If you’ve ever brought a foreign client or production specialist into the country for a shoot, you know how complicated visa acquisition can be. And in the fast-paced production industry, with specialists constantly on the go, you don’t always have the time or the means to meet the requirements, like regular travellers do.
The CPA and its partner organisations have worked closely with Home Affairs to make the visa application process easier. And we’ve come a long way. This is what we’ve done and what it means for you… Where it all began
Late in 2014, after intense lobbying by the CPA and two partner associations, Home Affairs granted a special concession to the film industry. This enables clients working in a supervisory capacity to enter South Africa on a visitor’s visa, rather than having to apply for a Section 11(2); a visa that requires the applicant to pre-apply in their country of residence.
For most clients who come from visa exempt countries, a visitor’s visa is easy to obtain and there is no pre-approval process - the endorsement is made in the passport upon entry into South Africa.
This doesn’t apply to all stakeholders, however. A specialist group (including directors and DOPs) still had to pre-apply, but their requirements were reduced and their visas processed within five days.
All applicants needed to leverage this concession is a letter issued by the CPA and its partner organisations. So the Film Industry Visa Assistance (FIVA) office was formed to handle the admin. Today, FIVA processes about 12,000 letters per year, providing a life-line to local companies that wouldn’t otherwise be practical partners for foreign stakeholders. Persistent issues
Until recently, despite these concessions, challenges remained that made filming difficult for production companies and their international clients.
For instance, as directors and DOPs fall into the specialist group, they were required to pre-apply for visas in their country of residence. This was inconvenient because, as they often travelled and worked in remote locations, it was difficult to visit embassies at short notice.
Another problem was that each visa was made out in the name of the company that had applied, meaning that the only work the specialist could undertake was for that company. If the specialist wanted to work on another job while in South Africa, they’d have to return to their country of residence and reapply each time. The latest updates
After many discussions with the CPA and our associates, Home Affairs has recently agreed to allow all production-related applicants to apply for a three-year visa that’s processed within 10 days. This allows applicants to move between jobs without reapplying for a visa each time. The only condition is that the local company apply to FIVA each time, so that an accurate record can be maintained of the work the specialist is doing in South Africa.
Home Affairs is also issuing extensions on 90-day visas, so that the Section 11(2) permit can be extended to 180 days. This enables directors and DOPs to obtain one visa for the entire summer season. Embracing change
Making use of these special allowances is easy. Just follow these four steps:
- Register with FIVA on www.fiva.tv. All applications are made via the local service provider on behalf of their foreign clients. Do this as soon as you can, so you’re ready to apply when you need to.
- Apply for a letter from FIVA. The local service provider must apply on the client’s behalf and it can all be done online (you’ll find instructions on the site).
- Hand in your letter to the South African Embassy, along with the other required documents, at the visa appointment. FIVA can advise on these procedures and assist in making emergency appointments, if required.
- Allow at least five working days for your application to be processed. Apply as soon as a job is confirmed, to be on the safe side.
Going forward, the CPA hopes to streamline this process further. For instance, we think the biometric testing (a process that’s currently carried out at the South African Embassy appointment) can be done at the airports. This could make pre-application unnecessary, as visas could be issued on entry into South Africa.
With our communication channels open and strong, Home Affairs’ recognition of our legitimate and economy-boosting industry is growing. It’s an exciting time to be a part of it. Until the next update, may your international production projects thrive!