA vs the US: THAT is a whole post waiting to happen. We actually moved back to the US as soon as my husband got his permanent residency here, for many of the very reasons you listed. We want to have kids one day (soon) and we want to ensure that the environment and opportunities that surround them are the best we can put them in- we have high hopes for South Africa and hold the country very, very dearly to our hearts- but unfortunately, the daily life there (constant crime, economic hardships, really poor political state) is just very dim compared to daily life in the US. I can go to the grocery store on my own and my husband doesn’t have to have a panic attack about all of the scenarios that ‘could’ happen- and I can get ‘pulled over’ (HA! more like flagged down by standing in the middle of the road!) by a (traffic) cop and I don’t have to be in fear of being bribed or given a false charge or worse. Vacation/Tourist glasses are awesome, and there are many great aspects of the country, but live there long enough, and you will easily recognize the hardships that need to be dealt with socially, economically, and politically, and hopefully all of that won’t start to affect your demeanor negatively. That was one of the things that my husband warned me about when moving there- that I would start to become negative and develop a ‘mean’ personality due to the surroundings- that’s what happens, you toughen up or crack. Unfortunate, but true, and most of the population has that “Be gruff first and then see if you can be nice afterwards” and “Every man for himself” attitude.

        I know- that was basically a post. I’m sorry. ;)

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    2. When I entered South Africa, as per instruction previously from Home Affairs, it was on a normal visitors’ visa. The only way that this hindered me in the long run- was by Home Affairs issuing me a special visitors visa (with a 5 year validity) instead of a normal temporary residency of a spouse. They issue this one to you, and then ask you to re-apply for residency to receive the correct visa. On the special visitors visa, I had a work endorsement added so that I could legally work for our company. Once I receive my corrected visa, that says temporary resident of a spouse, I am freely allowed to work and study- no endorsements necessary.

      I would suggest getting married in the country of which you intend on living in most during the upcoming year. Getting married in the USA, if you don’t have intention on living there afterwards, kind of defies the purpose of all of the paperwork. We looked into getting married in the US and doing the Fiancé Visa, but then determined that that process is designed for if the said Fiancé has the intention of applying for Residency in the US directly after marriage. If we got married in the US through the finance visa process, and then wished to live in South Africa- we would have stayed in the US until his full US residency had been received and then done my paperwork for residency in SA while waiting. This process is definitely an option, if he is able to stay in the US until full residency is given. You will need to do your residency application for SA while you are in the US then, through one of the SA embassies, which could be much more streamlined than working with a local Home Affairs.

      I hope it all works out for you!

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  4. Hi Victoria, I’m at the start of going through the same process (I’m an American getting married to a South African) and feeling pretty overwhelmed. First, thanks so much for posting this!! It’s been a great help with sorting out exactly what we need. I have two questions – about the bank statements – what exactly do 3 months of bank statements mean? You need to provide 3 copies for 3 separate months? What makes it an ‘official’ bank statement?

    Second, are you working in South Africa? I’m getting a lot of conflicting information about whether or not foreign spouses are allowed to work, and just wondering if you went through that process as well. I’d really appreciate your insight!

    Liked by 1 person

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