President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a package last week to stimulate the slow South African economy. The current restrictive visa regulations came into focus and Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba announced the following on 25 September 2018:

  1. TRAVELLING CHILDREN

“The key changes will be that rather than requiring all foreign nationals who are minors to carry documentation which proves parental consent and certificates of birth, we will rather strongly recommend that the parents of these minors carry the documentation,” he says.

Gigaba says travelling South African minors are still required to prove parental consent when travelling outside the country.

Some comments from IBN:

Re 1)    There has been immediate criticism by most tourism stakeholders, saying that this does not go far enough. The situation is now even more uncertain as since June 2014, as to who needs to carry what documents with them. Airlines are typically erring on the side of caution, as they would need to fly the passengers back, if SA immigration does not allow them into the country. And airline staff today is often over-challenged with these unique requirements. During the past years, more than 13.000 families have been denied boarding flights, which means holidays have been cancelled and billions of Rands not spent in the South African economy (Business Insider). We will have to wait for clarification by Home Affairs, which has been promised for October.

  1. NEW ZEALAND E-VISA

Home Affairs will start piloting an e-visa for New Zealand by April 2019. This will enhance efficiency in issuing visas to tourists and business people visiting South Africa from New Zealand.

IBN comment:

Re 2)    New Zealand is probably a good country to test an e-visa system, due to it’s size and being an English speaking country, but the question remains, why do our Kiwi friends require a visa at all? Since it sudden introduction some 2 years ago, this has been one of South Africa’s most over-challenged mission with massive complains about service levels.

  1. INTRODUCING E-GATES

e-Gates, which allow travellers to process their documentation electronically, will also be piloted for trusted travellers at OR Tambo, Cape Town and King Shaka International Airports by 2019.

IBN comment:

Re 3)    E-Gates are becoming more and more common in our digital world and this is a step in the right direction.

  1. NO MORE VISAS REQUIRED FOR THESE COUNTRIES

Gigaba says negotiations are being finalised on visa regulations to conclude visa waiver agreements (VWA) for ordinary passport holder for countries like Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Cuba, among others.

IBN comment:

Re 4)    We are not sure, how much tourism can be expected from these new visa exempt countries. IBN has always promoted free movement of people, skills and investment on the African continent or at least within the SADC countries.

  1. SIMPLIFIED VISAS FOR CHINA AND INDIA

The minister says Home Affairs is simplifying visa regulation requirements for countries such as China and India by making provisions for taking biometrics on arrival in South Africa.

IBN comment:

Re 5)    A massive challenge, mainly because we are talking about a cluster of 3 billion people. Some are opposed to such potential mass tourism, which often comes in form of groups and busses. Somehow we got used to the foreign individual traveller rather. But improving the visa efficiency is certainly a step in the right direction.

  1. MULTIPLE ENTRY VISAS FOR BRICS BUSINESS TRAVELLERS

South Africa will also issue 10-year multiple entry visas within five days of applications to business people from Brazil, India, China and Russia. These applicants will not need to apply in person and can use courier services.

IBN comment:

Re 6)    South Africa is committed to the BRICS group of countries and will benefit from the economic contributions. Again, a simplified visa application process must be seen as positive.

  1. CRITICAL SKILLS LIST REVIEW

Consultations are being finalised with other government departments, academics, business and organised labour, to implement a reviewed critical skills list by April 2019.

This will help in attracting and retaining critically skilled labour best to enhance economic development and advance South Africa’s growth, employment and transformation.

In order to retain critical skills, foreign students who graduate at South African institutions of higher learning within critical skills categories, are offered an opportunity to apply for permanent residence upon graduation.

Those who do not opt for permanent residence are issued with critical skills visas.

IBN comment:

Re 7)    Since 2005 we were promised an annual update of the CS list, yet it only happened 3 times in 14 years. The CS desk at Home Affairs should entertain the feedback from industry groups, professional bodies, chambers of commerce but also immigration experts like IBN. We receive the enquiries from potential contributors to the economy first, long before Home Affairs. Remember, some 80% of work visa applications should match the CS list. Some complete industry sectors such as tourism (contributing 10% the GNP) and IT are basically missing. Sheep shearers are however listed as CS since 2014! We are loosing a lot of talent and these lists should be updated once a year, whilst retaining some consistency and predictability. Home Affairs should also keep a close Iook on the professional bodies who need to confirm CS. Some of them like the Engineering Council of SA or the Health Professional or Nursing Council are completely dysfunctional. Experienced business managers are also currently mostly excluded.

Young graduated, who can apply straight after graduation often unfortunately fall into both a time and a financial trap until their PR is processed.

In summary, Gigaba announced some positive steps and we can only hope for a speedy and competent implementation.

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By Dirk Meissner