Every South African passport holder knows the lengths South Africans have to go to in order to obtain a Schengen, American or Australian visitor’s visa. The process involves a lot of document printing, appointment making and of course, money. A single visa application costs between R1500 to R2000, so the fact that South Africans are usually only issued visitor’s visas for our exact intended travel dates really makes regular international trips more difficult than they need to be.
If you’re planning on travelling to Europe or Australia more than once within the next couple years, it might be worth applying for an extended visitor’s visa. Whether you’re applying to Schengen states, the UK or Australia, without a letter of motivation requesting an extended multiple-entry visa, you are most likely going to be issued with a single-entry visa for your exact travel dates. The good news is that currently, the US Embassy is issuing most South African travellers who submit the correct documentation with 10 year multiple-entry visas! Individuals with a bachelor’s or master’s looking to enter the US for temporary work may want to investigate a H1B LCA visa to enter and live in the country.
What documents do South Africans need to apply for a Schengen visa?
The documents required for a Schengen, US, UK and Australian visa for South Africans are generally the same. You will need:
- A valid South African passport with at least 3 blank pages and valid for at least 6 months after your intended date of return to South Africa
- Proof of travel insurance (make sure that it is valid in Schengen states)
- Proof of every single accommodation night (if you are staying with a friend or relative, they will need to write a letter and send a copy of their passport)
- Proof of transport (return flight tickets and any other transport you will need between your accommodation nights in destination)
- Proof of funds (3 months bank statements, stamped by the bank)
- Proof of employment (if you are a freelancer, you can ask one of your clients to write a letter on an official company letterhead)
- Proof of residence (if you don’t have a utility bill, you can ask your landlord or roommate to write a letter as proof of your address)
Where to apply for a Schengen visa in South Africa
Which embassy you apply to for your Schengen visa depends on which Schengen states you are visiting. There are two big visa application agencies in South Africa, who handle most Schengen states; Capago International (France and Italy) and VFS Global (most other Schengen states as well as Australia and New Zealand). UK visa applications go through TLS.
You will need to apply for your Schengen visa with the state where you will be spending the longest amount of time, not the state where you will first be entering Europe. For instance, if you are visiting Portugal ( 6 nights), Spain (6 nights) and Italy (12 nights), you will apply for your Schengen visa through Italy, even though it is your last port of entry.
How to apply for an extended visa
In order to apply for an extended visa, you will need to write a motivation letter and include it in your application. You cannot add it to your application once it has been handed in. The letter is a request, so including it in your application does not guarantee an extended visa will be issued. Visa applications are handled on a case-by-case basis, so there is always a chance that your request for an extended visa could be denied.
What should your application for an extended visa say?
In the past year I have been issued with extended multiple-entry visas for both Australia and the EU (Schengen), using the following template as to draft my motivation letter:
Extended Schengen visa motivation letter template
Subject: [Your name], [Your passport number], Extended Multiple-Entry Schengen Visa Application
To: The Embassy [XXX] and All Schengen States
Further to my Schengen visa application, I would like to respectfully request an extension to my Schengen visa to [country].
The main purpose of my travel is [tourism/visiting family/state your reasons for travel]. Due to the nature of [my business/my family/state your reason for wanting an extension to your visa] I have the opportunity to travel frequently and at short notice. This is my [state how many Schengen visas you have recently applied for] and I would very much appreciate the opportunity to visit [country] at short notice, without having to go through the visa application again, within such a short period of time.
I have been employed with [name of employer] in [address of employer] since [date], currently holding the position of [state your position]. My employer has already approved my vacation from work for the duration of this trip, and I have tentative plans to visit again in [state intended dates of travel]. I have no intention to work, or seek employment opportunities during my travels, and look forward to returning to employment upon my return.
I therefore respectfully request an extended, multiple-entry visitor’s visa for [country], which will afford me the opportunity see more of this beautiful destination, learn more about the country and of course, contribute to the economy and tourism industry.
Please find the following documents to support my visa application:
- Visa application form, duly dated and signed with attached passport-size pictures
- Travel Insurance/Health insurance
- Flight reservations
- Hotel reservations
- Employment and leave certificates showing approved leaves as well as the date I am expected to return to work
- Proof of funds
- [include an overview of your intended trip, including dates, flight numbers and accommodation]
I trust that you will find everything is in order. For any questions or clarifications, please do not hesitate to contact me anytime.
Thanking you in advance for a favourable reply to my application.
Of course, even with all the required documentation and this visa extension request, you might still be issued with the standard 3 month Schengen visa (or even just your travel dates), but it is always worth a try. Just remember that the visa application centre sees thousands of applications per year, and without valid reason, like an intention to travel frequently or family within your destination, they might not issue a visa extension.
And if you really don’t want to go through the cost and effort of applying for a Schengen visa, you could always visit one of the destinations where South Africans don’t need a visa at all.