Read: Six paths to getting you

Read: Six paths to getting your UK visa

In the last two years, UK visa applications from South Africa have jumped by 50%. So, in the spirit of giving, here are some top tips to help you out should you be looking across the pond.

Read: Six paths to getting you

As the Rand continues to vacillate in current political uncertainty, many South Africans are looking at their options and have their sights set on living and working in the UK or obtaining a British passport as a solution.  According to John Dunn, Immigration Manager at Sable International, there are six possible paths to a UK visa.

“Although the British Home Office has clamped down significantly on UK visas to South Africans, there are still a number of options available, and these are not only limited to the super-wealthy,” explained Dunn.

“Spousal and ancestry visas are the most popular visas for South Africans and this is not surprising, considering our colonial history,” said Dunn.

“There has been a 50% increase in the number of applications for UK visas since 2015.”

According to Dunn, the costs vary, but each visa will attract a service cost as well as government and health surcharge costs.

“Standard or priority application affects the cost and Government fees range between £347 and £1300, while the health surcharge ranges between £600 – £1000,” he said.

Dunn added that the time to receive a visa also varies between seven days and three months, depending on the visa and the level of urgency.

Tier 1 Entrepreneur Investment Programme Visa

Entrepreneurial skills, a financial investment and a commitment to create employment, offer an attractive option to South Africans keen to pursue this route to acquire British residency and citizenship.  This innovative programme by the British Home Office, encourages foreign investment in the UK and aims to match demand for British citizenship with solid return-generating investments in pre-approved businesses in the UK.

While it allows holders to take advantage of the UK’s business-friendly environment, it does have significant financial and regulatory requirements.  It requires an investment of £200 000 in a UK business opportunity.


  • The permit entitles the holder to live and work in the UK for three years with the option to extend for a further two years if certain criteria are met
  • After six years in the UK on this visa, you could be able to begin the process to become a British citizen
  • Be an active director in that business
  • Create two new jobs as a result of the business
  • Demonstrate that you have an English language ability of IELTS level 4
  • Spend at least 185 days a year in the UK to qualify for permanent residency.

To obtain the two-year extension, the following criteria (among others) must be met:

  • The investment sum must have been injected into the UK business (new or existing)
  • You must have created the two full time jobs for resident workers of the UK and these jobs must have been in existence for at least 12 months.
  • You must demonstrate that you have registered as self-employed or as a director of a new or existing business.
  • You must demonstrate that you have been involved in the day-to-day core activities of the business

Tier 2 Work permit


A Tier 2 Work Permit is granted based on the criteria that the position cannot be filled by a British citizen.  A UK business would need to apply for a new staff member via a certificate of sponsorship.

It is essential that the organisation is able to justify the need for someone outside of the UK to fill the position. At the end of five years, if the applicant does not qualify for indefinite leave to remain, they would need to return home for a year before applying again.

Spousal Visa

A Spousal Visa is applicable to anyone married to a British citizen or a person who has settlement status in the UK (i.e. a person who holds Indefinite Leave to Remain [ILR] or right of abode), plus an unmarried partner of two years or more.

  • Visa is issued for three years and the a further two years if all requirements are met
  • After being in the UK for five years the applicant should apply for indefinite leave to remain which takes 1 year
  • Apply for naturalization, which requires an uninterrupted six years meeting all requirements

Ancestry Visa

Almost 15% of those people who qualify for and hold a UK Ancestry Visa are already British but don’t realise it. This is because of anomalies in the UK Nationality laws dating between 1914 and 1983, where strange loopholes occur because of the colonial relationship.

The UK Ancestry Visa is, strictly speaking, an employment visa. It is available to any Commonwealth citizen (which includes South Africa, Zimbabwe, Australia, New Zealand and Canada) who has a grandparent born in the UK (including Ireland before 1922).

An ancestry visa allows the applicant to live and work in the UK for a period of up to five years, as well as exit and re-enter the UK freely on multiple occasions.

Tier 4 Student Visa

UK students

This visa allows the applicant to study in the UK, but doesn’t lead to settlement.  The holder of a student visa also cannot work full-time, only part-time and must be located near the university campus. Although there is no age limit on a student visa, only institutions that have a CAS license can offer places to international students.

Nationality Visa

UK flag

If you were born in a country that is different to either parent or any grandparent, OR you have a UK-born ancestor, then it is possible that you have a claim to British nationality.  Many South Africans are not looking to immigrate, but seek an alternate passport to travel internationally.  For some it has become an insurance policy.

There are some standard claims such as:

  • Born in the UK before 01/01/1983
  • A parent born in the UK before 01/01/1983
  • A parent naturalised in the UK before your birth
  • Naturalisation through residency in the UK

However, all other claims to British nationality have to be determined by reference to old nationality law and the Independence Day arrangements (and Constitution) of the relevant countries of your family (i.e. your parents and grandparents). This requires researching legal documents dating back as far as 1906.