Answer to a question from a reader

Can I get a spousal visa for my partner if we are not married?

The short answer

No, you need to apply for a life partner visa.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

I am a South African citizen living in Vietnam with my partner for nearly three years. She is from the Philippines. Can she get a spousal visa if we are not married? Can we apply from Vietnam? Will we be called to South Africa for interviews and then have to return to Vietnam before the outcome? 

The long answer

As you are not married, you cannot apply for a spousal visa, but for a life partner visa. This visa falls under Section 18, the relative’s visa stream, which makes it a temporary residence category. Temporary residence visas are issued for an initial period of two to three years, which you can apply to extend if the relationship is still ongoing. It is recommended to renew it at least 20 to 24 weeks before it expires because if the visa expires your partner could be deported and banned from re-entering the country for five years.

Home Affairs is ordinarily very slow and is now taking even longer to process visa applications due to Covid and being short-staffed. Home Affairs has indicated that currently it could take 20 weeks to process from the date of submission in South Africa.

To obtain the life partner visa, you have to prove that the relationship is a valid one of a permanent nature and that you have been living together for a minimum of two years and are living together at the time of applying for the life partner visa. You would need to show that there is both an emotional and financial bond. You would also need to provide affidavits or letters of support from family and friends, attesting to your relationship. This could also include holiday photographs and the like. 

You would need to prove that you share financial responsibilities, like bond or rent, electricity payments, etc. You would need to open a joint bank account to show that the foreign partner is secure in South Africa and will not become a burden on the state.

She can also apply for endorsements to the life partner visa for work and study once she has got the visa.

You can apply from Vietnam. Applications for a life partner visa can be submitted abroad in either the country of origin or the country where you hold residence. It can also be done in South Africa when on a visitor’s visa (which is usually valid for 90 days).

 This is a summary of the documents your partner will have to submit:

  • Valid passport with at least two free pages and valid for 30 days after the end of your visit;

  • Photocopy of any temporary residence visas in the passport;

  • Proof of your relationship and that you have lived together for two years before submitting the visa application;

  • A joint bank account;

  • Proof of a minimum of R8,500 per month per person (This amount may have gone up but it is the most recent I could find);

  • Police clearance certificates from any country she’s lived in for a year or more since the age of 18;

  • Documentation proving cohabitation and the extent to which the related financial responsibilities are shared by the parties;

  • Medical Certificate – Cannot be older than 6 months from date of issuance;

  • Radiological Report – Cannot be older than 6 months from date of issuance;

Since VFS Facilitation Centres began managing the submission process of all visas and permits for Home Affairs in 2014, Home Affairs officials do not generally conduct interviews, so you may not be asked to undergo an interview to prove the validity of your relationship. But if Home Affairs has any doubts about the relationship at any stage, they could still request an interview. 

After five years of the life partner visa, your partner can apply for permanent residence, if the relationship is ongoing.

Wishing you the best,

Answered on March 3, 2022, 3:46 p.m.

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