The South African government has announced steps to ease restrictions for visa applications which have met strong opposition for obsructing tourism.
Under the amendment, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) will receive applications, including by post, and capture biometrics of travellers on arrival at ports of entry.
The previous regulations, implemented in late May last year, required tourists to apply for visas in person and have their biometrics captured at South African missions overseas.
To address concerns around the geographical spread of countries like China, India and Russia, certain measures will be put in place to ease the process of application, in particular for tourists, the DHA said.
The amendment was made according to a cabinet’s decision regarding the recommendations of the Inter-Ministerial Committee that President Jacob Zuma established in August 2015 to look at the unintended consequences and mitigate factors relating to the implementation of the Immigration Amendment Acts (2007 and 2011) and Immigration Regulations 2014, the DHA said.
“The law, as amended, will remain with adjustments to be made in implementation, to make it easier for people to comply,” DHA spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete said.
As for the regulations requiring travelling children to present unabridged birth certificates in addition to their passports, the cabinet approved four processes, the DHA said.
One process is that child-travel requirements for outbound travelling will stay, including proof of parental relations through unabridged birth certificates, and, as necessary, parental consent.
In respect of inbound travel where visas are required, it will still be required that original birth certificates and, as necessary, parental consent or certified copies are submitted during the visa application process.
Requirements regarding unaccompanied minors will remain, like providing copies of the identity document or valid passport and visa or permanent residence permit of the person who is to receive an unaccompanied minor.
For visa-exempt countries a strong advisory will be issued, with travellers advised to have proof of relationship and consent from the absent parent/s or guardian/s, in case they are asked to provide such on arrival.
The cabinet has mandated DHA to put in place the necessary legal instruments to give effect to this decision. The status quo will remain until such time the DHA has provided a legal instrument for this category of travellers. In the meantime travellers are encouraged to comply, Tshwete said.
Within the next three months, the DHA will implement the capturing of biometrics at ports of entry starting with the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, the King Shaka Airport in Durban and the Cape Town Airport, according to Tshwete.
The DHA will also look at introducing an Accredited Tourism Company Programme for countries like China, India and Russia, he said.
Other measures include considering 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, allowing principals to issue letters confirming permission for children to travel on school tours and extending the validity of the parental consent affidavit to six months.
Within a year, the DHA will add visa facilitation centres, including in Zimbabwe, United Arab Emirates and Botswana, consider a visa-waiver for India, China, Russia and other countries, and consider granting a certain category of frequent travellers (business and academics) from Africa a 10-year Multiple Entry Visitor’s Visa.
These measures will ensure the balance between national security and economic interests of the country, while child safety will not be compromised, Tshwete said.