Sunday, 25 October 2015

South Africa Revises Visa Regulations

Sanity has prevailed at last! After months of enduring frustration over a cumbersome procedure, tourists travelling to South Africa with children can now breathe a sigh of relief.

This follows the about-turn that the South African government has performed in the controversial Visa regulations that forced tourists to carry an unabridged birth certificate of a minor child when travelling to South Africa. After months of going through countless paperwork before crossing the border with their children, tourists will now be pleased to learn that South Africa has reviewed its visa regulations. Parents travelling with children under the age of 18 will now only be required to produce birth certificates following cabinet’s approval of the revision of the controversial immigration regulation for foreign visitors.

Eyewitness News reported that the changes were announced by tourism minister Derek Hanekom made the announcement at a Cabinet press conference earlier today. The minister says it will no longer be mandatory for inbound travellers from visa-exempt countries to carry unabridged birth certificates for children travelling with them.

 “Hanekom says the concessions will be made to limit the impact the current regulations have had on tourism and economic growth. The minister says it will no longer be mandatory for inbound travellers from visa-exempt countries to carry unabridged birth certificates for children travelling with them,” he said. For South African residents however, they will still be required to produce the current child-travel requirements, including a parental consent affidavits as a means to protect the minors - with the validity of the affidavit extended to no longer than six months.  These changes are the result of government’s inter-ministerial committee. The immigration laws saw a number of Swazi parents struggling with crossing the border with their children under 18, especially single parents who had separated with the fathers of their children.

On the first days the regulations were implemented a number of parents were turned back at the border to get the appropriate paperwork.  Meanwhile, visitors travelling from countries where no visa facilitation centres exist will be allowed to submit their application to the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) by post. These individuals will then be required to submit biometrics, including fingerprints and photos on arrival at ports of entry.  This concession will only be applicable to visitors/medical Visa, Cabinet was quoted saying.

In order to implement Cabinet decisions on this matter, the home affairs department will do the following:

In the next three months,

Implement the capturing of biometrics at ports of entry starting with a pilot at OR Tambo, King Shaka and Cape Town airports;

 Look at introducing an accredited tourism company programme for countries like China, India and Russia;

Consider a long-term multiple entry visa for a period exceeding three months and up to three years for frequent travellers (for business meetings), business people and academics;

Principals will issue letters confirming permission for children to travel on school tours; and

Extend the validity of the parental consent affidavit to six months.

Within a year,

 Add visa facilitation centres, including in Zimbabwe, United Arab Emirates and Botswana;

Consider a visa-waiver for India, China, Russia and other countries’;

 Look at issuing visas on arrival for persons travelling to SA having in their passports valid visas for the UK, USA and Canada or any other country that applies stringent checks on visitors to their countries, to ease travel for tourists;

Consider granting a certain category of frequent travellers (business and academics) from Africa a 10 year multiple entry visitor’s visa;

Open two business visa facilitation centres in Durban and Port Elizabeth, in addition to the centre recently opened in Sandton; and

Print parents’ details in their passports so that they do not have to carry birth certificates.

In the long term, one year and beyond,

 Install systems for pre-flight checks at international airports;

Upgrade advance passenger processing systems and implement passenger name record, to enhance risk assessment; and

Finalise automation of the visa and permitting system.

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