Any first time applicant who wishes to have a long term visa in South Africa must first apply from their country of citizenship or residency. This significant change took place with the law changes in 2014 and may be amended in an effort to increase tourism to South Africa, as recently indicated in the media.
But until that day comes, it is important to know how to deal with foreign submission centers, whether it is a South African embassy abroad or their agent, VFS Global. Which process you go through is country dependent - for example, all Americans will submit through and embassy or consulate, whereas British citizens will submit through VFS Global.
Regardless of where you must take your documentation, it will be necessary to correctly fill out the application form, which in most circumstances is form 1738. Most embassies will have a rough guideline of what must be included in the application and if not listed on their website, you can often email them for more information.
It should be noted that some South African embassies/submission centers abroad require additional documentation, such as medical insurance, flight bookings, or birth certificates, which are not actual requirements in the law. Thus it is important to either obtain this information from where you will be submitting or get professional help to guide you through the process.
Most embassies/submission centers have a turn-around time of 10 working days to 30 working days - again, country dependent. Your application will need to be submitted in person and your passport will be kept whilst your application is being processed.
As a general rule of thumb, no applications for permanent residency should be submitted from abroad. This is because all permanent residency applications are handled in Pretoria and not by embassies. By submitting a permanent residency application from abroad, you will not receive a sufficient tracking number and it is probable your application will literally be lost. This is why we advise clients to apply for their temporary residency visa from abroad and then apply for permanent residency once in the country.