Home Affairs minister, Malusi Gigaba, has proposed that EU member states relax visa requirements for South Africa.
Gigaba held discussions with European Union Ambassador Dr. Marcus Cornaro on immigration-related issues between South Africa and Europe.
The minister said that the two men had decided to set a time frame for future discussions on visa related matters so that it does not become an open ended process.
Currently applying for a passport to visit or enter EU countries is a laborious process, and has also become expensive for South Africans.
Hayley Walls, marketing manager at Thompsons Travel told IOL that local travellers are often put off by visa requirements.
“They’ll opt for visa-free destinations such as Thailand, because they want to avoid the hassle of having to obtain a visa. So, if the EU were to scrap their visa requirements, that would without a doubt influence the decision-making process in favour of Europe,” Walls said.
Gigaba said that the two parties have agreed to look at multiple visa entry programmes for business people. “We’ve identified a number of sub sectors that are considered as low risk.
“We’ve identified business people, we’ve identified academics, students, and other sub sectors. We’ve agreed that we are going to look at the possibility of granting them visa exemptions.
“We are asking the EU to consider giving exemptions for ordinary South Africans too – those who make frequent trips to EU countries, who spend money there, and who make a positive contribution,” Gigaba said.
“Obviously South Africa’s own interest in the long term is a full visa exemption for ordinary South African passport holders. In our view there is a need for passport holders who travel at their own expense,” the minister said.
He noted that the UK visa for example, is ‘exorbitant’ for most South Africans. “To fork out R10,000 applying for a visa is quite an exorbitant fee for anyone. We want in the long term for those people to be exempted,” Gigaba said.
A visa for a visitor to the UK starts at R1,790 currently, and depends on your entry requirements, while a schengen visa costs €60.00 (R920).
“We are quite happy with the progress we made in the discussion – and the time frames we have set,” Gigaba said.
Cornaro pointed out that any discussions about visas would need to overcome regulatory framework issues, which he said that he hoped wouldn’t be shelved for too long. “I am personally optimistic that within a few weeks we will actually have that high level of senior officials dialogue on those points,” he said.