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I am looking for a visa option to make South Africa my semi-permanent home. I would like to apply for 2-3 separate tourist visas each year and extensions for each, ideally spend a combined 8-10 months from the year in South Africa.

I would be OK with leaving South Africa every 90 days (or more with extension) for a month or so, returning to non-neighbouring or home country and applying for a new visa.

I'm not visa-exempt and would need to re-apply for a new visa through the embassy each time, the application process so far was however fairly quick and painless.

A few questions, are there any rules for:

  • how many times a year you can apply for a tourist visa?
  • how many extensions on tourist visas can be granted? (ie. if I extend one visa, leave continent and get a second visa in same year, can this one also be extended?)
  • how many days a year you are allowed to spend in ZA on tourist visas combined?

...or are these fully in the officers discretion to grant another tourist visa and essentially a lottery game for each visa renewal?

I have looked into temporary residence visas and they are not suitable as I am not planning to work for a South African company. The long time discussed South African Digital Nomad Visa will likely take a few more years to materialize.

If anyone has experience with a similar situation or alternative visa suggestions, please let me know.

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    It’s unlikely your plan will work in the medium/long term. It’s likely that repeated visits where the time you spend in SA adds up to significantly more than the time you spend in your country of permanent residence will ultimately lead to curtailment of your visits or even a visa refusal intergate-immigration.com/…
    – Traveller
    Jan 2, 2023 at 0:20
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    you act like this is a computer program where you just press the right keys to get a visa and you get one and you can just keep doing it to get more visas. It's not. You have to be a tourist to get a tourist visa. After the first 2 times they will probably figure out you're not really a tourist because they aren't idiots.
    – user253751
    Jan 2, 2023 at 20:14

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As you point out, the appropriate visa for what you want to do (the digital nomad visa) does not exist in South Africa. Digital nomads the world over are fighting the immigration systems of various countries. They do like to make a lot of noise about how the immigration systems of most countries are not “up to date” because they don’t support their desired lifestyle, but sadly that’s not how the world works.

You’re not a tourist, and so the tourist visas are not the right choice. You’re not employed by a South African company, so that avenue is closed. The usual other option is to get married to someone who is a citizen, and apply for a “family” visa off the back of that.

I don’t see that there are many alternatives, until a digital nomad-specific visa is created.

Also FYI, if you are working as a digital nomad, you probably aren’t paying any taxes - and if you live in one country for more than 183 days in the year you are usually considered resident for tax purposes. This means that while you are working illegally (you’re in the country, you’re working, and you don’t have a work permit), you are also technically evading tax too. Remember, that’s how they got Al Capone!

So while the digital nomad “lifestyle” seems appealing, remember that it’s always best to keep within the law. And if that’s not possible in the country you have chosen, maybe try to find another country that does allow you to get the type of visa you need - although they’ll probably expect you to pay your taxes like everybody else, too.

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    Generally countries tax income sourced to them regardless of the duration of stay (there are occasional minimums to avoid nuisance or based on treaties). Tax residents pay taxes on world wide income, but digital nomads commit tax evasion from day 1, not day 181.
    – littleadv
    Jan 3, 2023 at 8:15
  • I pay taxes in the country I am employed and the country has a agreement with South Africa to avoid double taxation. That said, taxes is not a problem. I would be fine paying additional taxes in ZA if that was the requirement for any type of longer term visa. Jan 3, 2023 at 13:09
  • @user3617378 have you read that tax agreement? It probably specifies that your income is taxable in South Africa because that's where you're doing the work. These taxation agreements do not mean that you get to choose where to pay the tax -- they specify which country gets to tax which income. If you're paying tax to the wrong country you may want to seek a refund before it's too late. Otherwise, South Africa may demand its tax revenue after you can no longer get it back from the other country.
    – phoog
    Jan 3, 2023 at 16:24
  • Some assumptions being made here. I have been in South Africa for 32 days last year and 3 days this year of which most of it was vacation… in no way I should be considered a tax resident here at this stage. With this logic, no one should be touching their work emails even when vacationing in another country, otherwise its tax evasion. Again, I am looking for a way to stay in ZA longer and not have to change jobs for it. If there is a visa available that allows this and requires paying taxes in ZA, then I will do that and speak to a qualified tax attorney. But not possible it seems… Jan 3, 2023 at 16:54
  • @user3617378 there's a huge gray area. Is keeping up with work correspondence "work"? Some incidental answering of e-mails is typically fine, but producing your principal work product is another matter. And even there, different countries might take different positions on the question, will have different de minimis thresholds, and so on. I do get the sense that South Africa tends to apply its immigration law fairly strictly, so I would certainly proceed carefully if I were in your shoes. An approach used in some other countries is to set yourself up as an independent contractor under...
    – phoog
    Jan 4, 2023 at 9:00

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