In a bid to boost investment and tourism in South Africa, the Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba on Tuesday announced that changes in some immigration rules, including agreeing visa waiver agreements with more countries.
The changes are part of a broader economic turnaround programme announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa last week as his team seeks to drag Africa’s most developed economy out of recession.
“We play a critical economic role in admitting over 10 million international visitors to South Africa annually, which includes tourists, business travelers, investors and neighbours,” Gigaba told reporters.
“Millions of jobs are sustained by the economic activity generated by these travelers.”
Visitors from India and China, highlighted by Ramaphosa as important investment growth areas, will have travel regulations relaxed from next month, including allowing applications for 5-year multiple entry visas.
Gigaba said negotiations were also being finalised to conclude visa waiver agreements with more than a dozen countries across Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Qatar and the UAE.
Visa requirements for minors
Much-criticized rules on traveling minors will be simplified, he said.
“The key changes will be that rather than requiring all foreign nationals who are minors to carry documentation which proves parental consent and certificates of birth, we will rather strongly recommend that the parents of these minors carry the documentation,” Gogaba said.
In June 2015 new rules were implemented requiring parents to carry an unabridged birth certificate for accompanying children and consent letters from parents who were not traveling.
The tourism industry said the regulations, which came into effect during Gigaba’s previous tenure as home affairs minister, were hurting business.
Tourism contributes more than 400 billion rand (US$28 billion) to South Africa’s economy, or around 8 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“These changes will be implemented ahead of the festive season. We’ll also train immigration officials on the revised regulations to ensure smooth implementation.”