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New visa regulations kick in today

There is no sign yet that new visa regulations are impacting flights in and out of South Africa.

FILE: There is no sign yet that new visa regulations are impacting flights in and out of South Africa. Picture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - New visa regulations have officially taken effect this morning amid concerns that tourism could be severely affected.

As of today, children traveling in and out of South Africa will be required to present unabridged birth certificates at airports across the country.

Tourism groups have warned the new rules could have harming effects on the industry that makes up nine percent of the country's GDP.

If the new visa regulations are having an impact on flights in and out of South Africa at OR Tambo International Airport this morning, there's no sign of it yet.

It appears to be business as usual.

The first of the morning international flights has arrived and several children are making their way through the arrivals hall.

Eyewitness News spoke to a Kenyan national traveling out of South Africa with his three children, all under the age of five.

He said his family has not experienced any issues as all the children have unabridged birth certificates.

But it remains to be seen whether this will be the scenario for the rest of the day or whether some travellers will find it frustrating to comply with the new visa laws or possibly even be turned away.

The Department of Home Affairs insists that intensified regulations are needed to protect children from being trafficked.

TOURISM

The tourism industry has described the new regulations as impractical and an extra burden which will lead to disinvestment.

It affects tourists who want to travel to South Africa as they must now personally visit South African embassies abroad while minors need an unabridged birth certificate.

Single parents will also need to provide affidavits of consent from absent parents when travelling with a child.

WATCH: _ 'New visa rules will threaten the economy'_

Home Affairs Department's Mayihlome Tshwete said there have been concerns over unabridged birth certificates, but this has now been resolved.

"We're able as a government and as Home Affairs to now read birth certificates that are not translated."

The South African Tourism Services Association (Satsa) which represents more than 1,000 companies, said it will consult members and decide how to challenge the new regulations.

Satsa's David Frost said the new regulations mean chaos.

"People in Bulgaria are totally oblivious to this and when they arrive in Frankfort, South African Airways (SAA) asks them, 'Where is your birth certificate 'and they don't have any. They have a prepaid non-refundable holiday and they're put on a plane and sent back to Bulgaria."

He said the tourism industry will suffer severely.

LISTEN: _ SA Travel Agents predict chaos _

At the same time, some role players in the tourism industry are considering challenging the new visa regulations in the courts.

Frost said, "I think they are making it up as the go along. There is no best practice internationally, we are the only country in the world that is introducing this and you would think if it was such a light bulb moment more sophisticated countries that have been dealing with child trafficking for many years will go down this route. This is actual lunacy."

Meanwhile, Western Cape tourism MEC Alan Winde is also worried.

He reiterated the new regulations will have a disastrous impact on the local tourism sector.

"In this case, it's even worse if you coming from the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) or from Africa, but in general now if you want to come and you got a family it's much more difficult if you want to come to the country and that's the issue."

To view the new regulations, click here.