Revisions to South Africa's amended visa regulations
26 October 2015
New visa changes have been introduced to address concerns raised by tourists,
South African travellers and stakeholders in the tourism sector regarding revisions
to regulations introduced over the last year.
The announcement was made jointly on Friday, 23 October by the Tourism
Ministry and Jeff Radebe, minister in the Presidency for planning, monitoring and
New visa rules, that came into effect in October 2014, required visitors to apply
for visas in person at South African embassies to record biometric information.
There was also a rule for children under 18 years old travelling in and out of South
Africa to produce an unabridged birth certificate at entry ports, which included
detailed particulars of the mother and the father of the child.
While it has been noted by the government that these requirements were
necessary to safeguard the best interests of children and prevent child trafficking, a
recent Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Immigration, spearheaded by Deputy
President Cyril Ramaphosa, has now made several recommendations to deal with
the security consideration and the unintended consequences of the regulations on
various sectors, including tourism and investment.
"In respect of South African children (outbound travel), the IMC accepted the
implementation of the current child-travel requirements, including the parental
consent affidavits as these seek to protect children," Radebe said at a media
conference on Friday. The new amendments will be implemented over the next
three months to a year.
The amended allowances now require South African children travelling through
South African borders to have their parents' identification and citizenship details
printed in their passports, doing away with the requirement to carry unabridged
birth certificates on entry or exit.
For school tours and other group tours including under-age children, entry and
exit regulations now only require confirmation letters from the school principals or
a similar authority, along with the amended passport requirements. This authority
will also be extended to include registered sports
bodies on tour.
"In respect of inbound travellers (international visitors), the IMC took the
position that where visas are required, provision of original birth certificates or
certified copies of required documents should continue during the visa application
process, as this is in line with practice in many other countries," Radebe said.
Travellers from visa-exempt countries travelling with children will be strongly
advised to bring with them proof of the relation and consent from the absent
parents or guardians.
Concessions that will take effect within the next three months include allowing
people in countries where no South African missions exist to post their application
to enter the country to the Department of Home Affairs.
Radebe said the Department of Home Affairs would implement the biometrics,
including fingerprints and photos, at the pilot sites at OR Tambo, King Shaka and
Cape Town international airports.
Cape Town Tourism chief
executive Enver Duminy said in a statement the
tourism industry would benefit from the approved recommendations that travel
agents be allowed to make visa applications on behalf of clients and that the birth
certificate requirement for travelling minors would no longer include the word
To aid investment by international companies into South Africa, the department
will also introduce an Accredited Tourism Company (ATC) Programme for China,
India and Russia, with possible extension to other visa requiring countries.
Additionally, within the next three months to a year, the Department of Home
Affairs will increase Visa Facilitation Centres (VFC) in China, India, United Kingdom,
Nigeria Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda, while
VFCs have been fast-tracked for November in Zimbabwe, UAE and Botswana.
Corporate travel advisers Grant Thornton Advisory Services told News24 the
changes would streamline visa requirements for foreign tourists to South Africa and
would make it easier to obtain visas, thereby ensuring a much simpler process for
travellers to the country.
"These changes will most definitely assist in getting the tourism industry back
on track," said Lee-Anne Bac, Grant Thornton director.
According to a Statistics South Africa report released in September 2015, the
impact of the previous visa requirements had a sharp effect on tourists visiting
South Africa. A comparison between June 2014 and June 2015 showed that, with the
exception of France, the number of tourists decreased for all the other nine leading
overseas countries. China had the largest decrease of 28.4% – from 5 823
tourists in June 2014 to 4 167 in June 2015.
David Green, chief executive of the V&A Waterfront, said tourism had a
powerful economic impact, and his group strongly supported the removal of any
hurdles that impeded ease of travel to South Africa. "These recommendations can
only bring about positive results for the industry."
Enver Mally, chairperson of Cape Town Tourism, said: "This is great news, just
the kind of boost to our morale that we need as we enter the holiday season."
Here's what you need to know about the changes to South Africa's visa rules:
- In countries with no South African
mission or embassy, Home Affairs will
accept applications by registered mail, applicable to tourist and medical visitors
- These postal applications will then be finalised with the capture of traveller
biometrics: finger prints and photos at selected port entries to South Africa –
OR Tambo/Johannesburg, King Shaka/Durban and Cape Town international
- South African children travelling out of the country will still be required to
submit the current child-travel requirements, including parental consent affidavits
as a means to protect the minors. These documents are valid for six months.
- Full details and identification and biometric information of parents will also be
printed in the children's passports; therefore they will not be required to carry the
birth certificates. Home Affairs, however, does advise that this form of
identification still be carried as an additional form of proof.
- For inbound travellers, proof
of original birth certificates or certified copies will
only be required during the application process, as this is in line with practice in
many other countries.
- The South African government has agreed to amend the law that includes the
term "unabridged birth certificate", changing it to "birth certificate
containing parental details".
- Home Affairs is currently considering the possibility of issuing long-term
multiple entry visas for frequent business travellers.
The Department of Home Affairs said that "the mandate issued by government to
the department is to put in place the necessary legal instruments to give effect to
this decision. The status quo will remain until such time the [department] has
provided a legal instrument for this category of travellers. In the meantime
travellers are encouraged to comply."
South African Government