Concessions made to controversial visa regulations

The regulations had required parents to carry unabridged birth certificates for children travelling with them.

A sample of an unabridged birth certificate, Picture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - Government has announced changes to the controversial visa regulations.

Tourism minister Derek Hanekom made the announcement at a Cabinet press conference earlier today.

Hanekom says the concessions will be made to limit the impact the current regulations have had on tourism and economic growth.

The minister says it will no longer be mandatory for inbound travellers from visa-exempt countries to carry unabridged birth certificates for children travelling with them.

But it appears that unabridged birth certificates will still have to be presented by South African children leaving the country.

These changes are the result of government's inter-ministerial committee.

In order to implement Cabinet decisions on this matter, the home affairs department will do the following:

In the next three months,

  • Implement the capturing of biometrics at ports of entry starting with a pilot at OR Tambo, King Shaka and Cape Town airports;

  • Look at introducing an accredited tourism company programme for countries like China, India and Russia;

  • Consider a long-term multiple entry visa for a period exceeding three months and up to three years for frequent travellers (for business meetings), business people and academics;

  • Principals will issue letters confirming permission for children to travel on school tours; and

  • Extend the validity of the parental consent affidavit to six months.

Within a year,

  • Add visa facilitation centres, including in Zimbabwe, United Arab Emirates and Botswana;

  • Consider a visa-waiver for India, China, Russia and other countries';

  • Look at issuing visas on arrival for persons travelling to SA having in their passports valid visas for the UK, USA and Canada or any other country that applies stringent checks on visitors to their countries, to ease travel for tourists;

  • Consider granting a certain category of frequent travellers (business and academics) from Africa a 10 year multiple entry visitor's visa;

  • Open two business visa facilitation centres in Durban and Port Elizabeth, in addition to the centre recently opened in Sandton; and

  • Print parents' details in their passports so that they do not have to carry birth certificates.

In the long term, one year and beyond,

  • Install systems for pre-flight checks at international airports;

  • Upgrade advance passenger processing systems and implement passenger name record, to enhance risk assessment; and

  • Finalise automation of the visa and permitting system.

It says these measures will ensure the balance between national security and economic interests of the country, without compromising child safety.