Grant Thornton applauds SA Government for amendments to visa regulations

Grant Thornton
Grant Thornton

Today’s changes announced by the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) tasked with reviewing South Africa’s immigration regulations, have been applauded by Grant Thornton Advisory Services.

The IMC’s recommendations, which have been approved by Cabinet on Friday 23 October 2015, include easing of the stringent “in person” biometric visa application requirements for foreign travellers to South Africa and the cancellation of requirements for unabridged birth certificates for foreign minors.

In the case of foreign minors, proof of original birth certificates or certified copies would only be required during the application process, which is a common requirement in many countries.

The requirement for South African children under the age of 18 to travel with an unabridged birth certificate will still be enforced, but the IMC has amended the term “unabridged birth certificate” to “birth certificate containing parental details”.  The IMC stated in today’s amendments that this had been changed in order to “address confusion”.  The IMC added that parents’ details will in future also be printed in passports so that if these particulars are present in child passports, those parents would no longer be required to present birth certificates.

“We are delighted with the amendments announced today,” says Lee-Anne Bac, director: Advisory Services at Grant Thornton. “These changes will make the Visa requirements for foreign tourists to South Africa much more streamlined and easier to obtain, thereby ensuring a much simpler process for travellers to our country.  The additional announcements today regarding foreign minors no longer requiring unabridged birth certificates will further assist in simplifying travel requirements which is encouraging for the SA Tourism sector – these changes will most definitely assist in getting the industry back on track.”

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was appointed by President Jacob Zuma early in August to lead an Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) which was established to look into addressing the unintended consequences experienced as a result of the implementation of the new immigration regulations, specifically that of the new visa laws.

The requirement for all children travelling into or out of South Africa to travel with an “unabridged” birth certificate as well as an applicable letter of consent from absent parent/s came into effect in June 2015.  “The birth certificate requirement created significant hurdles for tourists travelling with minors and many opted to not come to South Africa and some even chose competitive destinations for their holiday – meaning that our country lost out on much needed foreign spend” says Bac.

The visa requirements which generated massive concern for foreign travellers coming to South Africa came into effect on 1 October 2014.   These regulations required foreign tourists who need a visa to visit South Africa to appear ‘in person’ and submit biometric data when applying for a visa.

While the request for biometrics as part of a visa application is a fairly standard request around the world, the problem with South Africa’s biometric visa legislation was that the infrastructure was not in place when the law came into effect and communication around implementation and the processes required was unclear.  This created confusion and complications in the market causing some markets to retaliate.

“The issue was not about submitting biometrics or appearing in person for a visa – it was about the lack of systems to do so easily and simply,” continued Bac.  “When applying for a visa it’s often a tourist’s first point of contact with South Africa and it is important that we remain a welcoming destination.”

Bac says that the revisions made today by the Inter-Ministerial Committee will certainly improve the visa systems, while continuing to ensure that the security of the country and it’s children is a priority.

“The establishment of the IMC was a most valuable decision by Cabinet and we congratulate the committee on the viable resolutions announced today,” Bac concludes.

 

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