Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba on Tuesday announced a number of measures related to visas that could boost the economy.
He made the announcement at a media briefing in Pretoria.
These measures form part of the stimulus packages that President Cyril Ramaphosa announced last Friday to try and boost the economy amid a recession.
Last week Cabinet announced a number of changes that would make it easier for tourists, business people and academics to come to South Africa, Gigaba said.
“Travel reforms will include amendments to regulations applying to foreign minors travelling to South Africa, visa waivers and relaxation of visa requirements for certain countries,” he added.
According to Mandla Isaacs, home affairs’ director of research and speech writing, the following were the eight key changes or proposed changes: travel for minors, simplification of visa requirements, the introduction of long-term multiple entry visas as well as a Brics visa, the review of the critical skills list, finalising the new biometric movement control system, the piloting of the e-visa in April 2019 and the piloting of e-gates.
On the topic of minors, Gigaba said that home affairs required that minors travelling in or out of the country do so with the consent of both parents as required by the Children’s Act.
“As indicated by the president, we are simplifying the rules on travelling minors who are [specially] foreign nationals to minimise disruption to legitimate travellers without compromising the safety of miners and the rights of their parents,” he added.
“To this end, we will issue an international travel advisory before the end of October, after consultation with the Immigration Advisory Board,” Gigaba said.
“The key changes will be that rather than requiring all foreign nationals travelling with minors to carry documentation proving parental consent for the travelling minor to travel, we will rather ‘strongly recommend’ that travellers carry this documentation,” he added.
“Our immigration officials will only insist on documentation as the exception – in high-risk situations – rather than for all travellers, in line with practice by several other countries,” Gigaba said.
“Rather than denying entry where documentation is absent, travellers will be given an opportunity to prove parental consent,” he added.
South African minors will still have to prove parental consent when leaving South Africa.
“These changes will be implemented in good time for the festive season when many people would be travelling with children. We will train immigration officials on the revised regulations, to ensure smooth implementation,” Gigaba said.
Gigaba said the government would be simplifying visa requirements for countries such as China and India.
“This will make provision for taking biometrics on arrival in South Africa; allowing visa applications via courier and issuing five-year multiple entry visas,” he added.
“This should be in place next month,” Gigaba said.
“Easing movement in this manner will help in attracting larger numbers of tourists, business people and families,” he added.
• Long-term multiple entry visas
Gigaba said that: “In order to ease movement of travellers, for purposes of tourism, business meetings and academic exchange, we have implemented long-term multiple entry visas for frequent travellers.”
These visas include a three-year multiple entry visa for frequent travellers to South Africa and a 10-year long-term multiple entry visa for business people and academics from Africa.
Turning to the Brics visa, Gigaba said that business people from Brics countries that required visas, ie China and India, would be issued a 10-year multiple entry visa within five days of applying for the visa.
“They do not need to apply in person, and can use courier services,” he added.
“The arrangement is meant to attract business people and prospective investors,” Gigaba said.
To boost the country’s skill base, Gigaba said that consultations were being finalised with other government departments, academics, business and organised labour, to implement a review of critical skills by April 2019.
“This will help in attracting and retaining critically skilled labour best to enhance economic development and advance our country’s … growth, employment and transformation” Gigaba said.
“In other to retain critical skills, foreign students who graduate at South African institutes of higher learning within critical skills categories, are offered an opportunity to apply for permanent residence upon graduation,” he added.
Another development that Gigaba announced was that the government was finalising the development of new biometric movement control system that would be piloted at Cape Town and Lanseria international airports.
“This will bring greater efficiency in clearing of travellers arriving at our international airports,” he added.
Finally when it comes to new developments, Gigaba said that the development of an e-visa was at an advanced stage and would be piloted in New Zealand by April 2019. The department would be piloting e-gates at OR Tambo, Cape Town and King Shaka International Airports by 2019.
The e-visa would “significantly enhance efficiency” in the issuing of visas to tourists and business people visiting South Africa.
Gigaba said that the e-gates would allow returning South Africa citizens as well as “categories of trusted travellers” to be processed electronically rather than having to interact with an immigration officer.
“This will increase efficiencies and convenience, and improve facilitation of movement of frequent travellers going through our international airports,” he added.