Immigration and Visa Policies

In 2014 and in 2015 South Africa enacted two new sets of regulations affecting travellers leaving and entering the country. Ineng does not support these regulations as the restrict the freedom of travellers and they are potentially crippling to entrepreneurs and SMEs in the tourism sector.

Birth certificate laws in SAA magazine
Above: A magazine informing travellers of new requirements for minors

1. Under-18s Requiring Birth Certificates to enter South Africa

A new immigration law comes into effect 1 June 2015. Under the new law, all minors (children under the age of 18 years) will be required to produce, in addition to their passport, an Unabridged Birth Certificate (showing the particulars of both parents) when exiting and entering South African ports of entry.

It is the responsibility of passengers to ensure their children have the correct documentation or risk being denied boarding. The new law will be enforced by airlines and immigration officials across the board (land, sea and air). In all cases an Unabridged Birth Certificate will be required for minors departing and arriving in South Africa. They will not be allowed to travel without it.

Cape Town International Airport (2)
Above: Cape Town International Airport, a major point of entry for travellers into South Africa

2. Having to apply for a South African Visa in person

This issue centres on visitors to South Africa now being required to apply for their visas in person. This is an additional and unnecessary travel expense for those who do not live near South African embassies, consulates and visa centres.

South African media reports that the country has lost about R1.6-billion in direct spending from overseas tourists – the worst decline in more than two decades. This is according to a report by accounting company Grant Thornton. The drop in tourist numbers follows new laws that require tourists to apply in person at RSA embassies abroad and stipulate that they must have their biometric data captured before being issued a visa. Tourism experts have slammed the regulations as potentially crippling to the economy. Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom has also acknowledged that the visa rules have hurt tourism.

A photo of a plane at OR Tambo airport
Above: OR Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg

Tourism is located in the National Development Plan as a key job driver for the economy. If it continues growing, without restrictive visa laws it could support 1 in 10 jobs. A study by the University of Cape Town shed light on the potential for township tourism, which received a catalytic boost during the World Cup.

The potential of tourism for South African entrepreneurs is massive and the right government laws on visas can continue to boost the incredible potential the country holds for economic growth and job creation through this industry.

Entrepreneurs in Public Policy recommendations:

  1. South Africa should adopt electronic visas (e-visas), allowing applications online for visas as opposed to in-person interviews at consulates abroad, which can be difficult to get to – proving a disincentive for tourists. E-visas also cut down turn-around processing times and have proved very effective, and more secure, in similar markets like Turkey.
  1. Private companies should be allowed to assist investors with business and corporate visas that do not require biometric validation. By doing so, entrepreneurs will continue to source private investors and group tour bookings to help facilitate both foreign direct investment and tourism.

 

FURTHER READING

Tourism Business Council of South Africa.

Call for e-visas to grow tourism.

Videos on new SA Immigration Laws

Killing the golden goose: Clumsy new rules could ruin badly needed tourist business – The Economist

The following videos provide perspectives on South Africa’s new immigration laws enacted during 2014.

Minister Malusi Gigaba’s address on new Immigration Regulation

New Immigration Regulation of 2014 in South Africa – Craig Smith & Associates on Talk FM 702 Radio

New immigration law sends message “SA is closed for business” – expert

SA government out to punish foreigners – immigration expert

Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba V.S. Craig Smith Immigration Lawyer