Cape Town - Travel agencies serving the South African market say they are ecstatic about a new proposal that may soon see South Africans travel to Europe without visas, especially since it could result in the South African passport becoming a much more popular global travel document.
Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba announced on Tuesday, 29 September, six immigration-related issues that will be tended to by the DHA in SA.
SA's Minister held talks with the European Union Ambassador Marcus Cornaro regarding the relaxation or elimination of its visa requirements for South African passport holders, among other things.
SEE: Visa free travel to Europe on the cards for South Africans
Theses new visa requirements for Europe may come into effect as early as March next year.
Andrew Stark, Managing Director of Flight Centre Travel Group, South Africa’s largest travel company, says this is a significant development for all South African travellers.
“This move is a step in the right direction for South Africans, making overseas travel far more accessible and affordable. It is fantastic news. Visas are a tedious process for South Africans passport holders, adding significant costs as well as administration to a trip or holiday,” he says.
Stark also says the move will make South African passports more prestigious.
Also Emma Verhoeven, Brand and Communications Manager for Travelstart says the proposal from the DHA will be welcomed.
"We foresee visa-free travel to EU countries for South Africans to facilitate a boost in tourism to those countries, enabling shorter time to departure bookings and more flexible travel, affordable holidays and the revival of working gap years. Of course with UK being one of our highest demand international destinations, it is a shame they are leaving the European Union at such an exciting time." she says.
Europe and the UK remain one of the biggest outbound destinations for SA travellers and this amendment will certainly make travel to Europe far easier despite our weak currency.
South African passport holders currently need a Schengen visa to enter Europe.
The Schengen visa allows access to all the 22 European Union member states as well as four members of the European Free Trade Association including France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Austria, Hungary and Sweden. South African passport holders do not require a visa for Ireland but need a UK visa to enter the UK.
Following the Brexit vote, Britain's Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced that UK citizens may have to pay for visas to visit European Union nations after the country leaves the bloc.
SEE: #Brexit: UK travellers may need EU visas
South Africans, on the other hand, the world is starting to open up.
The implementation of the visa-free travel pass would encourage travel not only because of less admin to oversee before travelling, but also due to financial reasons. Currently, a short-term Schengen visa currently costs R1 023, while a six-month UK visa costs R1 740 and a US visa R2 480. A visa for Australia costs R2 281 while entry to Canada R1 060.
Processing UK, Australian, Canadian and Schengen visas incur administrative costs, which are included in the visa fee and visa applicants often need to produce lots of supporting documents including three months’ worth of bank statements to prove that they can afford to finance their stay in the foreign destination – including attending an interview, if necessary.
South African passport holders currently have visa-free access to 97 of the world’s 218 countries, according to the 2016 Visa Restrictions Index. The implementation of the new visa-free EU travel could see this statistic improve tremendously.
What to read next on Traveller24:
- Visa free travel to Europe on the cards for South Africans
- #Brexit: UK travellers may need EU visas
- Turks may soon gain visa-free travel to EU