Visa regulations will also hurt medical tourism - Alan Winde

WCape MEC also says SA's regulations out of step with those of its BRICS partners

MEC Alan Winde submits visa regulations impact review to National Government

16 September 2015

Alan Winde, Minister of Economic Opportunities, has submitted a comprehensive review of the impact of the visa regulations to the National Government, with a request that it be taken into account by the inter-ministerial committee convened to assess the new rules.

The new information formed part of an analysis conducted by the Western Cape Government’s Red Tape Reduction Unit.

Minister Winde has shared the unit’s analysis with the Home Affairs Minister, Malusi Gigaba, Tourism Minister, Derek Hanekom and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who heads the inter-ministerial committee investigating the impact of the regulations.

“The visa regulations are impacting various areas of our economy. The report shows that a major hotel group is estimating a decrease in revenue of R2.5 million, based on a comparison of total room revenue for the period June 2013 to December 2014.

“Two major international conferences hosted in South Africa recently also reported a 71% and 45% decrease in attendance figures. Taking into account that conference delegates are estimated to spend R3200 per day during their stay in the country, this drop is attendance is worrying.

“One of the key concerns remains the National Department of Home Affairs’ administrative capacity to support these regulations. The population of children in South Africa amounts to approximately 17 million. Although it is not expected that all of these children will apply for unabridged birth certificates, based on the existing capacity constraints, the Department of Home Affairs will not be able to deal with any sort of meaningful increase in demand for their services in a timeous and efficient manner.”

The analysis outlines the following:

-The impact of the changes for each visa type

-The economic impact in key sectors

-Comparison with the visa systems of other countries, including BRICS

-Recommendations to streamline South Africa’s visa application system

Focusing on specific impacts, Minister Winde highlighted medical tourism as one of the sectors which had been hit hard.

“This sector generates R9.8 million for the national economy and attracts 500 000 visitors. Prior to the implementation of the regulations, visitors from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region opted to apply for tourist visas which would allow them to stay for 90 days. Should they need more than three months to recover, they would be able to apply for a temporary residence visa. In many cases, medical tourists are not able to pre-empt the amount of time they will need to recover. Under the new regulations they would have to return to their country of origin, possibly at great risk to their health.”

Minister Winde said the country comparison showed that South Africa’s regulations were far more stringent than its BRICS partner countries.

“Brazil and India offer online visa applications, while Russia allows visitors to apply for a 30 day tourist visa on arrival. According to the South African regulations, visitors must apply in person at a South African embassy in their home country, and undergo biometric fingerprint scanning.”

Statement issued by Western Cape Economic Development and Tourism department, 16 September 2015