Easing Visa Processes for BRICS Countries, E-Visas

The requirement to present to South African missions in person when making applications is particularly onerous in large countries like China and India, where travel times are long and whose citizens are not visa exempt, i.e. they have to apply for a visa even just to visit South Africa.

Therefore, Home Affairs is planning to allow for certain visa applications to be made via courier (as it used to be the case) and for the presentation for fingerprints to happen on arrival in South Africa. Also, multiple-entry visas for 3, 5 or 10 years for trusted travelers are already in place or in the planning. Countries to benefit from this include China, India, Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda.

So-called e-Visas have been announced for some time and are now to be piloted in New Zealand by April 2019. Statements have not been entirely clear, but it appears that these will be available for visitors’ visas only. The announcement of earlier this year to recognize international visas issued for Schengen countries, the US, UK, Canada and Australia was not repeated most recently.

Over the course of 2018, numerous announcements of measures and changes have been made, which were not always consistent or aligned. It is therefore difficult to predict in what form and when exactly one will see any of these changes. They all have the potential for real impact, but this remains to be seen.

Traveling With Minors - No Real Relief Yet

Step by very little step, Minister Gigaba is retracting the onerous document requirements for traveling minors. In July, the need for an unabridged birth certificate (“UBC”) was abolished for those children whose passports contained their parents details. This is the case, for instance, with all new passports that Home Affairs issues to South African children.

Further changes were announced by Gigaba last week, but will only be implemented once the relevant international travel advisory has been issued, which is expected by the end of October 2018. The following will change:

  • Carrying the UBC and parental consent by non-travelling parents will be a “strong recommendation” rather than an obligation.
  • The documents will only be required in exceptional, “high risk”, situations. In case they are not presented on demand, travellers will be given an opportunity to provide them instead of being denied entry.
  • NOTE: this applies only to non-South African children, whilst South African children still need to provide the consent affidavits.

The Minister’s announcement has created more confusion than clarity. Where does a “strong recommendation” leave travelers who are planning their trips? What exactly will be seen as “high risk”? Will the interpretation include scenarios where parent(s) and child(ren) do not carry the same surnames or have different appearances, where they come from certain (profiled) countries or look a particular way? Until these criteria have been clarified, or at least tested in practise, we recommend that you carry the full set of documents if at all possible, to avoid delays and complications. Thus, no major changes just yet.

Sadly also, although the changes may be implemented before holiday makers travel across our borders, this will not be in time for the planning of their travels. With the uncertainty prevailing, tourists will likely have booked a holiday destination with more predictable travel procedures.

More Countries Visa Exempt for Visits to South Africa

As any other nation, South Africa grants the citizens of certain countries (including the US, Brazil, Canada, most of Europe, Australia, but also most of the SADC countries) visitors’ visa on arrival (visa exemption). All others need to apply for a port-of-entry visa before they board the plane or approach the border. In line with the government’s 2017 White Paper on International Migration, South Africa is looking to ease travel between other African countries and other major tourism markets.

This year, visa exemption was granted to the Russian Federation and to Angola, and exemptions for the following countries are currently being considered:

  • AFRICA: Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Sao Tome & Principe, Tunisia, Saharawi-Arab Democratic Republic and Ghana.
  • MIDDLE-EAST: Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, State of Palestine, Iran, Lebanon, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait;
  • EASTERN EUROPE: Belarus and Georgia; and

This is a positive step that will encourage tourism and business travel from previously unexploited markets.

ConCourt decides: Asylum Seekers and Refugees can Apply Locally

An important judgment was handed down by the Constitutional Court, which relates to asylum seekers and refugees and their right to apply for temporary residence visa or permanent residence permits under the Immigration Act without having to leave the country and await the outcome from home.

The unanimous judgment found that persons holding asylum seeker permits, awaiting outcomes on their appeals to rejected applications for refugee status, or who are recognized refugees, may apply for any category of permanent residence from within the country if they meet the criteria. The court also found that these persons may apply for temporary residence visa locally, if they meet the criteria AND if they first apply for and obtain an exemption from the requirement to apply from their home country.

In paragraphs 61 and 62, the judgment also clarifies that applications of this nature can be made even if the applicants – due to their situation as refugees – do not have valid passports.

Contact us if you need advice and support with your application – we will gladly assist!

Internal - VAT Increase to 15%

In line with amended tax legislation, IMCOSA has implemented the increase of Value Added Tax or VAT by 1% and is charging 15% VAT on any invoices issued after 1 April 2018.