What is the change?  South Africa is introducing sweeping changes to its visa regime, including creating new longer-validity business visas and simplified application processes for business travelers, as well as easing burdensome rules for foreign children traveling to and from South Africa.

What does the change mean? Nationals who are South Africa’s co-members of the BRICS bloc (Brazil, Russia, India, China) and African countries are now eligible for 10-year, multiple-entry business visas. Frequent business travelers from other countries may be eligible for three-year, multiple-entry visas. Applications may now be sent by courier, as biometric data will now be submitted on arrival in South Africa instead of during the application process.

  • Implementation time frame: Tentatively October.
  • Visas/permits affected: Business visas.
  • Business impact: Business travel will be simplified as longer-validity; multiple-entry visas will now be available to more nationals.

Background: Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba announced the eased visa rules at a press briefing Tuesday in Pretoria. The changes are intended to make it easier for business travelers, tourists and academics to come to South Africa.

In addition to expanding visa waivers, and relaxing requirements for BRICS and African nationals, regulations will be eased requiring documentary proof for foreign minors traveling to South Africa. Instead of requiring that all foreign minors carry documentation proving parental consent to travel, such documentation will be recommended. Immigration officials will only insist on documentation in high-risk situations and will give travelers who lack the documents an opportunity to prove parental consent. South African children must still provide proof of parental consent to leave the country.

South Africa has been working to expand its visa-waiver program and simplify application processes, focusing on both African and BRICS countries. This has resulted in visa waivers being extended to nationals of both the Russian Federation and Angola in 2017, as well as the new longer-validity visa options.

An e-visa program will be piloted in New Zealand by April 2019 before being rolled out to other locations.

Analysis & Comments: South Africa is currently attempting to pull its economy out of recession. The recent changes to migration processes are connected to an effort to attract both business travelers and tourists through streamlined procedures. The implementation of the changes regarding biometrics is expected to expedite both the visa application process and wait times at border checkpoints.

The upcoming e-visa will further simplify the application process for eligible tourists and business travelers. Authorities are expected to train immigration officers on eased regulations for foreign minors in time for expatriate families to travel during the Christmas and New Year holiday travel season.

As South Africa continues reviewing its visa regime with other African countries, it is likely that travel restrictions with Nigeria, Kenya, and Uganda will be eased. Visa waivers will likely soon be extended to nationals of Algeria, Bahrain, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Georgia, Ghana, Iran, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Sao Tome and Principe, Sahrawi-Arab Democratic Republic, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and the UAE.

Source: Deloitte LLP. Deloitte LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC303675 and its registered office at 1 New Street Square, London EC4A 3HQ, United Kingdom.