Moving from South Africa to the UK


The UK continues to be the most popular choice for South Africans relocating overseas. However, if you want to relocate here, you must first complete a few tasks: Like getting a genuine passport, choosing the right visa and saving up quite a bit because some UK visas require proof that you can support yourself while living in the country.

Having said that, relocating to the United Kingdom can help you advance in your career and get international experience. You could also relocate for better job prospects or simply for the quality of life. This is a guide to moving from South Africa to the UK.

What visas are available for South Africans moving to the UK

South Africans intending to relocate to the UK can apply for various visas. Choosing the right visa for your specific situation is critical to giving your application the best chance of success. As a result, it’s important that you thoroughly examine which visa classes you might be eligible for. Here’s a look at your options.

UK Ancestry Visa

All Commonwealth nationals, including South Africans, are eligible for the UK Ancestry Immigration Scheme. Individuals aged 17 and up with a UK born grandparent or one from the Channel Islands or Ireland (before 31st March 1922) are eligible for this visa. 

Your grandparent doesn’t need to be biological; you can apply if your adoptive parent(s) parent is from the UK. 

This visa category doesn’t require proof of a job offer in the UK. But you’ll need to prove that you can work and plan on hunting for a job once in the country to not rely on government support. 

Documents required include identification and a passport proving Commonwealth citizenship, your birth certificate and those of your parents or adoption papers proving UK ancestry. Depending on where they were born, you can obtain copies of your parent’s birth certificates from the respective UK national authorities.

What is the maximum length of stay allowed for an Ancestry visa?

Ancestry visa holders can stay in the UK for up to five years. At the end of the five years, you may seek an indefinite leave to remain in the UK. If you don’t qualify for this, you can still remain in the UK by extending your visa for another five years.

Skilled Worker Visa

The Skilled Worker visa is another route to the UK. South Africans with these visas can live and work in the country for up to 5 years. But you must have a job offer matching your skills and paying at least £25,600 from a company with a sponsor licence.

However, you can still apply if the job you’ve been offered pays at least £20,480, as long as workers are scarce in your field. A PhD or other high-level qualifications in your field may be helpful too.

Of course, you will need to prove accommodation and that you can support yourself without relying on the UK government. Also, you’ll need B1 level English proficiency and a zero history of crime.

The skilled worker visa costs £610, and after five years, you can apply for an extension or seek an indefinite leave to remain. 

Spouse or Partner Visa

South African spouses or partners of British citizens or settled individuals can apply for spouse or partner visas. But these aren’t easy to get as the Home Office scrutinises the relationship to ensure it’s genuine. For example, you must have been together for at least 24 months, and if not yet married, you must show intention to do so within half a year after entry. 

Moving to the UK under the generous visa scheme

In addition to the visas stated above, you can enter the UK through the scale-up, high potential individual, or global business mobility visa. These are visas for qualified professionals worldwide who desire to relocate and work in the UK. You will need to show your sponsor’s licence number and name when applying for the scale-up or global business mobility visa.

The high potential individual visa, on the other hand, does not require any of that; in fact, you do not need to already have been offered a job; this is the visa for you if you’ve recently graduated from a top global institution and want to enter the UK to look for work.

What else must you do if you want to relocate to the United Kingdom from South Africa?

Apart from researching the types of visas available, you need to ensure your passport is valid; otherwise, the UK government won’t issue visas. So, please apply for your passport early and make sure it’s up-to-date.

Make a budget. Every visa option has some expenses, such as the visa fee, the health surcharge and the cost of translating documents. Plus, there’s the airline fee. Furthermore, the spouses and skilled worker visa classes call for a certain amount of savings to show you can support yourself. So, start by organising your finances before signing up for a visa.


Moving to the UK from South Africa can be complicated; there are documents to apply and submit, some fees to pay, some savings to show, and more. It’s always wise to work with an experienced immigration team to help you navigate this legal red tape. We have experienced UK immigration lawyers and have helped thousands of individuals get into the UK the right way, whether via UK work visas, ancestry visas, etc. Let us know your situation so we can find ways to help!

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