SA visa changes: We will not contribute to child trafficking and required travel consent remains for SA children

2018-09-25 12:31 - Selene Brophy
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Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba has confirmed the details of eased requirements for foreign minors travelling to South Africa. 

At an official press briefing on Tuesday, Gigaba stated the need for parents of foreign minors to carry unabridged birth certificates when travelling to South Africa will no longer be enforced, 

READ: Ramaphosa: New visa reforms 'to boost tourism' as part of #StimulusPackage  

Instead, foreign travellers are "strongly advised to carry these documents" that prove kinship, says Gigaba. 

Immigration officials will only insist on these documents "when necessary". Most significantly  foreign travellers will not be refused entry if they do not have these document, but rather be allowed the "opportunity to prove parental ties and consent". A travel advisory is set to be issued, confirming the amendments for international travel to South Africa, after it is gazetted in October of this year, with Gaba saying the process would be up and running ahead of the busy December holiday period.   

Consent still required for SA children

Th rule of providing consent from both parents still stands for travelling South African children though, when travelling abroad or crossing SA's borders - according to the Children's Act of South Africa, says Gigaba, "This will not be changed."

READ MORE: DHA streamlines birth certificates to ease minor travel 

"South Africans should take heart in this. We all have the responsibility to ensure the safety of our children."

Documentation for traveling South African children has been significantly streamlined since the initial implementation of the regulation in 2015.

Since then the DHA has introduced a new passport for SA minors - which includes the details of both parents on the last page of the document. It has also done away with the unabridged birth certificate - and now only issues one birth certificate - detailing both the mother and the father of the child. Previously an abridged birth certificate was issued, with only the mother's details. 

READ: Upgraded SA children's passport spells relief for travelling parents, sets global precedent

After three years of lobbying, the decision by Cabinet has been welcomed by Southern African Tourism Services Association (SATSA).  "The requirement of carrying an unabridged birth certificate has been a hurdle that damages our competitiveness as a destination," says David Frost, CEO of SATSA.

R7.5bn loss to the tourism economy  

“This is an indication of how seriously this Cabinet takes its mission to drive South Africa’s inclusive economic growth, and the long-awaited recognition of tourism’s role as a critical sector in helping them achieve their ambitions goals.”  

SATSA estimates the "direct and indirect impact to the broader economy on the entry requirement is about R7.5bn loss to the tourism economy".  The changes were confirmed as the Tourism Business Council of South Africa announced that business performance in the sector had declined in the first half of 2018. 

Overseas tourist arrivals to South Africa in the first six months of the year also indicate a decline of almost 2%, with reduced or stagnant tourist arrivals reported from most of South Africa’s key inbound markets. 

Countries requiring visas for South Africa 

The confirmation of the amendments was first announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his Stimulus Plan on Friday, last week. As stated by Ramaphosa, Gigaba also firmed up details relating to the list of countries requiring visas for South Africa and the e-visa pilot to be implemented.

Negotiations are being finalised to conclude Visa Waiver Agreements for ordinary passport holder for countries like Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia State of Palestine and Cuba. 

While visa-free travel exists for ordinary passport holders of 15 SADC countries - citizens of the Democratic Republic of Congo are still required to apply for a visa, but eased travel requirements are being considered. 

Gigaba says in accordance with the African Free Movement Agenda, "Where we are unable to waiver visas we will implement measures to ease travel". 

He confirmed that eased travel restrictions are also being looked at for Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and Uganda. 

e-Visa pilot in New Zealand in 2019

Gigaba stressed that South Africa’s introduction of an e-visa would significantly contribute to easing travel to South Africa.

A pilot will be implemented in New Zealand in April 2019. This is significant in that South Africa introduced a visa requirement in 2016, after New Zealand restricted travel for SA citizens. The result had seen a 17% drop in travellers to SA from New Zealand in 2017.

While travel for ordinary passport holders between South African and China will still need to apply for a visa, Gigaba confirmed it would be piloting bio-metrics on arrival for Chinese citizens.

“Our agreement with China is based on what has been put on the table by both countries - visa waiver for ordinary passport holders is not on the cards for both countries right now.”

e-Gates for OR Tambo in 2019

In addressing the congestion being experienced at immigration controls at SA airports, specifically high-volumes at OR Tambo, an e-gates pilot will be introduced in 2019.

“Returning South Africans and certain categories of trusted travellers will be allowed to be processed electronically rather than interact with an immigration officer.”

This will increase efficiency, says Gigaba, as well as  improve the facilitation of movement for frequent travellers and physically free up immigration processing capacity. 

Gigaba added the importance of the changes to visa architecture, affirming its "potential to boost tourism and improve the lives of our people".