South Africa’s visa system to be overhauled

Communications minister Nomvula Mokonyane has confirmed that government is looking at a complete overhaul of the country’s visa system.

Speaking at a post-cabinet media briefing on Thursday (6 September), Mokonyane said that this would include the visa rules governing children, scarce skills and turnaround times.

She added that the package is currently being formulated by government, and would be revealed shortly.

“An inter-ministerial team is looking at various aspects of the visa issue. That has been identified as one of the immediate things that are within the control of government and government can be in a position to resolve those,” she said.

“We also know that we have relationships with other countries where particularly in tourism (where) visas are not a requirement. We also need to look at other matters that are of concern, including those who intend to come and invest in South Africa,” she said.

Mokonyane said that the upcoming job and investment summits – as well as the proposed government stimulus package – would also provide further details on reforms needed to drive growth in the country.

Electronic visas

In May, minister of tourism Derek Hanekom said that his department was working hard alongside the Department of Home Affairs to push the country’s tourism numbers higher.

“One of the most effective ways to increase tourist arrivals is to make it easier for people to travel to our country,” he said.

“A simple analysis of the arrival figures for 2017 shows that while visitor numbers from visa exempt countries grew impressively, the opposite is true for visa-requiring countries.

“In 2017, after the decision that visas would no longer be required for Russian tourists, Russian visitors increased by 52%. In sharp contrast to this, after we imposed a visa requirement on New Zealand, the numbers dropped by 24%,” he said.

The promise of e-visas was first officially unveiled in a March 2018 parliamentary Q & A session – making it easier for tourists to enter into the country thanks to the online capture of visa and permit applications and capturing of applicants’ biometrics both locally and abroad.

The Department of Home Affairs has since confirmed that the first phase of the e-visa system will be piloted by the 31 March 2019.

It has further indicated that the rollout of phase one of the e-visa system will be at a foreign mission, embassy or local home affairs office yet to be determined, with the pilot phase initially covering temporary residence visas, adjudication of temporary residence visas, applications for waivers, applicant notifications and biometric details, it said.

Read: South African scientists, academics, and technology experts targeted under new UK visa

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South Africa’s visa system to be overhauled