Operating Status: Due to the continued COVID-19 outbreak, the U.S. Consulates General in South Africa remain unable to resume routine immigrant and non-immigrant visa services at this time. The U.S. Consulates General in South Africa are providing limited immigrant visa services (IR-1, IR-2, CR-1, CR-2, IR5, and K visas) and very limited non-immigrant visa services for crewmembers, certain student and exchange visitors categories, journalists, and limited petition-based workers who qualify for an exception to current travel restrictions. If you have an urgent life-or-death matter, or work/study in a critical medical field, and need to travel immediately, please follow the guidance provided at https://ais.usvisa-info.com/en-za/niv/, and include in your expedite request detailed information on the nature of the emergency and dates of travel. Supporting documents may be requested by the consulate. Routine travel requests, for example, to resume or begin work in the United States will not be considered for expediting.
We will resume routine visa services as soon as possible but are unable to provide a specific date. Please visit the Department’s guidance on the phased resumption of visa services for more information. A paid visa fee is valid and may normally be used to schedule an interview appointment in the country where it was purchased within one year of the date of payment. To allow all applicants who are unable to schedule a visa appointment as a result of the suspension of routine consular operations an opportunity to schedule and/or attend a visa appointment with the already paid fee, U.S. Consulates General in South Africa will extend the validity of your payment until September 30, 2022.
Presidential Proclamations and National Interest Exceptions: Individuals who have been present in 33 countries, including South Africa, remain subject to restrictions on entry to the United States. Consequently, the Department is conducting visa interviews in the Schengen area, United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, China, India, South Africa, and Iran only for applicants who qualify for National Interest Exceptions to these Presidential Proclamations. Please visit this site for more information and submit an NIE request via this link only if your purpose of travel is listed in the categories considered for exception. We will re-evaluate this posture should restrictions be lifted.
Validity of National Interest Exceptions: National Interest Exceptions are valid for 12 months for multiple entries, as long as they are used for the purpose under which they were granted. Please visit here for more details. If you have previously been granted a National Interest Exception under any of the proclamations, they are now retroactively valid for 12 months for multiple entries from the date of visa issuance or the date you were notified that your National Interest Exception was approved.
Presidential Proclamation Exemptions: Spouses, unmarried children under age 21, parents (or legal guardians), and unmarried siblings under the age of 21 of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents are exempt from the Presidential Proclamation and may travel to the United States if they have a valid U.S. visa or ESTA. [Please note that to qualify under the parent or sibling relationship, the U.S. citizen or LPR must also be unmarried and under age 21.] You do not need a letter of National Interest Exception from the U.S. Consulates General in South Africa to travel if you have one of these qualifying relationships.
Immigrant and Fiancé(e) Visas: On April 8, 2021, the Secretary of State determined that travel on an immigrant or fiancé(e) visa is in the national interest for purposes of granting exceptions under the geographic COVID proclamations. Your case will be prioritized in accordance with the Department’s guidance on the phased resumption of visa services. There is no need to submit a request for a National Interest Exception at this time. The U.S. Consulate General Johannesburg’s immigrant visa unit will contact you when your case is ready to continue processing. We are committed to reducing the backlog of immigrant visa applicants waiting to schedule appointments, while keeping our staff and applicants safe.
Students: Students with valid F-1 and M-1 visas intending to begin or continue an academic program commencing August 1, 2021 or later do not need to contact the U.S. Consulates General in South Africa to seek an individual NIE to travel, and may enter the United States no earlier than 30 days before the start of their academic studies. We do not currently envision being able to offer visa appointments to J-1 applicants wishing to participate in the Summer Work Travel (SWT) program per Presidential Proclamation 10143. For first-time student visa applicants, please visit https://ais.usvisa-info.com/en-za/niv/ and follow instructions to request an expedited appointment. If you are renewing your visa, you may be able to submit your application without needing to appear for an interview if you were issued a full-validity visa by a Consulate General in South Africa that expired no more than 24 months ago and have the same SEVIS number. Eligibility is determined based on the answers provided to questions during the appointment scheduling process on https://ais.usvisa-info.com/en-za/niv. Note: To minimize any delays in processing your application, please submit I-20 forms showing program start dates after August 1, 2020. Please contact your Designated School Official (DSO) to get an updated I-20 form, if necessary.
H-2A Visas: If you are applying for an H2A visa and have not yet submitted your visa application, you do not need to submit a request for a National Interest Exception. Go to https://ais.usvisa-info.com/en-za/niv/ to apply for your visa and your National Interest Exception will be adjudicated with your application. If you have already submitted your H2A visa application via the Interview Waiver Program, but not yet received your visa, your National Interest Exception is being already being adjudicated with your application. Please note that consular officers reserve the right to require an interview for any visa applicant.
Other Petition-Based Non-Immigrant Visa Categories (e.g., H, L, P, O): We are currently only processing petition-based non-immigrant visas for applicants who will provide vital support or executive direction for critical infrastructure or significant economic activity in the United States. For more information please refer to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s critical infrastructure sectors. Submit your information via this link if you fit this description.
Crewmembers: The suspension of entry to the United States also does not apply to any non-citizen traveling as a non-immigrant pursuant to a C-1, D, or C-1/D visa as a crewmember or any noncitizen otherwise traveling to the United States as air or sea crew (e.g., pursuant to a B1 visa or ESTA as a crewmember on a private vessel). You do not need a letter of National Interest Exception from an Embassy to travel if you fall into these groups. Please ensure you travel with evidence of the qualifying employment (e.g., employment contract, Seaman’s Book, evidence of prior employment and/or training in your field). To apply for your crewmember visa, please visit https://ais.usvisa-info.com/en-za/niv/ and follow instructions to request an expedited appointment. Pilots and aircrew possessing valid B1/B2 visas traveling to the United States for training or aircraft pickup, delivery, or maintenance, should submit their information via this link for a National Interest Exception to travel on their B1/B2 visas.
Professional Athletes: Please have your sponsoring organization contact Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on your behalf to confirm that CBP approves you for a National Interest Exception. U.S. Consulates General in South Africa can only issue your visas after CBP has approved a National Interest Exception for professional athletes at this time. After you have confirmed that CBP has approved you for a National Interest Exception, please make an appointment online at https://ais.usvisa-info.com/en-za/niv/ and follow instructions to request an expedited appointment, noting your existing exception.
COVID Testing Requirement: Effective January 26, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requires all air passengers (ages 2 and older) – including U.S. Citizens – entering the United States to present a negative COVID-19 test, taken within 72 hours of departure. Airlines must confirm the negative test result for all passengers before boarding. Airlines must deny boarding of passengers if they do not provide documentation of a negative test or recovery. This requirement is separate from the visa application process. All regional Presidential Proclamations restricting travel due to COVID-19 remain in place, and continue to apply to potential travelers regardless of their test results or vaccination status. Travelers holding a National Interest Exception also remain subject to all applicable pre-departure testing requirements. For additional information on this requirement, please read CDC’s FAQs here. If you would like to request a waiver of the CDC COVID-19 testing requirement, please follow the instructions on this site. Please also be advised that admission into the United States remains subject to a determination by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at ports of entry and that you also may be subject to a 14-day quarantine upon arrival to the United States.
The purpose of your intended travel and other facts will determine what type of visa is required under U.S. immigration law. As a visa applicant, you will need to establish that you meet all requirements to receive the category of visa for which you are applying.
See our Directory of Visa Categories on usvisas.state.gov to determine which visa category might be appropriate for your purpose of travel to the United States.
Travel to the United States on a temporary basis, including tourism, temporary employment, study and exchange.
For foreign citizens who want to live permanently in the United States.
What is a Visa?
A citizen of a foreign country who seeks to enter the United States generally must first obtain a U.S. visa, which is placed in the traveler’s passport, a travel document issued by the traveler’s country of citizenship.
Certain international travelers may be eligible to travel to the United States without a visa if they meet the requirements for visa-free travel. The Visa section of this website is all about U.S. visas for foreign citizens to travel to the United States.
(Note: U.S. citizens don’t need a U.S. visa for travel, but when planning travel abroad may need a visa issued by the embassy of the country they wish to visit.)
The Visa Information Service Center (VISC) is open Monday to Friday, 8:00-20:00, for telephone calls to answer questions, accept payments, and book appointments.
From the U.S.: 1.703.988.7092
Customer Service Statement
The Department of State manages the visa process strictly but fairly in order to best protect the United States. We are committed to the essential openness for which the United States has always been known. Travel to the United States is welcomed and encouraged.
We promise to you, the visa applicant, that:
- We will treat you with dignity and respect, even if we are unable to grant you a visa.
- We will treat you as an individual and your case as unique.
- We will remember that, to you, a visa interview may be a new or intimidating experience and that you may be nervous.
- We will use the limited time available for the interview to get as full a picture as possible of your travel plans and intentions.
- We will use our available resources to fairly assist all applicants to get appointments to allow travel in time for business, study, and other important obligations.
- We will post detailed and accurate information on visa requirements and application procedures on every Embassy and Consulate website.
- We will provide information on non-immigrant appointment waiting times at every Embassy and Consulate posted on http://travel.state.gov.
- We will explain the reason for any visa denial to you.
Furthermore, if you are a:
- Student, we will make every effort to ensure that you get an appointment and, if qualified, a visa in time to start classes.
- Medical and humanitarian emergency traveler, we will expedite processing for those dealing with life threatening emergencies.
- Business traveler, we will establish appropriate mechanisms to facilitate business travel and expedite cases of particular concern to American business.
At the same time, we expect you, the visa applicant, to:
- Plan your travel and visa application as far in advance as possible.
- Complete your application fully and accurately.
- Be forthcoming about your purpose and plans.
- Prepare for your interview by being able to clearly and concisely describe your intentions.