What is the change? After a meeting of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on strict visa rules that have caused a decline in travel to the country, the Department of Home Affairs announced policies that will make it easier for visitors to apply for visas. Rules that children carry birth certificates will continue to be enforced, but with some easing of the rules for minors from visa-exempt countries.

What does the change mean? The department promises in the next three months to launch a pilot program to take biometrics at ports of entry for foreign visitors whose home country does not have a South African consular mission and to consider multiple-entry visas that will be valid for up to three years for frequent business travelers. The department will consider longer-range policies in the next year, including expansion of visa centers and consideration of longer-validity visas or visa waivers for China, India and Russia.

  • Implementation time frame: Ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: Business visas; documents required for traveling minors.
  • Who is affected: Business visitors; children traveling to or from South Africa.
  • Business impact: If implemented, the changes could ease short-term business travel and tourism. Note that there is no change to immigration regulations on long-term work visas.

Background: Last year, South Africa introduced strict rules on visas and traveling children. Visa applicants were required to appear in person at a South African consulate to give biometrics, making it especially difficult for foreign nationals from countries that do not have a South African mission to obtain visas. The rules on traveling minors required them to carry unabridged birth certificates or permission from their parents or guardians, or a divorce or death decree of parents where necessary.

The onerous rules have cause tourism to nosedive, leading to the meeting of the Inter-Ministerial Committee. Following that meeting, the Department of Home Affairs announced several changes:

Regarding in-person visa application rules, the DHA plans in the next three months to:

  • Start a pilot program to accept biometrics at three airports in South Africa.
  • Consider long-term multiple-entry visas for up to three years for frequent business travelers.
  • Consider an accreditation program for tourism companies in high-volume countries of China, India and Russia.

In the next year, DHS plans to:

  • Consider visa waivers for China, India, Russia and other countries.
  • Consider issuing visas on arrival for travelers who already hold a valid visa to Canada, the U.K. or the U.S.
  • Open two business visa facilitation centers in Durban and Port Elizabeth and add visa centers in Botswana, Zimbabwe and the United Arab Emirates.
  • Consider 10-year multiple-entry visas for certain frequent travelers for business.

Rules mandating that traveling minors carry unabridged birth certificates will remain in effect for outbound and inbound children, but will be eased for visa-waived children in place of a strong advisory for certain documentation.

  • Birth certificates will continue to be part of the visa application process for visa-required nationals.
  • For visa-waived nationals, a strong advisory will be issued that children should carry parental consent to travel and proof of their relationship.
  • The validity of parental affidavits will be extended to six months and letters from school principals will be issued and accepted for children traveling on school tours.

BAL Analysis: While the proposed measures may ease short-term business travel as well as travel for children from visa-waived countries, it is important to note that the DHA has not implemented the new measures, and the dates and details of implementation remain vague. Therefore, current rules remain in place.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network provider located in South Africa. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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