Applying for South Africa visa - competent intermediary useful?

Has anyone applied for a South Africa visa? Their process is stuck in the 90s, no visa on arrival, no online application, you need to mail a bunch of documents along with this form DHA-84 that looks like it was scanned on a moving boat by a seasick clerk, then “submit” (mail or bring it in-person? unclear) the whole bunch of a consulate.

Oh, and their Los Angeles consulate is… offline due to “ICT challenges”:

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The folks over at VisaHQ charge $486 and lie about the embassy fee being $261 (it’s only $36) but more importantly only offer a 30-day tourist visa, while the US consulate page states that tourist visas are valid for up to 90 days. Their online chat representative was, unsurprisingly, not knowledgeable:

Can anyone recommend a South Africa visa processing service?

Answering my own question to publicly document what I’ve wasted a good amount of time sleuthing from visa facilitation companies:

  1. If you apply from another country than the country of your passport, you might end up getting only a 30-day visa. If you apply from the same country, you’re likely to get a 90-day visa. This is reflected by VisaHQ if you play with the country selector. Since they can’t guarantee a 90-day visa, they’ll only present the “30 day” tourist visa option.
  2. One such company said that only the Los Angeles consulate accepts mailed applications. Washington and New York require in-person visits.
  3. If you can’t get stamped bank statement (because we don’t live in the 50’s anymore), you can submit a “letter from the bank verifying the authenticity of the statements” (via VisaHQ)

So far, I’ve looked at TravelVisaPro and VisaHQ. TravelVisaPro has much better reviews on TrustPilot, and also more than 4 stars on Yelp. VisaHQ’s email/chat support had no idea why they only offered 30-day visas. I found that out via another service, based in South Africa.

VisaHQ have been,

  • largely incompetent (representatives not knowledgeable or plain wrong, as admitted by their manager),
  • slow to respond (one hour phone hold, days being ignored via the online chat),
  • unprofessional (WFH representatives yelling in their household while thinking they were on mute)
  • and unreasonably expensive (claiming the embassy fee was $286 when in reality it’s $36, charging double the FedEx price for issuing a FedEx label, and $10 to print a regular sheet of paper).
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I don’t really have much to add to the process or selection of service provider, just stopped by to say thanks for sharing your learnings as you go!

It’s incredible that a) South Africa’s visa process seem so outdated and b) how poor service VisaHQ has been providing. I actually think I mentioned them in an article I originally wrote about 8 years ago. I’ll add an update linking to this thread to warn people that they may not be a great option.