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New visa rules overhaul to benefit tourism and tourists to South Africa

In an attempt to win back tourists lost through the controversial travel requirement for children, South Africa will finally be loosening its visa rules. These are some of the proposed changes and what you need to know.

Last month, in his speech on the Economic Stimulus and Recovery Plan for South Africa, one of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s key economic reforms mentioned was the country's visa regime. Particular focus and reference was made to the changing regulations of travel for minors to South Africa. He also highlighted the amendments to the list of countries requiring a visa, with an eye on revised visa requirements for highly skilled foreigners, and the e-visa pilot set to roll out in 2019.

"These measures have the potential to boost tourism and make business travel a lot more conducive. Tourism continues to be a great job creator, and through these measures, we are confident that many more tourists will visit South Africa," said Ramaphosa.

Eyes on China and India

The visa and travel reforms will focus heavily on attracting more visitors from China and India. According to a News24 report, “China accounted for 130 million travellers globally, with India forecast to have 50 million people travelling abroad by 2020", it said.

Tourists from India and China will no longer be required to apply for visas in person at a South African embassy before travelling. Travellers doing business in the country from either of those countries will be issued with a 10-year multiple-entry visa, within five days of their application.
The new set of rules is geared up to take effect ahead of the busy December tourist season to promote tourism and increase commercial interest as the country prepares to enter its first industrialised recession since 2009.

Relaxed rules for minors

One of the most celebrated changes will be the scrapping of the rule that foreign national minors require a copy of an unabridged birth certificate and consent from both parents to travel in order to enter the country. This rule caused chaos at many airports as parents were left stranded without the correct documentation and caused a considerable decline in tourism to South Africa. "Changes to our visa architecture have potential to boost tourism and to make business travel more conducive," said South Africa's Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba.

“It is a challenge inherent in immigration management to detect, prevent and act against risks without unduly inconveniencing law-abiding travellers,” he said.

Longer list of visa-free entries

Currently, 48 countries don't require a visa to enter South Africa these include United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Japan, Spain, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Australia, Brazil, and Zimbabwe.

This list could be extended to include Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Sao Tome & Principe, Ghana, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Iran, Lebanon, Kuwait and Cuba, Gigaba said.

The government also plans to reduce congestion at some of South Africa’s busiest border posts, by installing biometric movement-control systems, many of which are already being piloted.

With International Airlines adding South Africa to their flight paths, including a new direct flight routing between London and Durban, revised visa regulations rectifying past wrongs are welcomed by the tourism industry. The full details of the visa reforms have yet to be made available but will be released before the busy December holiday season.


Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/pass-passport-id-identity-card-2530813/

Additional notes: https://businesstech.co.za/news/government/272907/more-details-on-south-africas-new-visa-rules-revealed/amp, https://businesstech.co.za/news/lifestyle/273469/south-africas-new-visa-rules-heres-everything-you-need-to-know/