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New Visa Regulations

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Government finally acts upon the folly of unreasonable visa regulations

When government enacted new visa regulations in June, controversy immediately erupted. The new visa regulations were aimed at curbing rampant child trafficking. In terms of the new visa regulations, parents were not allowed to enter or leave South Africa with minors unless they had both a passport and an unabridged birth certificate. The new visa regulations also required written permission to travel from both the child’s parents. Without this consent entry to the country is not allowed. What is more, in order to obtain visas applicants had to apply in person at missions abroad for the purpose of providing biometric data.

What is the fuss all about?

The new visa regulations came under immediate attack from several quarters, most notably from tourism operators. In the very short time since the enactment of the new visa regulations revenue from tourism dropped by an astonishing R50 billion! It seems as if the new visa regulations, together with long waiting periods and unprofessional processing procedures just proved to much for many would-be visitors to South Africa. A deluge of cancellations caused a staggering blow to the entire tourism industry.

Cabinet forced to make concessions

A teetering economy and months of intense lobbying, followed by grave warnings from the Treasury has forced the cabinet to re-assess the new visa regulations and to announce concessions because government “did not foresee the unintended consequences of the new visa regulations.”

New concessions will be phased in over a period of at least a year

The most important of these include:

  • Visa applications will be accepted by post in countries where South Africa do not maintain missions. In such cases, biometric data will be collected at the time of entering the country.

  • The Department of Home Affairs will introduce an Accredited Tourism Company (ATC) program for visa applicants from Russia, China and India where South Africa only maintains a small number of missions and where geographical spread makes it difficult or impossible to apply in person.

  • Travellers with minors will not be required to travel with unabridged birth certificates. Instead, certified copies of the relevant documentation will suffice.

Hastily enacted legislation has cost this country endless damage and embarrassment. It is high time that the cabinet carefully consider the possible consequences before they rush a new bill through parliament. The new visa regulations is just the latest example of a government that rides rough-shod over objections and reason.

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