If you are a South African citizen seeking to obtain a visa to the United States, this article will guide you through the necessary steps and information pertaining to United States visa requirements. On this page, we explore visa categories as well as the application process all while adhering to the official terminology used by the US Government, which refers to Tourist Visas as a subset of “Nonimmigrant Visas.”
US Visa Options
South African citizens have several visa options to choose from when planning a visit to the United States. Each visa category serves a distinct purpose, and it’s essential to select the one that aligns with your specific travel plans and requirements.
1. H-2B Visa for Temporary Foreign Workers
The H-2B visa is designed for temporary foreign workers, especially in non-agricultural sectors, often involving low-wage positions. It allows South Africans the opportunity to work in the United States temporarily, filling positions that are typically difficult to source with local talent.
2. L1 Visa for Intracompany Transfers
The L1 visa is for employees of companies with offices both internationally and in the United States. This visa permits employees to work in the U.S. division of the company. The L1 visa can range from three months to five years, and if you hold an L1 visa, your spouse may also be eligible for an L2 visa to work in the U.S.
To qualify for L-1A and L-1B visas, the applicant must have worked for the company for at least 12 months over the last three years.
3. B-1 Visa
The B-1 visa is designed for individuals who plan to work in the United States for up to a year. It allows for multiple entries into the country during its validity period, making it suitable for temporary business purposes or short-term professional engagements.
4. O-1 Visa for Extraordinary Ability
The O-1 visa is for individuals who can demonstrate “extraordinary ability” in their respective fields. This nonimmigrant visa has two subcategories:
- O-1A visa: If your extraordinary ability is in athletics, business, education, or the sciences.
- O-1B visa: If your extraordinary ability lies in the arts, television, or the motion picture industry.
Accompanying family members can apply for O-3 visas. The O visa initially grants a stay of up to three years, with the possibility of USCIS extending it in one-year increments.
5. International Entrepreneur Rule / Startup Visa
This visa category was created for foreign entrepreneurs looking to start businesses in the United States. However, as of my last knowledge update in September 2021, the program was postponed and might have undergone changes. South Africans interested in starting businesses in the U.S. should check for the latest updates regarding this visa category.
6. Green Card (Permanent Residence)
A Green Card provides permanent residence in the United States, allowing holders to live and work in the country. South African citizens can explore various avenues for applying for a Green Card, including:
- Employment (form I-140)
- Relatives (form I-130)
- Victims of abuse
- Refugee/Asylee (form I-730)
- Victims of crime and human trafficking (forms I-918 and I-929 for qualifying family)
- Special immigrants (form I-360)
- Other categories
There are five employment-based categories (EB-1 through EB-5), each with specific eligibility criteria:
- EB-1: Priority workers
- EB-3: Other skilled workers
- EB-4: Special workers (e.g., religious workers)
- EB-5: Investors
EB-3 is noteworthy for South African citizens, as it allows U.S. companies to hire up to 5,000 unskilled foreign workers annually, addressing labor shortages for jobs that cannot be filled by U.S. workers.
Green card holders can sponsor their spouses and unmarried children under 21 for U.S. residency. The process includes completing the I-130 form, providing required documentation, and demonstrating a commitment to sponsorship.
Naturalisation (Form N-400) – Full US Citizenship
After legally residing in the U.S. for five years as a Green Card holder, you can apply for full U.S. citizenship through naturalisation, provided you meet specific criteria. This includes being 18 years or older, meeting physical presence requirements, demonstrating an understanding of English and U.S. history and government, and being willing to take the “Oath of Allegiance.” Keep in mind that other factors, such as your criminal record, will also be considered during the application process.
Please note that visa requirements and categories may change over time. It’s essential to consult the U.S. Department of State’s official website or contact the relevant U.S. consulate for the most up-to-date information and guidance on the specific visa category that suits your needs.
Visitor visa application and interview documents
Once you are certain that you require a U.S. visitor visa, it is time to gather the necessary documents to initiate the application process. These documents fall into two categories: required and supporting documents.
Required documents are essential for all visa applicants, while supporting documents vary based on the purpose of your visit to the United States.
Proof of the purpose of your trip
- Travel itinerary
- Round-trip flight information
- Hotel or accommodation arrangements
- Letter of invitation (if visiting family or friends)
- Contact information of U.S.-based business associates (if traveling for business)
- Proof of the event and/or an invitation card or brochure (if attending an event)
- Medical diagnosis and related documents (if seeking medical treatment)
Proving your intent to depart the U.S. at the end of your trip
- Letter of employment from your home country
- Proof of family ties in your home country
- Property documents and personal affidavits
Proof of your ability to cover trip costs
- Financial support letter (if someone else will cover costs)
- Recent tax returns
- Bank statements
- Other financial documents
Who will process your request?
The United States has consulates in key South African cities, including Cape Town, Durban, and Johannesburg are in charge of visa issuance. These consulates are responsible for considering and processing your tourist visa application. Please note that the US Embassy in Pretoria does not provide consulate services.
The application process
Obtaining a United States visa involves several crucial steps. In this section, we break down the process:
Step 0: Valid Passport
You will need a South African passport with at least six months of validity remaining after your planned travel to the USA.
Step 1: Complete the DS-160 Form
Start by filling out the “Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application” form, designated as “DS-160.” Choose the city in South Africa where you plan to apply (not necessarily your passport’s home country), with options including Johannesburg, Cape Town, or Durban. Upon selecting your application location, you will receive an “Application ID” consisting of letters and numbers. This ID allows you to resume your application where you left off if needed.
Step 2: Schedule an interview
For most applicants, an in-person interview at a consulate is part of the United States visa requirements, unless you qualify for visa renewal. Consulates are located in Cape Town, Durban, and Johannesburg, so choose the one most convenient for you. You will need to register a profile with the U.S. Department of State Visa Appointment and Information system, providing your email address and optionally, your smartphone number. Ensure you link your DS-160 number from Step 1 to Step 2 and gather other required documentation, including the DS-160 confirmation for any accompanying travelers.
In this step, you will:
- Complete the courier document return process.
- Pay the non-refundable Nonimmigrant Visa application fee and keep the payment receipt for your interview.
- Schedule a Consular Section appointment and attend it with your printed DS-160 and all necessary documents. While wait times for scheduling appointments can vary, they usually last for a few weeks.
After your consulate appointment, keep an eye on the consulate’s website for updates on your application status.
Collecting your visa
A few days later, you will be informed about the approval or denial of your application. If approved, you can either collect your passport or have it delivered.
What sets the US Tourist Visa apart is its 10-year validity and the ability to stay for up to six months, with the possibility of applying for an extension.
Contact Information for South African Consulates
- Cape Town Consulate: 2 Reddam Avenue, Steenberg, Westlake. Email: email@example.com, Landline: 021-702-7300.
- Durban Consulate: 303 Dr. Pixley KaSeme Street, 31st Floor, Delta Towers, Durban Central. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Phone: 031-305-7600.
- Johannesburg Consulate: 1 Sandton Drive, Sandhurst, Sandton. Email: email@example.com, Phone: 011-290-3000.
Final thoughts on United States visa requirements
While navigating the United States visa requirements can be a mission, the potential 10-year validity and extended stay options make it a rewarding endeavor. Be sure to check with your local consulate for specific requirements and stay updated on their websites for application status and other crucial information.
All information contained on this page is accurate as of October 2023. It is crucial to stay informed about any changes in visa requirements, as the information provided here is subject to alteration without prior notice. Compliance with these requirements does not guarantee the issuance of a visa.