COVID-19: An update on SA immigration and travel rules


COVID-19: An update on SA immigration and travel rules

 

There have been many developments over the recent weeks when it comes to immigration and travel rules. With the move to level 1, there was a welcomed easing of restrictions. The aim was to open up the tourism industry and to promote trade in order to stimulate South Africa’s economy.

With the above in mind, we’ve been flooded with multiple announcements from the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), as well as the Department of International Relations & Cooperation (DIRCO).  This, together with all the articles in the news, has left many confused as to what one can and cannot do.

Below, we hope to provide some form of clarity.

VFS Global has opened for submissions

As of 22 September 2020, VFS has opened for submissions in South Africa. Not all visa services have resumed. For now, VFS only accepts temporary residency and waiver applications.

You are also able to collect the outcome of your application, however, you must book an appointment to do so at the relevant VFS application centre.

Unfortunately, VFS is not accepting permanent residency applications yet but these and other visa services will resume over time.

Visas have been extended until 31 January 2021

VFS Global is not accepting visitor visa extensions at the moment. Instead, the South African government has catered for all those who have expired during lockdown. All legally issued visas have been granted an extension until 31 January 2021.

Holders of these visas can stay in South Africa under the current conditions of their visa until 31 January 2021. Those who depart prior to this date can do so without being declared an undesirable person.

The borders have opened

As of 1 October 2020, the borders have opened for international travel.

With that being said, the South African government has classified countries as high, medium and low risk. This is something that many other countries around the world has already put in place.

High-risk countries are not able to travel to South Africa at the moment. Some of these include the USA, UK, France and the Netherlands to name a few. Please note that the list will be updated every two weeks and can be viewed in full here.

Those countries that are in the medium or low risk group are able to travel to South Africa. However, travellers will have to adhere to the relevant safety protocols. This would include a negative COVID-19 test not older than 72 hours at the time of departure for South Africa.

Exceptions for those from high risk countries

Individuals who need to travel to South Africa for business purposes may request permission to enter South Africa. This includes businessmen, investors, individuals with critical skills, diplomats as well as people participating in professional sporting events.

You can request permission by sending an email to this address: Covid19BusinessTravel@dha.gov.za. Please note that you must also include this documentation to support your request:

  1. A copy of the passport
  2. A copy of the temporary residency visa (if applicable)
  3. Proof of the business activities you’re undertaking in South Africa
  4. Proof of accommodation in South Africa
  5. The travel itinerary

Only once approval has been granted from Covid19BusinessTravel@dha.gov.za, can one proceed to make the necessary arrangements with the SA mission to submit an application.

Can a traveller from a high risk country enter South Africa if they’ve spent time in a low risk country?

Although it has not been formally gazetted by Home Affairs, the following statement from DIRCO indicates the following:

If the passport of the traveller from a high risk country indicates that he/she has spent 10 days or more in a low risk country before departure, he/she will be considered to be arriving from a low risk country.

Intergate is cautious about confirming this as history has shown us that implementation of immigration changes on the ground are prone to being inconsistent. Furthermore, there are no reported cases to our knowledge where this has been successful, so please do proceed with caution.

For more information…

DIRCO has an extensive Q&A that may answer some of the questions you still have. You can view this here.

To keep up to date on further developments, feel free to follow us on Facebook or LinkedIn.