Government revises controversial visa regulations

International Arrivals at OR Tambo International Airport. Image by Darling Lama Productions

International Arrivals at OR Tambo International Airport. Image courtesy of Darling Lama Productions.

The new visa regulations, which came into effect in June 2015, have been blamed for a serious slump in tourism numbers. The government has decided to make concessions, Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom, announced at a Cabinet press conference last week.

One of the predominant reasons given by the government for the introduction of the new regulations was to crack down on child trafficking. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa at the time said that the regulations were only temporary and that an “inter-ministerial committee will examine all available evidence on the impact of these new regulations and will take steps to mitigate any negative consequences”.  And it has done just that.

The concessions, according to Eyewitness News (EWN), are divided into three categories: “those that take effect within three months; those that take effect between three months to a year; and those that will take longer than a year to implement”.

The Department of Home Affairs issued a statement revealing the details of its plans:

Over the next three months:

  • Implement the capturing of biometrics at ports of entry starting with a pilot at OR Tambo, King Shaka and Cape Town airports;
  • Look at introducing an Accredited Tourism Company Programme for countries like China, India and Russia;
  • Consider a long-term multiple entry visa for a period exceeding three months and up to three years for frequent travellers (for business meetings), business people and academics;
  • Principals will issue letters confirming permission for children to travel on school tours; and
  • Extend the validity of the parental consent affidavit to six months.

Within a year:

  • Add visa facilitation centres, including in Zimbabwe, United Arab Emirates and Botswana;
  • Consider a visa waiver for India, China, Russia and other countries;
  • Look at issuing visas on arrival for persons travelling to SA having in their passports valid visas for the UK, USA and Canada or any other country that applies stringent checks on visitors to their countries, to ease travel for tourists;
  • Consider granting a certain category of frequent travellers (business and academics) from Africa a 10-year multiple entry visitor’s visa;
  • Open two business visa facilitation centres in Durban and Port Elizabeth, in addition to the centre recently opened in Sandton; and
  • Print parents’ details in their passports so that they do not have to carry birth certificates.

One year and beyond:

  • Install systems for pre-flight checks at international airports;
  • Upgrade Advance Passenger Processing systems and implement a Passenger Name Record, to enhance risk assessment; and
  • Finalise automation of the visa and permitting system.

Sources:, and

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