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”:


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. The documentation requirements are idiotic / a joke:
    • proof of PLANNED itinerary. Basically you can print anything from Google Flights.
    • proof of accommodation. An Airbnb receipt (which you can cancel later) worked.
    • proof of funds. The amount isn’t specified anywhere, but I called several agencies and all confirmed it’s 3000 ZAR. That means USD 175. Yes, less than $200, no matter the length of the stay. This is ridiculous. But - they want a STAMPED STATEMENT showing this (nevermind it costed me more than $200 in wasted time and nerves trying to get that), or, if you can’t get a 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”. I did this, and the letter “from the bank” used simple wording saying confirming the authenticity of my statement, and was also signed…
  4. The LA consulate never answered my emails. Maybe their IT problems are real and they’re back in the stone age.

As for visa agencies, 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.

I later found that TravelVisaPro did not actually handle South Africa visas.

In the end I did get my visa via VisaHQ, in 7 business days. While they got the job done, there’s lots of room to improve the process:

  • they were somewhat 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 $261 when in reality it’s $36 (that’s separate from their $225 service fee), charging double the FedEx price for issuing a FedEx label, and $10 to print a regular sheet of paper).

Also, the New York embassy seems to be in cahoots with them. The embassy claimed via email something idiotic, that they only accept in-person applications to make sure the applicant can physically travel to South Africa. That’s dumb and a lie:

  1. Parasites like VisaHQ exist exactly because of this, and send their minions in person, instead of the applicant going themselves.
  2. Unless they live in New York, the applicant’s transportation to the NYC embassy amounts to more than the stupid $175 fund requirement.

What a corrupt government gatekeeping a beautiful country from travelers who would bring money to it.

1 Like

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.

Update - VisaHQ did the job. I’ve updated my post.