Life Partner Permit: Renewal in South Africa

With COVID-19 causing the South African government to grant visa extensions, I‘ve been prepping my visa application since July

Laurrel Allison
13 min readDec 14, 2020


I am counting my blessings. I am in a country where the president made it mandatory for all citizens to wear masks in public. I’m living in a city that actually appoints workers ensuring people are hand-sanitized before entering most premises, a city that encourages social distancing and staying home. Whether its inhabitants follow suit is another thing, but I am glad the government has put its foot down and requested its citizens to play along for the time being until the hotspots disappear. It’s been interesting living through it over the past several months, and I had no idea what to expect at the beginning of it all. COVID-19 cases within the country are now nearly at 861,000.

Coronavirus in SA: All eyes on Ramaphosa’s ‘family meeting’ | eNCA

This country’s government has also granted not one, not two, but three different visa extensions. These extensions were for people living within South Africa on temporary and permanent residency visas which expired during the beginning and height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The first one was from February-July 31st. The second extension pushed the end date to October 31st. Since my visa was set to expire in mid-September, I was aiming to hit this deadline. Thankfully, there was a third extension that made the new expiration date January 31st 2021. Frankly, I was elated and very lucky because there was no way all my paperwork would’ve been completed correctly by Halloween.

VFS Visa Renewal Documentation List

As of November 23rd 2020, the below list is what I was given by my immigration agency to work on completing in order to hand into the VFS who would then hand it into the DHA (I think? I really don’t know how it works here. I am just following orders). There were a few sections, as one applied to what was specifically needed for the VFS, what was the general documentation, and what my partner had to organize.

VFS documentation:

  • VFS fee payment proof printed off and taken to VFS
  • VFS check list printed off and taken to VFS –it is a general check list thus some boxes will not be applicable — the VFS personnel will tick them off, it can be signed there
  • VFS application form printed off and taken to VFS — it can be signed there
  • VFS appointment letter printed off and taken to VFS
  • 60 day declaration printed off, signed (In South Africa, when you apply to renew your visa within the country, you must submit all paperwork no less than 60 days before your current visa expires. This documentation had to be filled out because, since my visa expired in September, I am definitely way past the 60-day mark)

General documentation/instructions:

  • Certified copy of your passport (photo page and South Africa entry stamp)
  • Original medical and radiological report
  • Take along a debit/credit card for the payment of R185 for the SA police clearance which is now done at VFS (this was originally done as a police clearance, involving waiting for weeks and possibly months after submitting fingerprints at the local police station. Since this is just a visa renewal, they do biometrics instead)
  • Certified copies of your lease agreements to cover the last 2 years (It took me a while to understand what the concept of certification meant. I never had to do anything like this in the States, so perhaps it is an identical or similar process but I’d have no idea. Basically, I had to have an original document, a copy of the original document, bring both documents to the police station, let them pore over both the original and the copy, and then stamp the copy to confirm it is indeed a true copy of the original document)
  • Certified copy of the notarial contract (I got this one very, very wrong my first time around. Luckily, I had a couple attorneys explain the legalese to me and I was given an actual notarial contract by the immigration agency I picked. This contract can be a pricy one to shell out cash for. In Cape Town, most attorney offices quoted me between 1700–2000R, around 113–130 USD, in order to have the pages notarized — regardless if they drew up the contract themselves or not. Luckily, I was able to skip the fee completely due to some connections I had)
  • Certified copy of the life partnership affidavit form (I actually got this one correct the first time! I think… Anyways, I had to submit a follow-up document to this one. Basically, it’s paperwork confirming that my partner and I are still together in a caring, loving, reciprocal relationship that has not changed from when the original paperwork was signed)
  • Financial commitment document both of you must please sign, submit the original (I didn’t know what to expect for this document. I wasn’t sure how in depth it was, so I pored over our expense sheets for the last year and gave averages of all our monthly expenses to the agent appointed to me from the immigration agency. In the end, he just drew up a simple one-page document saying that we split practically every type of monthly expense 50/50)
  • Your bank statements for the last 3 months, not older than 7 days before submission date (This was important! I didn’t know it had to be no older than 7 days before the submission, and I am not sure how my statements will hold up since they are only completed once a month and you can’t pick certain dates. My partner’s bank does allow this, though. Lucky…)
  • Original letter from bank confirming you have power of attorney on his account (The original POA we had reflected an old Los Angeles address I had, and needed to be updated to my current Cape Town address. This was quite an unnecessary hassle to amend, simply because on a lease I signed in 2019 I misspelled our address)

For my partner to complete and for me to submit:

  • Certified copy of SA identity document
  • Confirmation letter regarding employment + last 3 pay slips
  • Their bank statements for the last 3 months, not older than 7 days before submission date (To be on the safe side, my partner also downloaded bank-stamped copies of his statements for me. But every time he downloads them, it costs him 20–30R. He’s downloaded them three times for me already for various reasons, so I definitely to take him out for a drink sometime to say thank you)
  • Support declaration signed (I wrote one up myself, because what I found on Google wasn’t very helpful so I figured I would be as detailed as possible. I pored over Facebook photos and Instagram dates to create as clear a picture as possible of all the things we have done and enjoy doing together. However, the immigration agent had something very different in mind for me! He simply sent me a one-page declaration that basically said that my partner would support me “financially, medically, emotionally, as well as physically”, that we live together, and that I would be seeking to apply for a permanent residency visa as soon as I were able)

What I Got Wrong the First Time

Since this wasn’t my first rodeo with the life partner permit (which, btw, is just a glorified relatives visa), I really need to clarify what I got entirely wrong before. I wrote three articles about my experience flying back to Los Angeles to apply in my home country in order to stay in South Africa with my partner of (then) two and a half years. Two years and two months later, I can say that there are several things I was specifically told are simply not needed. Some were not needed then, some were not needed ever (never said I was great at adulting, guys).

The notarial contract

The first thing I mentioned earlier in this article was about the notarial contract. I am still really not super sure what it is or what it’s good for, it’s probably the most confusing (but, I am told, the most crucial) part of a good spouse visa application, whether first time applicant or filing for a renewal. Because I instead had an “antenuptial contract” or civil union type of document last time, apparently I shouldn’t have even had my visa application approved (yep, that is what a local lawyer gravely informed me a few weeks ago). So… Yeah, definitely try to make sure you have the correct forms, and get a second opinion! For someone who wrote a whole article musing about the importance of the notarial contract, what it was and what it meant to then to not have it done… Not a good look.

Photos of the relationship

Next, I don’t know if you noticed in my first installment of the Visa Application Trilogy of 2018, but I was very much blending arts and crafts with my visa application. This…was really not necessary. Literally none of it. When I brought a folder full of hundreds of photos printed out of my partner and I, showing various stages of hair growth between the two of us over a span of two and a half years, the lady at the South African Consulate-General in Los Angeles promptly returned the folder to me.

This may look fun, but in the end it was just a big waste of time and energy

She did however take a bunch of screenshots I took of my social media! So I count that as a win. I really don’t think that was needed either, but I hope it was useful to see us cuties growing up together in our twenties.

How to organize and submit the paperwork

Also, this isn’t really something I did “wrong”, but rather something I learned from when I was sitting in the waiting room at the South African Consulate-General waiting to drop off my paperwork in September 2018. There was a young man ahead of me who was applying for a special skills visa so he could work in Cape Town (we chatted for a bit because we both ended up having to run across the street for passport photos), and he had a massive binder with him holding all of his precious papers (not sarcasm, this shit needs to be guarded. Like I said, some of it can cost up to 2000R to acquire). At first, I felt really bad because I had just stuffed all of my paperwork in various paper bags given to me by the local print shop when I visited them. The extent of my organization skills was scrawling on the bags to describe the contents. However, I relaxed a bit once the poor guy was made to extract every single piece of paper from within his pristine, sheet-protected binder. I stifled a smirk because I just had to dump out all of my findings across the unsuspecting receptionist’s desk like a gleeful goblin.

No, this isn’t (just) an excuse to show off my nails… Look at all the paperwork you guys!

I have since learned the perfect balance: While everything is being organized, acquired, signed, certified, printed, stamped, and double-checked for the nth time, keep all the papers in a binder. I actually have two binders because yes, if you have learned nothing from my front-loading extravaganza, I am extra… Extra efficient! But anyways. One binder is for the copies, receipts, backups, and anything else that vaguely has to do with renewing my visa. The second binder is only for everything that is strictly necessary. Everything on the list. Paper clips and labels aplenty. But on the day of my appointment with the VFS, you bet your ass I will be unhappily plucking each of my papers out from their safe, plastic-sleeved homes and placing them all in one clear plastic envelope-style folder. I’ll be keeping my paper clips though, thank you.

Letters of support

Back to the mistake breakdown (mistakedown?) at hand… My friends and family never needed to write letters of support for us. Apparently, the only person who had to do that was Jonathan. Which is kind of funny, actually, because I think he is the only one who did not fill one out for me! His parents, my mom, and my friends all happily wrote out letters saying they knew we were dating and also gave me copies of their identification to show the consulate that they were, in fact, real people. I was kind of skeptical when I found this tidbit out, but I guess they have their own ways now of finding out whether a couple is legitimate or not. Perhaps they’ll just stalk us on social media after all?

Seek a second opinion or a qualified immigration agency/attorney

I think this last one probably technically qualifies as a mistake. I mean, was I told that my application should’ve been denied because I was a hot mess and only had a measly 95% or so of my paperwork necessary for a successful visa? Well, yeah, I was told that but my visa wasn’t denied, now, was it?

Yeah, please do not let my past self be your guiding light if you’re reading this because you legitimately do not know what to expect while applying for this type of shit and not because you’re a curious friend or family member I goaded into reading about my extensive (read: boring?) visa adventures. Anyways, I would say that a possible mistake I made was by not seeking out a qualified, second opinion about my situation. Then again, I wasn’t making money left and right that I could just throw at the nearest immigration attorneys and agencies (these guys are seriously expensive… Trust me, I only went with the latter. Apparently not only are agencies just as good as attorneys, they’re also cheaper in my case. Talking like 5k vs. 12k…rand, people! That’s like $330 vs. $800 USD). So perhaps it was something out of my control.

But maybe if I just had a consultation with someone who could’ve straightened me out, I would’ve been a little less all over the place. Especially if you’re in South Africa, it can be difficult to decipher what the VFS, DHA, and various government websites are really saying about immigration. It can be hard to figure out what is absolutely needed — and could be the sole difference between an approved and a denied visa.

Police and FBI clearances

Plus, some things aren’t even needed anymore. Because this is a renewal and I am not applying for a brand new visa, I don’t have to send for a FBI clearance (which is awesome. That was totally going to be the most annoying part of my visa paperwork). I spent 1400R on police certificates that are completely useless since the VFS only requires biometric fingerprint submission for visa renewals. This is totally my fault, though, as I didn’t look hard enough or talk to the right people to find out what the current requirements are. If I were applying for a visa for the first time, I would still have needed the FBI clearance and police clearances from any country I lived in for more than 12 months. But since I had lived in South Africa for over 2 years by the time I applied for my visa in 2018, I was totally in the right for getting my South African police clearance back then.

In case it wasn’t already painfully obvious how much paperwork is actually involved

All in all, I am really glad I started working on my visa application paperwork in June, thinking I would be applying in July. It was a really good practice run. A bit wasteful, since I ended up going back to the radiologist and general practitioner for a second round of tests and paperwork to submit, but also helpful because it kind of got rid of some of my anxiety. Definitely a small amount, but some nonetheless. My appointment is tomorrow for the VFS, and I am still firing off emails to my agent asking him what to expect, what will they ask, can my partner come with me into the appointment when I am called. Tomorrow also marks a day of new local COVID-19 measures to restrict alcohol sales, movement after 11 PM, and enact stricter implementation of masks (fines and imprisonment have been announced to be handed out to those who do not comply). So hopefully there will be more people wearing masks that actually cover their noses at the VFS.

Oberyn doing what she does best in situations like these

I have a friend who has been on a student visa and is now applying for a work visa so she can book modeling gigs. Thankfully, she gave me an important heads up to be prepared to wait at the VFS. She had to wait over three hours to be seen last week! And she said it was quite busy. I am dreading the social distancing being relatively thrown out the window, as it’s close to the holiday season so people are packing in to try to submit stuff before the offices close on the 18th til next year. But, at least by tomorrow night I will be able to rest knowing that all of this is completely out of my hands. It’s up to the VFS and DHA offices whether they approve my application. I jumped through all the hoops, it’ll be a waiting game to see whether it was sufficient.

Laurrel Allison is an American writer holed up in Cape Town with her partner. Follow Laurrel on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to see what she and her cat are up to.



Laurrel Allison

Founder of Copy Fox Pro. Writer, cat parent, entrepreneur. Connect with me: