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Visa regulations relaxed

By Staff Writer
In a statement released on Friday, the Department of Home Affairs noted that the Cabinet had come to an agreement to adjust and amend the immigration amendment acts and regulations in order to mitigate some of the impacts that it has had on the South African tourism industry.
 
David Green, CEO of the V&A Waterfront, noted: ‘Tourism has a powerful economic impact, and we strongly support the removal of any hurdles that impede ease of travel to not only Cape Town, but South Africa. These recommendations can only bring about positive results for the industry.’’
 
Enver Duminy, CEO of Cape Town Tourism, added: “The tourism industry can only benefit from the news that cabinet had approved recommendations that travel agents be allowed to make visa applications on behalf of clients and that the birth certificate requirement for travelling minors would no longer include the word “abridged”.”
 
Duminy highlighted: “Since the implementation of the regulations in May 2015 the tourism industry has noted a marked decline in international bookings and travel to South Africa: According to StatsSA, the volume of foreign arrivals decreased by 9.6% to 1 087 067 in June 2015 compared with May 2015.”
 
The changes
 
Among the changes that were announced on Friday, were that travellers who live in countries where there is no South African mission, will be able to apply for a visa via other means, such as post, and not in person as the new amendments had stated. Furthermore, the biometrics of travellers will be captured upon arrival at ports of entry.
 
“To address concerns around the geographical spread of countries like China, India and Russia, certain measures will be put in place to ease the process of application, in particular for tourists,” revealed the department.
 
When travelling with children, many of the requirements which were implemented in June will remain, with a few changes.
 
“Child-travel requirements for outbound travelling will stay, including proof of parental relations through unabridged birth certificates, and, as necessary, parental consent. In respect of inbound travel where visas are required, it will still be required that original birth certificates and, as necessary, parental consent or certified copies are submitted during the visa application process. Requirements regarding unaccompanied minors will remain, like providing copies of the identity document or valid passport and visa or permanent residence permit of the person who is to receive an unaccompanied minor,” explained the department.
                                                                                                                            
For countries that are visa-exempt, the department highlighted that a “strong advisory will be issued with travellers advised to have proof of relationship and consent from the absent parent/s or guardian/s, in case they are asked to provide such on arrival.”
 
Duminy highlighted: “The changes to visa regulations and birth certificate requirements for international visitors announced on Friday 23 October by Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom are a positive development.”
 
The game plan
 
With the next three months the department aims to “implement the capturing of biometrics at ports of entry starting with a pilot at OR Tambo, King Shaka and Cape Town airports,” as well as investigate establishing an accredited tourism company programme in countries such as China, India and Russia.
 
Furthermore, the department noted that it is considering “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,” in addition to allowing principals to issue letters confirming permission for school children to travel on school tours, and allowing for the extended validity of the parental consent affidavit to six months.
 
Within the next year, the department has a number of considerations that it will investigate, including the possibility of a visa-waiver for India, China, Russia and other countries (these countries have not yet been named). In addition, the department will “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.”
 
According to Duminy, the apparent decline and associated loss of revenue that were a result of the new regulations, in addition to the potential job losses were a concern to the tourism industry. However, he noted: “The partial reversal of the regulations will make it easier for international visitors to travel to South Africa once again. We react with cautious optimism to the news.”
 
Duminy added: “The high-season is approaching, this is primarily driven by domestic tourism, so the industry will benefit more from the relaxed regulations in the longer term; the recovery will take time.
 
“Of great importance is for all role players in the industry to spread the news about the relaxed legislation to rebuild confidence within the international market and to attract potential visitors who had been reluctant to visit as a result of the former regulations.”
 
For more information on the departments plans to implement the changes to the immigration amendments act, click here.

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