Virginia, US

Sep 27 2018

Visa Overhaul Plans Outlined in Press Conference

South Africa

The situation

In an effort to improve tourism and business opportunities in South Africa, the Minister of Home Affairs in South Africa announced upcoming amendments to business and tourist visa policies.                                                                                                          

A closer look

The main points the Minister of Home Affairs discussed in the press conference include the following:

  • Travelling with minors. Currently, foreign national minors seeking to travel to South Africa must carry documentation proving parental consent, including an unabridged birth certificate. This documentation will likely become recommended rather than mandatory in December 2018.
    • Impact. Foreign nationals will no longer be barred from entering South Africa without parental consent documentation, though immigration officials may still request such documentation for nationals from high-risk countries. This should make travelling with minors easier.

  • Visa waivers. Negotiations are being finalized for visa waiver agreements for ordinary passport holders from the following countries: Algeria, Bahrain, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Georgia, Ghana, Iran, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Sao Tome & Principe, Saharawi-Arab Democratic Republic, Saudi Arabia, State of Palestine, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates.
    • Impact. Such visa waiver agreements will simplify entry into South Africa for qualified nationals of these countries.

  • Simpler visa requirements.  Chinese and Indian nationals will benefit from biometric submission upon arrival (instead of completing this prior to travel) and submission of visa applications via courier (instead of the current in-person submission requirement). The Department of Home Affairs has stated that these benefits should be available by October 2018 and that it will consider extending these benefits to nationals of Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda in the future.
    • Impact. The simplified process will allow easier access into South Africa for business and investment opportunities.

  • Long-term multiple entry visas. Long-term multiple entry visas for frequent travelers have been implemented. This includes a three-year multiple entry visa for trusted travelers to South Africa and a ten-year multiple-entry visa for business visits and academics from Africa.
    • Impact. This will ease movement of travelers for tourism, business meetings and academic exchange.

  • BRICS Visa. Business travelers from China and India are issued a 10-year multiple entry visa. They can use courier services to apply for their visa, whereas previously they could not.
    • Impact. These benefits will expedite the business visa process for Chinese and Indian nationals.

  • Critical skills list review. Consultations are being finalized for the new critical skills list (for the Critical Skills Work Visa) to be reviewed. The review and updated list is expected to be completed by April 2019.
    • Impact. An updated list will allow for further critical skills to be assessed and allowed as part of the Critical Skills Visa program, which should expand the amount of foreign nationals qualifying for a Critical Skills Visa.

  • Foreign students with critical skills. Foreign students who graduate from South African institutions within critical skills categories will be offered an opportunity to apply for permanent residence upon graduation. Foreign students not seeking permanent residence may apply for Critical Skills Visa.
    • Impact. This will allow more foreign graduates to permanently reside in South Africa after their studies.

  • Biometric Movement Control System, eVisa and eGates. These systems will be piloted at several airports in the upcoming months, to be completed by 2019. The eVisa system will be piloted for South African nationals traveling to New Zealand by April 2019.
    • Impact. The focus on technology and automated systems will allow for a faster, more efficient process for foreign nationals seeking to enter South Africa.



The proposed changes follow a regression in tourism and investment in South Africa due in part to complicated and stringent visa requirements.

Looking ahead

Following a successful pilot, the various programs will be institutionalized to create more efficient systems. Fragomen will report on implementation updates.

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen or send an email to [email protected].