New visa and travel changes coming to South Africa – here’s what you need to know

Department of Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi has announced a number of new visa changes heading into the festive season.

In a presentation on Sunday (1 December), Motsoaledi provided an update on some of the key pronouncements made by the department in July and confirmed government’s readiness to facilitate traveller and goods movement at South African ports of entry over the festive season.

Some of the most notable changes are outlined below.


E-visas

Motsoaledi said that the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has started with the testing and piloting of its electronic visa application system.

“The decision to introduce e-Visa was informed by observable benefits of this system. It is reliable, client-friendly and convenient for visa applicants, airlines, trading partners and Home Affairs officials,” he said.

Once fully rolled-out, prospective visitors will apply online for visas, at home, office or place of work.

It will lessen administrative burdens, including those involved in receiving applicants at visa offices, printing visa stickers and returning passports to applicants.

Motsoaledi said that the department is currently testing the new system with Kenya.

He added that as part of the pilot, a team of DHA immigration and IT officials visited Kenya.

“This team is scheduled to return to Kenya next week on 9 December 2019. The first Kenyan tourist who applied for the visitors’ visa on the new e-Visa system arrived yesterday afternoon and more are expected this week as part of the pilot.

“We are continuously monitoring this pilot process to ensure that user experience is not compromised. In early 2020, we’ll include China, India and Nigeria to the pilot which will run until March 2020.”


Visa-free access

As part of efforts to attract tourists to South Africa, Motsoaledi said that his department has added the Republic of Tunisia to the list of countries which enjoy visa-free status to South Africa.

This means that tourists from this country will come to South Africa without requiring a visa and South Africans can visit Tunisia without a visa as part of reciprocity.

“The implementation date of this agreement will be decided and communicated after the two countries have agreed on a date,” he said.

“South Africa now has 83 countries which it has granted visa free status to. These countries are among the highest tourist sending nations globally.”


Festive season 

Motsoaledi said that his department is working with border law enforcement agencies to ensure ease of movement for travellers over the festive season.

“We want travellers to enter and leave South Africa without hindrance in this peak period, and to do so in a manner that is legally permissible, without breaking any law of our country,” he said.

Motsoaledi said that capacity will be increased between Wednesday, 4 December 2019 and 13 January 2020.

“The ports of entry with traditionally high volumes of movement will have their operating hours increased by between one and seven hours.

“Border law enforcement entities have confirmed readiness to handle increased volumes of travellers and goods at all ports of entry. This increase in movement of people and goods, across borders, is due to the inflow and outflow of travellers such as tourists, cross-border workers, business, academics and those on educational activities.”

He said that Home Affairs will deploy close to 400 additional officials at selected ports, to assist with delivery of immigration services and offer technical support at the borders.

Most of these officials will be posted at the Beit Bridge Port of Entry with Zimbabwe, Lebombo, Maseru Bridge Port of Entry with Lesotho and the Ficksburg Port of Entry with Lesotho.

“We implore all travellers leaving and entering South Africa to ensure all their travel documents are in order to avoid unnecessary delays at ports. These include passports, visas, health certificates, permits for specified goods, plants and animals and vehicle insurance and bank authorised cross-border documents for vehicles.”

The below table shows the extended hours at the ports of entry:


Read: Here’s how many South Africans have moved to the UK

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New visa and travel changes coming to South Africa – here’s what you need to know