Before the law changes of May 2014, it was possible to arrive in South Africa as a tourist or visitor and make an application for any other visa (it was called temporary residence permit at the time) or permanent residence permit from here.

From that time up until recently, it has been impossible to change from a visitor’s visa to any other visa from within the country, making it necessary for applicants to return to their home country in order to make their application and await the outcome there. For married spouses and life partners of South Africans, this rule has been particularly harsh as many of them were separated from their spouses and families for many months at a time until their visas were issued. A recent judgment has changed this: spouses (married or in a life partnership for at least two years) can now enter South Africa as visitors and apply for a visa to continue living, to work or conduct a business here. This is already being applied by VFS and Home Affairs and a great relief for the many affected couples and families.

The court order suggests that, in fact, ANY persons wishing to apply for one of the visa categories listed under section 11 of the Immigration Act (which includes voluntary work, academic sabbaticals, work in the film industry or for an international school, etc) can do so locally after having entered the country as a visitor. Whether Home Affairs will follow this reading will have to be seen.