As if the chronic electricity shortage in South Africa has not done enough damage to the tourism sector in South Africa, the new immigration laws had to heighten the situation.

TRENDING12NEW-19-01-2015-19-01-07-235- Electricity pylons. File photo. Image by: © Mike Hutchings / Reuters / REUTERS

For a country with a highly diverse climate, culture, infrastructure and tourist attractions, the new stringent immigration laws which have affected the tourism sector in South Africa, was rather a huge disappointment.

These laws make it extremely difficult for foreigners who desire to be a part of this multi-racial, lingual and cultural society.

When the ministry of Home Affairs sat to implement these laws, it was oblivious of the fact that having foreigners come to our country is not a one way street but a two way street as they also get to bring in their hard cash which to be quite frank we need taking into account the depreciating value of the rand.

It has taken several outcries from the ministries responsible for the tourism sector and inter-party (ruling party) tension to have the president ‘realise’ that the latest immigration changes are of no good to the economy of South Africa. These changes have immensely affected the tourism industry. They have affected business tourists, cultural tourists and leisure tourist.

Tourism is not only one of the biggest contributors to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) but has been dubbed globally as one of the fast growing industries. In a meeting which the president had with the business leaders last Tuesday, he clearly expresses his reservations on these developments and promises to have the issue addressed by the ministerial sector, (Buznews. Aug, 12, 2015). This ‘came to his attention’ a little too late but we keep our fingers crossed that he will keep his promise to have these laws amended.

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The stringent immigration laws have not only caused a steep decline to the tourism sector but also investment by big markets such as China and India into South Africa.

The Department of Home Affairs needs to realise that tourism in actually one of the most competitive sectors, especially here in Southern Africa where almost every country is a tourist attraction.

Millions of money has been lost due to these laws. In one of our meetings with a big corporate client we were advised that a sizable number of their employees from sister companies whom they would like to transfer to South Africa do not meet the immigration requirements.

This has affected their output as they are losing a lot due to lack of skilled foreign employees. If ever the employees do meet the requirements, it becomes difficult to have their family members join them into South Africa.

The requirement by the Department of Home Affairs of unabridged birth certificates and biometrics fingerprints are difficult to fulfil.

In fact, these regulations are not regulations in the true sense but impediments against travelling to South Africa. Due to these requirements, travelling into South Africa is no longer an option thereby affecting tourism. This also applies to large foreign companies that desire to invest in South Africa but have had to invest elsewhere because of our strict immigration laws.

The fact that the negative effects of the new visa regulations have gotten to the attention of the president and he has promised to look into it shows beyond doubt that the new rules were flawed and have had an immediate impact.

However, based on the track record of ANC one can only hope and keep fingers crossed for a change.

Please do not hesitate to contact us for advice regarding immigration & visa, setting up business, property transfer & investment.

by Nkazie