A petition to restore visa-free travel for South Africans to the UK, organised by the Royal Commonwealth Society and the South African Chamber of Commerce UK is just a 1,000 votes away from the required 10,000.
Since 2008, South Africans have needed to apply for a UK visa, with a six-month visa costing about R1,477, depending on the rand-to-pound exchange rate.
The petition states, “We want to restore visa-free travel and we need your help. There are 200,000 South Africans living in the UK and we want as many of you to sign our petition urging both the UK and South African governments to find a solution. Share with your friends and family so we can reach the 55m South Africans back home.”
“Together, we will change government policy and help reunite thousands of South Africans.”
The petition also mentions that as a result of the visa restrictions imposed, the number of South Africans visiting the UK have dropped by more than 100 000. This petition will be delivered to Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party Theresa May MP.
However SA’s British High Commission spokesperson Isabel Potgieter says, “There are no current plans to change the UK visa requirement for South Africans. The UK Government keeps its visa regime under regular review and we continue to work closely with South Africa on migration and border security issues.
“The UK offers a high quality visa service in South Africa, with a clear and simple application process. In year ending June 2016, 98% of South Africans who applied for a UK visa were successful in their applications, with 99% of all visit visa applications resolved within our global service standard of 15 working days.”
The UK’s decision to leave the European Union has meant a number of countries are concerned about how its policies will change or affect entry to the country.
Once the UK does leave the EU, its migrant workforce could be severely impacted, since an estimated “three quarters of the UK’s EU workers would not meet the requirement” of Britain’s non-EU national visa requirements.
Reports indicate the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has proposed a “London-only visa” for EU nationals – said to be a solution to keeping EU migrants working in the capital post Brexit.
But while the UK hits the road to reforming its policies in light of an independent Britain, South Africa is in talks to ease European travel requirements for locals, ahead of the 10th anniversary of the SA-EU bilateral special agreement.
Measures being looked at include the feasibility of multiple-entry visas for SA business travellers to the EU, as well as full exemptions for South African leisure travellers.
According to Gigaba, “We have mandated the SA-EU bilateral dialogue to work on time-frames for such a discussion and target 2017 March.