South African Visa applicants face struggles: Here is how to overcome them

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5 min read

JOHANNESBURG – Unmarried, no kids, and a bank balance that’s a little low? Your chances of successfully getting a visa to travel just got slimmer. Not everyone’s equal when it comes to visa applications. Factors such as your marital status, whether or not you have children, ownership of property, how long you’ve worked for the company, your bank balance, and even your social media activity can count against you.  

According to Andrew MacRae, the director of Execuserve SA, a visa application partner of Corporate Traveller, these factors have been leading to a rise in visa rejections among South African travellers. Embassies consider granting a visa as “a privilege, not a right”. This puts the onus on the traveller to prove their motives for travel are legit.  

“Your visa application needs to prove why you’re travelling, if you’re planning to return home and if you’re a potential threat,” he explains – hence an increase in visas being rejected after a “social media review”.   

Jumping through these hoops is increasing the burden on those arranging business travel for younger, lower-earning staff, recent hires, and first-time visa applicants, says MacRae.  

And let’s not forget the game of political chess that adds another layer to this already complex board. MacRae says some countries impose restrictions or additional requirements on South Africans based on how their citizens are treated when applying for South African visas. Plot twist!  

Ensuring your visa documents are in order doesn’t guarantee a stamp. Certain embassies prioritise interviews, which can be intimidating. Nervousness, (even if you’ve got nothing to hide), can lead to rejection. The solution? “We provide interview coaching for companies with novice travellers. This helps them anticipate and confidently face the interview,” says McRae. 

Time’s not on your side either. Visa processing times have taken a slower lane – due to the post-Covid curveball of staff shortages – warns McRae. What once took weeks now requires more patience. This situation is exacerbated during major events, such as a regional rugby World Cup, potentially extending visa lead times from a few weeks to as long as six weeks, he says. 

MacRae’s advice for visa applications for a business trip: Begin by sending your passport and travel details to a visa specialist as soon as you can. This information is essential for them to accurately assess your visa eligibility and predict the processing time. DIY research is risky. Information published on embassy websites is usually outdated, he warns.  

And what about travellers who can’t prove a healthy bank balance? Here you’ll need the support of your employer. “Schengen nations demand personal bank statements reflecting a daily surplus of around €190, irrespective of travel purpose or full business coverage. A corporate credit card is insufficient too; your company should transfer the necessary amount for your trip expenses into your account as part of your application process.” 

Your company’s support is key to cracking the visa code – which is why having a travel management company (TMC) is invaluable for businesses with international travel needs, says Rategang Moroke, operations manager at Corporate Traveller.  

“Your travel manager ensures your flights, accommodation, and travel plans are on track, while our visa partners make sure your visa process goes smoothly, from scheduling appointments to dealing with embassy requirements. Working together, we take care of your travel, so you can focus on your work goals and have a stress-free trip,” she explains. 

How to up your chances of getting a visa green light? Moroke has the following advice: 

Check your passport: Before diving into your international plans, check your passport’s expiration date. Numerous countries require a validity of at least six months after your return. Your travel manager will always track these details from your profile, while Corporate Traveller’s tech automatically notifies you about expiring visas. 

Chat with travel experts ASAP: Contact your travel manager as soon as you have a sense you may need to travel. They’ll help you determine what kind of visa you need based on your destination and nationality. Your travel manager can also hook you up with visa pros who know the ropes. 

Sort out travel insurance: When applying for a visa, you must show that you have travel insurance. Your travel manager can suggest insurance companies with the right coverage for your work trip. 

Keep up with rule changes: Rules can flip overnight. Your travel manager will keep you posted about any changes that might mess with your plans, so you don’t have to worry about it constantly. 

Stay flexible with bookings: Your travel manager can book flights and accommodation options that are less restrictive and more flexible, allowing you to make changes and cancellations as needed.

“Having a TMC like Corporate Traveller can really make a difference to the success of your visa application. Our tech analyses your profile, so you can always ensure your passport and visas are valid. Your dedicated travel manager will also make sure your bookings are refundable if, for some reason, you can’t travel, which can be a big cost saving in these times of visa volatility. And because we partner with visa specialists, you get the guidance you need to reduce your chances of being rejected,” Moroke says.  

The bottom line? Prep your paperwork, polish your confidence – and crucially – take the advice of your visa application partner and TMC.  

For more information about Corporate Traveller, or to interview Corporate Traveller South Africa GM Bonnie Smith, call Dorine Reinstein on 083 278 8994 or email dorine@bigambitions.co.za.