Intra Ministerial Committee update
On the 5th of February 2016 I attended the latest Home Affairs briefing in Pretoria, organized for stakeholders and open for invitees only. The following serves to summarize and highlight the most important content addressed during the meeting.
Firstly some context: by the end of 2015 key officials from the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) presented their plans aiming to implement the many Intra Ministerial Committee recommendations in order to curb the unintended consequences of the latest immigration regulations (on 10 December 2015). Today’s event was organized in order to give an overview of the most recent developments and achievements thus far.
Hereunder I summarize the, in our perspective, most relevant aspects of the presentation. Many of the matters included below are at this stage nothing more than expressed intentions from the side of Home Affairs, nevertheless we recognize that the immigration landscape is on the move and expect most of the plans expressed to be implemented soon.
· DHA has managed to complete the implementation of a biometric data capturing system on South Africa’s major airports. As a result travelers from visa restricted countries can now transit without needing to obtain a transit visa before travelling to (and through) South Africa. This can be arranged upon arrival as long as the traveler remains ‘in transit’ and thus saves a lot of time for the many people using South Africa as a gateway. A practical example: people from Congo wanting to travel to the US via OR Tambo, Johannesburg, can do so without needing to wait for a couple of weeks to get their transit visa in place
· Visa requirements for Tourists from the BRICS partner countries China, Russia and India are expected to be waived. We believe it has to do with the high spending power of BRICS nationals and their positive influence on the South African economy. Simultaneously it symbolizes the strengthening of the bonds between South Africa and its BRICS partners. Let’s hope to see these ties benefit the economy soon
· DHA considers to issue visas on arrival for non-visa exempt travellers to South Africa with having valid visas for the UK, USA and Canada and possibly others. The argument is that these countries apply stringent security checks on their visitors and so have been ‘screened’ already
· Commotion has risen after an American school class was sent back home due to the fact that they were not able to produce the required documents for travelling with children. Following these events DHA decided to attempt to make the process easier; 1 consent letter signed by the school principal will now suffice for an entire class visiting South Africa for a school trip. Unabridged Birth Certificates however must still be presented!
· The validity of the parental consent affidavit for travelling with minors has been extended from 4 to 6 months
· VFS offices for submission of visa applications are to be opened in Zimbabwe, Botswana and the UAE in the near future.
· Currently there is one VFS Premium Lounge, established to service employees of major corporates in an extra efficient manner, located in Sandton, Johannesburg. Goal is to build more of such VFS centers over the next months, starting in Durban and Port Elizabeth (with an eye on the major industrialization projects taking place in that region currently – e.g. Aerotropolis, Automotive)
· DHA considers to implement a category visa for frequent Business, Government and Academics travellers from Africa valid for 10 years and allowing multiple entry visits of periods up to 90 days at a time. This is an extension of the already existing BRICS visa which is also issued for 10 years and applicable to certain individuals holding passports from BRICS countries.
· The DHA is planning to amend the way in which current South African passports are issued; the details of both parents will be included in the near future. The Unabridged Birth Certificate requirement has led to many complaints and inconvenience for parents travelling with their children. As soon as the new passports are the norm this will be an issue of the past for South African children.
· When traveling with minor children it is still required (strongly advised in the terms used by the Home Affairs officials; we interpret that as compulsory to avoid needless hassle) to travel in and out of South Africa presenting an Unabridged Birth Certificate. This goes for everyone, South Africans, expats and tourists. The DHA has expressed that they will train their staff to merely request these unabridged birth certificates from expats under specific circumstances. The current application of this rule is experienced as being too stringent. Please note that no formal changes have been implemented yet though, therefore be prepared and travel with an Unabridged Birth Certificate in the one hand and your baby in the other. Also note that when travelling without one of the parents of the child, a Consent affidavit (of the missing parent) must be presented.
For further information, details and specific highlights please feel free to contact us at IBN via our website. We have the slides of the presentation available and do not hesitate to share these with you.
by Hans Kroll