Johannesburg - South Africa's Department of Home Affairs has said it is working on a number of changes to the country's visa regime in an effort to make the country more accessible to visitors, investors and people with skills that are critical to building the economy.
Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi said this while presenting at the monthly Presidential Working Committee on Monday, adding that his department had lowered turnaround times for critical work skills visas, which are now issued within four weeks in 88.5% of applications.
By comparison, business and general work visas are issued within eight weeks in 98% of applications.
“In November, the Department of Home Affairs will embark on a pilot scheme for the issuing of e-visas, which applicants will be able to access online, eliminating the need for applicants to visit South African missions abroad. The department has also located visa services within the offices of various investment facilitation agencies around the country.
“In addition, visa requirements have been simplified for countries such as China and India, which are key markets for tourism to South Africa,” said the minister.
He added that the government also recently waived visas for travellers from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, New Zealand, Cuba, Ghana and Sao Tome and Principe.
In July the department said it would also enter into talks with their counterparts in a number of countries to allow visa-free access for South African travellers.
While countries such as Qatar and Ghana already have visa-free or visa on arrival agreements with South Africa, it would be considered a serious boon if South Africans could travel visa-free to countries such as the UAE and New Zealand.
Department spokesperson Siya Qoza said that Home Affairs was currently in talks with these countries on two main issues.
“We have entered negotiations with these countries with the first priority being an implementation date for visa-free access to South Africa. Once this has been confirmed, our second priority is reciprocity.”
Qoza said that initial conversations held with these countries have been positive, with talks expected to be concluded by September.
He added that Home Affairs may expand these negotiations to other countries.
“We are consistently looking at which countries would be of a trade and tourism benefit to South Africa,” he said.
The minster had also raised the issue between South Africa and the UK saying, "We used to enter the UK visa-free, unfortunately, something happened some years back where there were complaints where other nations were able to forge our passport. We have improved and we think the UK should reconsider".