Media Statement by the Minister of Home Affairs and the Minister of Tourism on the impact of the New Visa Regulations

The Minister of Home Affairs, Minister Malusi Gigaba and the Minister of Tourism, Minister Derek Hanekom met on Wednesday, 30 July 2014 in Cape Town to discuss the impact on the tourism sector of the new Immigration Regulations which came into effect on 26 May 2014.

Key issues raised include:
• Transit visas;
• The regulation relating to the presentation of unabridged birth certificates upon entering or departing South Africa; and
• The requirement for foreign nationals to apply for visas in person

Minister Gigaba and Hanekom reiterated their common understanding that:
• Enhanced security and facilitation of tourism development are not mutually exclusive and should be managed in a way consistent with our national interest;
• The effective management of migration, the security as well as the sovereignty of South Africa’s immigration regime; and
• Tourism makes a significant contribution to job creation and economic growth, and that the tourism experience encompasses the full customer journey which starts with visa application and documentation requirements, and
• The new Immigration Regulations could have unintended consequences as well as practical implementation difficulties which should be mitigated and managed in a reasonable and constructive manner.

In respect of transit visas, the Minister agreed that the introduction of the capacity to collect biometrics at ports of entry or within a transit facility at such ports of entry would obviate the need for such visas. The Ministers were confident that the phasing in of biometric data collection capacity at ports of entry could lead to the phasing out of transit visas.

In respect of ‘in person’ visa applications, the Ministers noted the capacity constraints in countries that cover large geographic areas as well as in countries without a South African Mission or Consulate. The Ministers agreed on the need to intervene speedily to mitigate unintended consequences. Towards expecting interventions that could improve the state of readiness, the Department of Home Affairs has already engaged Visa Facilitation Services (VFS) Global with a view to increasing its footprint as and when required to do so. To this end, the Department of Tourism will provide relevant information to assist the Department of Home Affairs in making an informed determination pertaining to countries where the need exists for an increase in the visa processing and biometric data footprint.

In respect of ‘unabridged birth certificates’, the Ministers reiterated their commitment to the prevention and combating of trafficking in persons. The Department of Home Affairs will address the misunderstandings about the interpretation of unabridged birth certificate through a communication programme. The intention is to accept alternative, locally issued equivalent documents that contain relevant information. Translation of an equivalent document would not be required.

The Ministers also welcomed a progress report on the piloting of a “trusted traveler programme” which could, in time, and in combination with biometric system roll-out, facilitate the transition to virtual visas.
It was a fruitful discussion. The Ministers and their departments are committed to mitigating the possible unintended consequences of the new Regulations and urgently addressing practical implementation barriers through ongoing engagement, information and best practice sharing, fast-tracking of interventions to build capacity and enhanced external communication aimed at eliminating confusion about the implications of the new Regulations

Previously released jointly by the Department of Home Affairs and Tourism

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