New visa rules: Why are we building barriers?

2014-06-13 10:33

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Cape Town - The new South African immigration and visa rules, instituted by the department of home affairs at the end of May, has been the cause for heated debate amongst major tourism bodies.

Cape Town Tourism has confirmed it is working in conjunction with the City of Cape Town, WESGRO, Southern African Tourism Services Association (SATSA), Southern African Association for the Conference Industry (SAACI), Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (FEDHASA) and various representatives from and on behalf of the tourism industry to meet with national department of tourism to "understand the full impact of the new procedures, in order to evaluate the impact and assess the necessary reaction plan".

Cape Town Tourism CEO Enver Duminy says the new regulations “Pose a serious threat to tourism growth. Whilst many countries are doing their utmost to make travel user-friendly, we are building barriers. This does not bode well for our efforts to attract developing markets and it will certainly be a deterrent to those wanting to enjoy extended stays in Cape Town.”

Amongst the key issues affecting tourism are:

•    The fact that in-destination visitors can only apply for a visa extension under new grounds (with the exception of life-saving emergency treatment) from their country of origin, essentially meaning that visitors wishing to extend their stay will find it prohibitive to do so.

•    Parents travelling with children are expected to produce an unabridged birth certificate for travel – this is not the standard certificate supplied and must be applied for, a process that can take up to three months. A grace period has been introduced to phase in this procedure and now only takes effect in October.

•    Visas processed in India and China must now be biometrically created. Since there are only two active biometric stations, would-be travellers must first travel to the city where the biometric system is housed – this may be at a significant distance from the travellers place of origin.

CTT has consulted with several stakeholders from the industry and has found that youth travel, the habitual holidays of European “swallow” travellers, socially conscious tourism such as voluntourism, family holidays, and business and conferencing tourism are all under significant threat. The new procedures also complicate access for the film and entertainment industry.

Duminy said the process was not phased in consultatively, highlighting the disinformation and confusion currently at play within the sector.

"We will certainly do all we can to better understand the issues and repercussions of these changes, and we will represent the interests of our members and the industry.”

According to Global Migration South Africa, the new visa procedures could put R1 billion in investment and 1 600 local jobs at risk.

Rob Kucera, FEDHASA Cape’s newly elected Chairperson, adds; “FEDHASA Cape is deeply concerned by reports on the amendments to the Immigrations Act.
We are concerned that we were not taken into confidence before the amendments were drafted and later approved. Consequently, this will have a negative business impact on tourism, which currently contributes more than R93 billion to the country's GDP and over 610 000 direct jobs.”

Chris Whelan of Accelerate Cape Town concludes; “Migration policies must align with the economic realities and incentives of the main actors, i.e. the migrants themselves and their employer. To be at the forefront of this economy you need a world-class city and country that has a ready supply of intellectual capital.  Companies in the knowledge economy need easy access to this talent. Our visa regime clearly needs to reflect this reality.”

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