Home Affairs announces visa changes in attempt to boost tourism

home affairs visa changesIn 2015, Home Affairs legislated that foreign minors travelling to South Africa must do so with the consent of both parents.

On Tuesday, 25 September, Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Malusi Gigaba, announced their intention to relax these and other visa regulations in a bid to boost tourism.

Travelling with minors simplified for foreign visitors

Home Affairs requires minors travelling in or out of South Africa to do so with the consent of both parents.

The requirements for foreign travelers will now be simplified. Home Affairs will issue an international travel advisory to this effect before the end of October this year.

As announced by Mr. Gigaba:

“The key changes will be that rather than requiring all foreign national travelling minors to carry documentation proving parental consent for the minor to travel, we will rather strongly recommend that travelers carry this documentation”.

Home Affairs’ intention is to minimize disruption to legitimate travelers without compromising the safety of minors and the rights of parents.

To this end, immigration officials will only insist on documentation by exception, in high-risk situations, rather than for all travelers. This is in line with practice by several other countries.

Rather than denying entry where documentation is absent, travelers will be given the opportunity to prove parental consent.

When will these changes come into effect? According to Mr. Gigaba, in good time for the festive season when many people would be travelling with children.

Please note: South African minors must still prove parental consent when leaving South Africa’s borders.

Visa waivers for more countries

South Africa already waives visas to a number of countries, but now Home Affairs is negotiating to add even more countries to the list:

  • Africa: Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Sao Tome and Principe, Tunisia, Saharawi-Arab Democratic Republic, and Ghana.
  • Middle East: Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, State of Palestine, Iran, Lebanon, Bahrain, Oman, and Kuwait.
  • Eastern Europe: Belarus and Georgia.
  • Caribbean: Cuba

Further to this, Home Affairs is making it simpler for visitors from China and India to visit South Africa. This is done by making provision for taking biometrics on arrival in South Africa, allowing visa applications via courier and issuing 5-year multiple entry visas.

To attract business people and prospective investors from both countries, Home Affairs has decided to issue a 10-year multiple entry visa which will be issued within 5 days of application. As with ordinary visitors, business visitors do not have to apply in person and can use courier services instead.

When will these changes come into effect? Home Affair is still negotiating the visa waivers, but the changes for India and China should be in place in October this year.

Long-term multiple entry visas for frequent travelers

In order to further ease movement of travelers, for tourism, business meetings and academic exchange, Home Affairs has implemented long-term multiple entry visas for frequent travelers:

  • Three-year multiple entry visa: For frequent trusted travelers to South Africa.
  • Ten-year multiple entry visa: For business people and academics from Africa.

What’s the reason for these regulation changes?

Home Affairs came under a lot of fire when the regulations for minors were changed in 2015. The biggest criticism came from the tourism industry, who said that the new laws will negatively affect tourism.

An Inter-Ministerial Committee on Immigration Regulations addressed the concerns and made recommendations to government, also in 2015.

The amendments announced on Tuesday are in line with the recommendations from 2015. Mr. Gigaba said that Home Affairs “is committed to managing immigration in a way which advances our national development, security as well as our international obligations.”

He elaborated on this by saying:

“We play a critical economic role in admitting over 10 million international visitors to South Africa annually…and are committed to playing an active part in efforts to continue to increase these numbers of regular visitors to our country.”

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To read Mr. Gigaba’s full statement, go here.