Relaxation of visa rules and government’s plan of action
30 Oct 2015
In response to the recommendations of the inter-ministerial committee established by the President in August 2015 to consider factors relating to the implementation of the Immigration Amendment Acts (2007 and 2011) and Immigration Regulations, 2014, Cabinet has decided to keep the existing legislation in place, whilst amending certain procedures to facilitate implementation thereof.
Visa rules, such as the requirement for travellers to apply for visas in person, will be relaxed in countries where there is no South African mission, to allow for postal application. Biometric details, such as fingerprints and photographs, will then be gathered on arrival at ports of entry. Measures will also be put in place to ease the process of application for tourist visas in countries where the sparse location of offices may pose an impediment to in-person applications.
For visa-exempt countries, the requirement of an unabridged birth certificate and parental consent affidavits will likely be lifted, but the Department of Home Affairs has already indicated that a strong advisory will be issued encouraging travellers to carry proof of relationship and consent from the absent parent(s) or guardian(s), as the department will naturally retain discretion to ask for this on arrival, particularly in suspicious circumstances.
Child-travel requirements for outbound travel will remain. For non-visa exempt children, original birth certificates and parental consent will still need to be submitted during the visa application process.
Requirements regarding unaccompanied minors, such as the need to produce copies of the identity document or valid passport and visa or permanent residence permit of the person who is to receive an unaccompanied minor, will remain. Parental consent affidavits will have longer validity of six months.
In order to implement Cabinet decisions on this matter, the Department of Home Affairs has been mandated to do the following:
In the next three months:
- implement the capturing of biometrics at ports of entry, starting with a pilot project at OR Tambo International Airport, King Shaka International Airport and Cape Town International Airport.
- investigate the possibility of introducing an Accredited Tourism Company Programme for countries like China, India and Russia.
- consider the issuance of 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. This visa is not expected to be issued to first time travellers to South Africa.
- school principals will be allowed to issue letters confirming permission for children to travel abroad on school tours.
- extend the validity of the parental consent affidavit to six months.
Within 12 months:
- mandate additional visa facilitation centres, including in Zimbabwe, the United Arab Emirates and Botswana.
- consider visa waivers for India, China, Russia and other countries (presumably countries from which tourism numbers are anticipated to be high).
- consider visas on arrival for persons who hold valid visas in their passports for the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Canada, and other countries that apply stringent protocols in their visa issuance processes.
- consider granting a certain category of frequent travellers (business and academic) 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 existing centre in Sandton, Johannesburg.
- print the details of parents in South African passports, so that the birth certificate requirement will fall away.
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 Records, to enhance risk assessment.
- finalise automation of the visa and permitting system.