Cape Town – The Department of Home Affairs has been called to account for failing to communicate or outline exactly how and when the recently announced changes to SA’s contentious visa rules would come into effect.
While everyday folk have no doubt fallen victim to the confusion, a recent high-profile scenario bubbled up on social media showing just how confusing the situation is and highlighting the extent to which the DHA needs to resolve the issue.
READ: Idris Elba and his daughter unable to enter SA due to new travel laws
Award-winning actor Idris Alba was recently refused entry to South Africa for not having the necessary documentation for his daughter yet the recent changes announced by the Government’s inter-ministerial committee - tasked with accessing the rules - states unabridged birth certificates would only apply to SA citizens and not foreign visitors.
While not effective immediately at the time of the announcement on 26 October – almost a month later it remains unclear when and how the changes will be put into effect.
READ: FEDHASA calls on DHA for clearer communication on implementation of visa changes
The Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (FEDHASA) has welcomed the changes to the visa requirements stating "its significance will once again position South Africa as a preferred tourist destination”, but FEDHASA CEO Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa says the department of home affairs has a "responsibility to communicate the changes more effectively".
The Democratic Alliance (DA) has also called “government’s much-hyped promise to amend the job-killing visa regulations” ineffective saying nothing has materialised since the announcement by Minister in the Presidency, Jeff Radebe, that sought to amend the issue following a drop in numbers of visitors to the country and billions lost in revenue.
Indicative of the confusion, Department of Home Affairs spokesperson, Mayihlome Tshwete defended DHA on twitter, stating that “because the law came through Parliament they can’t be changed overnight.” Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom, however rebuffed this assertion telling Tshwete that “you really ought to know that the provisions are in regulations, not the Act.”
DA Shadow minister of Tourism James Vos says "while the departments of tourism and home affairs slug it out, it is the South African tourism industry, and the jobs it supports, that continue to suffer".
“It is of great concern that the Department is dragging its feet on this matter. Tourism has a massive potential for job creation and already supports 1.5 million jobs. For every 12 tourists that come to South Africa, one job is created,” said Vos.
Vos said the department of home affairs and Deputy President Ramaphosa need to act urgently to inform the travel industry of the time frames for the revised visa changes.
At the time of the announcement by the department of home affairs, the following changes were expected to be implemented over three months:
• The capturing of biometrics at ports of entry starting with a pilot at R Tambo, Cape Town and King Shaka airports
• Look at introducing an Accredited Tourism Company Programme for countries like China, India and Russia
• Consider a long-term Multiple Entry visa for a period exceeding 3 months and up to 3 years for frequent travellers (for business meetings), business people and academics
• Principles will issue letters confirming permission for children to travel on school tours
• Extend the validity of the parental consent affidavit to six months
Also see: SA’s revised visa rules – what you need to know
- South African children travelling out of the country will still be required to submit the current child-travel requirements, including a parental consent affidavits as a means to protect the minors
- The validity of this affidavit will be extended to no longer than 6 months.
- Details of parents will also be printed in passports, so that parents whose particulars are printed would therefore not be required to carry the birth certificates. (However the DHA advises that this form of identification still be carried as a form of proof.
To clarify: What is an unabridged birth certificate?
It’s a birth certificate that reflects the particulars of both parents of the child. All children born in South Africa after 14 March 2013 were issued with a valid unabridged birth certificate automatically and free of charge. Everyone born before that, and those from countries who do not automatically issue unabridged certificates, must apply for the document well before their travel date.