By Colleta Dewa
Pretoria - South Africa’s department of home affairs has said more African countries are set to benefit from its visa waiving programme.
The development was announced by the Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba in Pretoria last week.
Gigaba told the media that there will be some changes in the visa architecture aimed at boosting tourism and easing business travel.
He said the reforms will include amendments to regulations applying to foreign minors travelling to South Africa, visa waivers and relaxation of visa requirements for certain countries.
Minister Gigaba said his department will be reviewing the visa regime for most African countries in line with the African free movement agenda.
“South Africa already waives visas to a number of countries. In line with our Africa-centred foreign and immigration policies, ordinary passport holders of 15 of the 16 SADC countries do not require visas to visit South Africa, with the exception of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“As called for by the 2017 White Paper on International Migration, we are reviewing our visa regime for other African countries in line with the African free movement agenda. Where we are unable to waive visas for objective risks, we will implement other measures to ease travel,” said Gigaba.
The home affairs department also announced that more countries will be included in the Visa waiving programme for the benefit of the tourism industry.
The department is finalising Visa Waiver Agreements for ordinary passport holders with several countries, including Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Sao Tome & Principe, Tunisia, Saharawi-Arab Democratic Republic and Ghana.
In the Middle East are Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, State of Palestine, Iran, Lebanon, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait. In Eastern Europe are Belarus and Georgia as well as Cuba in the Caribbean.
The department is also simplifying visa requirements for countries such as China and India saying it will make provision for taking biometrics on arrival in South Africa, allowing visa applications via courier and issuing five-year multiple entry visas.
“We will consider easing, similarly, travel restrictions for certain categories of visitors for other countries, including Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda,” Minister Gigaba added.
Long-term multiple entry visas have also been implanted in order to further ease the movement of travellers, for purposes of tourism, business meetings and academic exchange, we have implemented long-term multiple entry visas for frequent travellers.
These, include a three-year multiple entry visa for frequent trusted travellers to South Africa, and a ten-year long-term multiple entry visa for business people and academics from Africa.
According to the amendments, business people from BRICS countries who require visas, China and India will be issued a 10-year multiple entry visa within five days of application.
The minister also said the requirements for travelling with minors would be reviewed for the convenience of travellers.
“Home Affairs requires that minors travelling in or out of the Republic do so with the consent of both parents as required by Section 18 (3) (c) of the Children’s Act.
As indicated by the President, we are simplifying the rules on travelling minors who are foreign nationals to minimise disruption to legitimate travellers without compromising the safety of minors and the rights of their parents.
To this end, we will issue an international travel advisory before the end of October 2018, after consultation with the Immigration Advisory Board.
The key changes will be that rather than requiring all foreign national travelling minors to carry documentation proving parental consent for the travelling minor to travel, we will rather strongly recommend that travellers carry this documentation,” said minister Gigaba.
The minister added that his department will put in place other options to assist travellers who might fail to present the required documentation instead of denying them entry.
“Rather than denying entry where documentation is absent, travellers will be given an opportunity to prove parental consent. South African minors will still be required to prove parental consent when leaving our borders,” he added.
He said the changes will be implemented in good time before the festive season for the convenience of travellers with children.
Consultations are also being finalised with other government departments, academics, business and organised labour, to implement a reviewed critical skills list by April 2019.
The minister said this will help in attracting and retaining critical skilled labour best to enhance economic development and advance our country’s new path of growth, employment and transformation.
“In order to retain critical skills, foreign students who graduate at South African institutions of higher learning within critical skills categories, are offered an opportunity to apply for permanent residence upon graduation. Those who do not opt for permanent residence are issued with critical skills visas,” he added.
The changes are expected to contribute to the stimulus and recovery plan that was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on the 21 September 2018.