Can Foreign Students Apply for NSFAS?

By Trev Gami •  Updated: 10/03/24 •  5 min read

The government runs the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), providing bursaries to students from poor backgrounds. It gets funding from the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). Only South African students who meet the requirements qualify for NSFAS funding to pursue their studies at Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges and public universities. This article explains everything you want to know about NSFAS foreign student policy. 

Can Foreign Students Apply for NSFAS?

To qualify for NSFAS funding, you must be a South African citizen or permanently staying in the republic. The applicants eligible for this sponsorship must have a combined household income of less than R350 000 or R600 000 per annum for people with disabilities

All applicants must have South African identity documents to be considered for funding. Without an ID, NSFAS cannot process your application. Therefore, if you are a foreign student, you cannot qualify for an NSFAS bursary since it is a preserve for South Africans. 

NSFAS is a government initiative that is specifically meant to address the imbalances within the tertiary education sector. For example, it aims to create equal opportunities for all South Africans wanting higher and tertiary education. The scheme is funded by the taxpayer, which is why it is ring-fenced to protect the interests of all South Africans. 

If you are a foreigner, it is a good idea to look for other forms of sponsorship like bursaries because NSFAS is for South African Citizens. However, if you manage to get South African citizenship, you can qualify to get NSFAS funding. 

With citizenship, you can enjoy all the benefits reserved for citizens. Depending on the type of permit you have and your residence status, you can apply for citizenship first if you are interested in obtaining sponsorship from government programs to pursue your studies at public universities or TVET colleges. 

It is a good idea to visit your nearest home affairs department to get more information about how you can acquire South African citizenship. Additionally, you must meet all the other requirements to qualify for NSFAS financial aid. For example, your combined household income must not exceed R350 000 per annum or R600 000 per year for disabled people. 

Can a Foreigner Get a Bursary in South Africa?

Foreign students are eligible to get bursaries in South Africa. Bursaries are specifically meant to cater to potential students from low-income family backgrounds to acquire higher and tertiary education. 

Foreigners in South Africa have different circumstances, and certain organizations promote their welfare. For instance, refugees often face challenges in acquiring decent education due to a lack of funding. However, this is when some organizations come in handy to provide the much-needed funding to help the less privileged students get an education. 

The Mukuru Bursary is one of the common bursaries for foreigners in South Africa. Mukuru is an international money transfer agency. It specifically deals with foreign nationals in its business. Therefore, to promote corporate social responsibility, Mukuru offers two bursaries to two foreign national students in Grade 12 to study at any Technical University or university in South Africa. However, two bursaries may not be enough for all foreign learners, but the lucky ones can use the opportunity to acquire their dream careers.

Students who can apply for this bursary are the ones interested in pursuing studies in any of the following areas: 

To qualify for the bursary, you also need to meet the following requirements

Since the bursaries are limited, students who excel in their studies are given first preference. Additionally, the individuals who get these bursaries must be staying in South Africa legally. Different types of permits are available for foreigners designed to legalize their stay in the republic. 

Refuges with asylum papers are considered for this kind of bursary offered by Mukuru. You can visit the home Affairs Department to determine the kind of permit you can get. Without proper documentation, you may not qualify for the bursary since you are not supposed to stay in the country. 

You can also research different types of bursaries and scholarships in South Africa to choose something that suits your needs and area of study. However, you should always remember to display excellent academic performance to get the award.

More importantly, you should choose a field that is underrepresented in different sectors of the economy. Some critical sectors lack talented and skilled workers, and this is why prospective employees are funded by different organizations. When you choose your area of study wisely, you can increase your chances of getting the bursary. 

Is NSFAS for South African Students Only?

NSFAS is meant for South African students only. These students must have South African identity documents and intend to register or are already registered to study at a TVET college or public university. 

Although NSFAS is for South African students only, not everyone qualifies for this kind of funding. To be eligible to get NSFAS, you must fulfil the following requirements. 

NSFAS is a bursary scheme funded by the South African government and specifically meant for citizens of the republic. Foreign students cannot apply for NSFAS since they do not meet the requirements. However, if you are a foreigner, you can apply for different types of bursaries available.  

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