South Africa: Amendment brings eased visa application methods and clearer child travel rules

The Department of Home Affairs has approved the Cabinet’s decision regarding suggestions to improve and clarify the immigration regulations implemented in May 2014, and has in turn amended the law to make compliance easier. The amendment brings eased application methods for foreign nationals required to apply in person for South African visas and clearer entry and exit rules for those travelling with minors. Additionally, the DHA is considering implementing various streamlined visa programs and a visa-on-arrival program.

In-Person Application Requirement Removed for Some

Travellers without a South African consular post in their country of residence can now submit their visa applications by mail and can provide biometrics upon arrival, starting with pilot programs at O.R. Tambo International Airport, King Shaka International Airport and Cape Town International Airport.

Clarifications Regarding Travelling with Minors

Those leaving South Africa with minors must still present the child’s unabridged birth certificate.  Original birth certificates and, where necessary, parental consent or certified copies of birth certificates, will still be required for those entering South Africa with minors.

For nationals of visa-exempt countries, the DHA will issue an advisory statement to require absent parents to provide proof of relationship and consent upon exit and entry.  This requirement will eventually be codified as law.

Lastly, in the next three months, the DHA is expected to issue a regulation that would extend the validity of the parental consent affidavit to six months.

Streamlined Visa Programs Under Consideration

Over the next three months, the DHA will consider a proposal for a long-term multiple entry visa program that would be valid from three months up to three years for frequent business travellers and academics. Over the next year, the DHA will also consider a visa waiver program for India, China, Russia and other countries.

Within a year, the DHA also intends to add visa facilitation centres in Zimbabwe, United Arab Emirates and Botswana, and to open Business Visa Facilitation Centres in Durban and Port Elizabeth in addition to the centre in Sandton.

In the long term, the DHA intends to install pre-flight check systems at international airports, upgrade Advance Passenger Processing systems, implement a Passenger Name Record system to enhance risk assessment and finalize automation of the visa and permitting system.

What This Means for Foreign Nationals

Foreign nationals should benefit from the planned visa waiver programs, relaxed visa application procedures and additional planned visa application centres.

Parents travelling out of South Africa with their child but without the other parent should be prepared to present proof of relationship and consent, even though the related regulation has not yet been issued.