What you need to know about South Africa’s new e-visas

 ·9 Apr 2019

First unveiled in March 2018, South Africa is preparing to roll-out an e-visa system that will make it easier for tourists to enter the country thanks to the online capture of visa applications and biometric information.

Speaking to BusinessTech, Department of Tourism spokesperson Blessing Manale said that the e-visas are in the final stages of testing and will be trialled in New Zealand.

“We have been informed that they are currently testing system software, back of the office, data security and integration,” he said.

He added that South Africa’s visa regime had previously been one of the constraints for tourism, and the roll-out of the e-visas will be beneficial for both tourists and for the local economy.

“They provide predictability, people will be able to stay longer in South Africa, people will be able to study etc.”

“The realisation of the visa regime will literally allow us to double our tourism numbers internationally.”

“Most countries operate under the principle of reciprocity meaning that if a country gives certain visa privileges, they must be returned,” he said.

“However, it is part of the department’s strategy to relax these rules for countries such as New Zealand and Australia because South Africa stands to benefit more from tourists from these countries.”

Manale said that the system will also save people a lot of time as they spend much less time at airports and waiting for administration approval.

New e-gates

Speaking to BusinessTech in March, the Department of Home Affairs said it will pilot new e-gates at a number of South African airports in 2019.

A spokesperson told BusinessTech that the gates will first be piloted at Cape Town International Airport and will form part of the implementation of the Biometric Movement Control System (BMCS).

He added that a further rollout will be done in a phased approach, with OR Tambo and King Shaka International airports to follow.

“The broad objective of the project is the facilitation of movement of low-risk travellers through a self-service solution, hence freeing capacity for the assessment of high-risk categories by an immigration officer,” the spokesperson said.

“In line with the risk-based approach to managing migration, the first phase will focus on South African passport holders (excluding minors).”

With the e-gates pilot at Cape Town International Airport, South African passport holders travelling internationally will proceed to e-gates for self-service immigration clearance where the following would be performed:

  • Biometric verification;
  • Passport authenticity and validity checks;
  • Checks against the BMCS risk engine; and
  • The BMCS will record the movements of persons on the system after all system checks have been successfully performed.

Home Affairs said that the e-gates project will help address the key issue of traveller identification management, which is at the heart of secure and facilitated travel.

Read: New Australian visa option will make it easier for South Africans to bring their parents

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