Postdoc in South Africa, Get a Visitor Visa for Research

I’ve obtained visas to live and work in other countries (See: the lengthy application to go to New Zealand and the laborious process to get a MVV visa to work in the Netherlands). Compared to the other applications, this one was a breeze until I had to wait to see if I got approved. Sigh! Obtaining a visa to move to another country is never a simple process.

For this visa, no one had to start anything on the other side except I did have to get an invitation or offer letter from the university saying I was hired. Otherwise, it was up to me to find out what was needed and to secure everything. I relied heavily on this website for my information and it didn’t fail me as I secured a 2 year visa!


It seems that since I wasn’t applying to actually become a resident of the country then the process wasn’t too bad. So what all did I need to do? Check out the list below for what all I submitted to the SA consulate.

  • Valid passport with at least 2 free page:  Be careful with this one as I have extra pages in my passport and the guy checking me into my flight to Joburg said “oh you just made it because he didn’t recognize that the extra pages were for visas and stamps. Grrr!
  • Visa application form: It’s actually not that long
  • 2 passport photos: Make sure they are sized for SA
  • Round trip itinerary: This was annoying because I am supposed to be here for 2 years and the latest return I could get was 9 months out. I’m gonna have to pay a significant change fee.
  • Proof of sufficient funds: I sent a print out of my USA bank account funds.
  • Medical report: This form is hilarious because basically a doctor just has to say you don’t have leprosy, neuroses, or venereal disease
  • TB skin test: Yes you have to prove you DON’T have TB before coming to a country with lots of TB!
  • Proof of health coverage in SA: This one was weird because you don’t actually buy your insurance until you arrive so I just sent a copy of email saying I would buy it at the uni when I got here.
  • FBI certificate: You gotta get fingerprinted at the police station first then mail this in to get an FBI clearance report
  • $72 in the form of a money order: This is actually a deal for a 2 year visa.
  • Letter of invitation from in-country host: The uni sent that to me when they offered me the job.

Then you seal it all up with a self-addressed return envelope (from Fedex for tracking purposes) and mail it off to one of 3 consulates or embassy depending on your home address (or where you want the passport+visa mailed to after you submit it). I mailed it from Seattle where I was living, but wanted it sent to my mother’s house in Florida so I mailed my application portfolio to Washington DC. Then I waited for my visa.

The waiting was stressful because the website says processing is 5 business days. When that passed, I called and they informed me it was actually 5-10 business days. When that passed I called again and they said they were swamped. Unfortunately, it was the holiday season (December) and if I for some reason got rejected I needed time to resubmit my documents.

Luckily on December 26 my passport+2 year visa arrived in the mail. I breathed a sigh of relief. My journey could actually take place.

One response to “Postdoc in South Africa, Get a Visitor Visa for Research

  1. Hey! Do you have any advice on the FBI certificate? The application I looked at said it could take up to 11 weeks! I am actually doing my PhD in South Africa at the moment, and starting a post-doc next year, but I will only be in the U.S. for 5 weeks. Do you know if there is any quicker way of obtaining this certificate?

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