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‘SA tourism could take a while to recover from visa regulations’

People travelling into South Africa will no longer be required to apply for their visas in person.

FILE: The requirement of an unabridged birth certificate for children coming into the country has also been lifted. Picture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - As the Department of Home Affairs prepares to relax the conditions of its new visa regulations, it's being predicted that South Africa's tourism industry could take a while to recover.

The tourism department announced on Friday that people travelling into South Africa will no longer be required to apply in person for their visas.

The requirement of an unabridged birth certificate for children coming into the country has also been lifted.

Lee-Anne Bac of Grant Thornton advisory services says the impact of the strict laws on the tourism industry has been greater than anticipated.

"It's going to take a lot on time, energy and money to restore our reputation; to get the communication out there out there about the changed regulations and to convince those who've lost faith in us that they should actually have faith in us again."

LISTEN: Relaxed visa regulations are significant - minister

CHANGES

WITHIN 3 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.

  • 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.

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

LONG TERM & BEYOND:

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

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

  • Finalise automation of the visa and permitting system.

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