UK to relax visa rules for SA business travellers


Cape Town - Business travellers wanting to visit the United Kingdom for leisure travel will now be able to do so on a single visa, as the UK announces changes to its visa rules, due to come into effect on April 1.

While South Africans still need a visa to visit the UK – an unpopular development seen as expensive and admin-intensive that was introduced in 2009 in an attempt to reduce “passport fraud and corruption” involving SA passports – business travellers no longer require two separate visas

Home Secretary Theresa May announced that UK would be trying to make itself more attractive to business – resulting in the reform of its immigration system for visitors

“The changes will help simplify and streamline the visitor routes for businesses and leisure travellers, whilst the rebranding of the student visitor route will make it conceptually clearer for people who want to study on short term courses,” Spokesperson for British High Commission in Pretoria Isabel Potgieter said.

“The number of visitor routes will be consolidated from 15 to four as part of a simple new streamlined system for travellers to the UK. 

“There will also be new Immigration Rules and Guidance for visitors which are shorter, more user-friendly and easier for people to understand.”

The four new routes include:

1.     visitor (standard);

2.     visitor (to hold marriage or civil partnership);

3.     visitor undertaking permitted paid engagements; and

4.     visitor transiting the UK.


Also see: What’s the true power of your SA passport?

Reducing the number of visitor routes on offer is said to give visitors greater flexibility over what they can do when they are in the UK. 

“The improvements will make sure people apply for the right visa, and will allow a person to visit for a business meeting and a holiday without having to apply for two separate visas,” Potgieter said.

The changes are set to come into effect from April 2015. 

“The new Immigration Rules for visitors will be laid in Parliament on 26 February with changes being phased in from April 2015.”

The British High commission confirmed people can continue to apply for a visit visa in the usual way but that from April 2015, anyone entering using an existing visa will also benefit from the changes. 

“So someone who already has a valid business visit visa can use that visa from April to come for a holiday,” Potgieter said.

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