Comprehensive Guide on how to Study on Low Tuition in South Africa

If you are an international student and you want to experience life in one of the most diverse and complex countries in the world, then you should choose South Africa as a study destination. Since the 1990s, following legislation to overturn decades of enforced racial segregation, South Africa has made significant progress in developing a more democratic society, in which diversity is celebrated as a central part of national identity. There are, for example, 11 official languages (only Bolivia and India have more), and the country is nicknamed the “rainbow nation” in recognition of its unique multicultural character. Tuition fees are equally very affordable and cheap for international students.

Tuition Fees and Cost of Living

Tuition fees at universities in South Africa vary depending on the university, study level and subject of study. You may also find fees are charged per course module, varying slightly depending on the specific classes you take. To give a rough idea of the price range, the University of Cape Town’s 2016 guidelines indicate minimum international fees of R75,000 (~US$5,200) for undergraduate and honors degrees, and R47,500 (~US$3,300) for master’s degrees.

Many South African universities offer their own scholarships and bursaries for international students at various levels of study, based on academic merit and/or financial need. Details will usually be listed on the university website. Incoming students may be automatically considered or may need to submit a separate application.

Living costs are relatively cheap, especially when compared to countries such as the US or the UK. On average, you’ll need around R96,000 (~US$7,250) a year to cover accommodation, food, travel and other expenses.

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How to Apply for South African Student Visa

If you are an international student intending to study in South Africa you must apply for a student visa. Universities in South Africa cannot register you as an international student until you have shown them a valid visa. You can apply through your nearest South African embassy, consulate or high commission. Visit the Department of Home Affairs website for more detailed information on visa costs, processing times, where to apply, what to submit, requirements for people in transit and information relating to your duration/purpose of stay, and photograph requirements.

Typically, student visas for South Africa take around six weeks to be processed. Once you have received conditional acceptance from the South African institution of your choice, you will then need to complete the temporary residence permit application form BI-1738 and submit it in person, along with the following documents, to a South African embassy or consulate in your home country:

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  • Passport valid no less than 30 days after the end of your course. Your passport must have two consecutive, clear pages for entry/departure stamps.
  • Completed form BI-1738
  • Proof of payment for the visa application
  • Two color passport-sized photographs
  • Official letter of confirmation from your chosen South African university detailing the duration of your course, and undertaking to provide notice of registration/de-registration and course completion/extension within the allotted time period
  • Proof of necessary finances to cover tuition fees and living costs for the duration of your stay
  • Proof of medical or health insurance, and a letter confirming this will be renewed annually for the duration of your stay. Depending on where you’re travelling from, you may also need a yellow-fever vaccination certificate. South Africa is mostly malaria-free, but inoculations against hepatitis A and typhoid are recommended before travel.
  • Medical and radiological reports from within last six months
  • Details of accommodation arrangements in South Africa
  • If you’re under 18: written permission from both parents or from a sole custody parent including proof of sole custody; details of the person in South Africa who will act as your guardian, including a letter of confirmation from them
  • If you’re over 18: a police clearance certificate for every country you’ve resided in for more than 12 months since the age of 18
  • If you have children (minors) travelling with you or joining you in South Africa, you will need to provide proof of guardianship or custody or consent from the guardian.

Student visas for South Africa are valid for the duration of the course for which they are issued. As a student visa holder, you are allowed to work part-time for no more than 20 hours per week (and full-time during academic vacations). If you plan to work as part of your studies or to get work experience, you’ll need to apply for permission from the Department of Home Affairs. You’ll need to submit: an offer of practical training, consent from your educational institution in South Africa and proof that you are still a registered student.

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