Machine Readable passports – Re-entry to South Africa


To comply with regulation 2(1)(a) of the Immigration Regulations, 2014 only MACHINE READABLE TRAVEL DOCUMENTS (MRTDs) will be accepted to enter South Africa with effect from 24 November 2015.


In the case of a bona fide emergency situation, travellers utilising issued Emergency Travel Documents will be allowed to enter and depart from South Africa.

Travellers who entered South Africa before 24 November 2015 on non-MRTDs will be allowed to depart and return to their countries of origin or residence.

Travellers who entered South Africa with a MRTD and lost it will be allowed to depart with Emergency Travel Documents.


Machine readable passports that have been extended are not accepted!



Home Affairs drowning in legal claims – South African Immigration

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) – 12 Dec 2015

A HOME Affairs legal officer in Pretoria has pleaded with the Western Cape High Court for mercy, saying she was “mortified” when she read a judgment handed down recently which described the department as dysfunctional and threatened to refer it to the public protector.

The senior legal administration officer, Yvonne Banyamme Seboga, has accepted full responsibility for the manner in which the matter, which led to the scathing judgment, was dealt with.

She blamed her oversight on a heavy workload and severely underresourced litigation unit.

The judgment stemmed from an application lodged against the department and refugee authorities by Kennedy Tshiyombo, who fled violence in the DRC nearly 10 years ago.

Tshiyombo received an asylum seeker permit which was renewed from time to time and he was asked to complete a fresh application for refugee status in October 2008.

But his application was rejected as unfounded days later and a later appeal to the Refugee Appeal Board was also dismissed.

He turned to the High Court, asking it to review and set aside the decisions.

Department officials, however, failed to file the administrative record of the case, which led to delays and to the matter eventually coming to a standstill.

Judge Ashley Binns-Ward delivered a judgment in the matter last month, saying it was plain there was a “systematic dysfunctionality” in the relevant branch of the department which had resulted in its persistent failure or inability to comply with its legal obligations in matters in which its decisions were taken on judicial review.

He said there had been undertakings that the problems would be addressed, “all to no effect thus far”.

Judge Binns- Ward gave the department and refugee authorities until last Thursday to show cause why they should not be held personally liable for the additional costs Tshiyombo incurred.

In addition, they were ordered to explain why he should not refer the matter to the public protector for investigation.

In response, the department filed Seboga’s affidavit in which she said she was to blame for the manner in which Tshiyombo’s case was handled.

She said the number of court cases lodged against the department had increased significantly while the number of staff members had nearly halved.

In 2012 more than 1 800 cases were served on the department. That figure had increased steadily to 2 056 served on the department in 2013, 2 358 in 2014, and 2 435 this year.

The increased number of cases had an adverse impact on the morale of staff members and led to the resignation of two junior legal administration officers, according to Seboga.

Seboga said the department was however in the process of appointing 10 legal administration interns, with the appointments to be made by January 1r.

Judge Binns-Ward has reserved judgment in the matter.


Transit visas under scrutiny – South Africa Immigration

10 Dec 2015 – Tourism Update

Biometric capturing will definitely be introduced at South Africa’s primary international airports by the end of January, and as a result, other immigration controls, such as the Transit Visa, could be reviewed the Director General of the Department of Home Affairs,Mkuseli Apleni, has assured stakeholders.
Mkuseli was addressing tourism and business stakeholders at the Ernst & Young headquarters in Sandton, Johannesburg yesterday (December 10).
“The implementation of the capturing of biometrics at Lanseria International Airport, OR Tambo International Airport, King Shaka International Airport and Cape Town International Airport are on track,” Mkuseli said. The modules had been developed, tested and were currently being piloted at certain ports of entry, he added.
“Consequently, the criticality of the biometric capability to manage risk allows the department to retract the requirement for certain travellers to hold a Transit Visa,” Mkuseli said.
He said the Department was re-evaluating the Transit Visa requirements in line with the Port of Entry biometric enhancements. The intended outcome of this evaluation, he said, was for the Transit Visa requirement to be retracted altogether.
“This is currently in progress but it depends on the successful implantation of the biometric capturing,” he said.
Mkuseli added that the Department would now initiate consultation with other member departments operating in the border control environment to ensure alignment on the new security standards introduced. “By January 31, we hope to issue an Immigration Directive advising all stakeholders of the change in requirements.”
Other changes introduced by the Department include:
Extending the validity of the parental consent affidavit from four months to six.
Adding parents’ details to South African children’s passports so that outbound travellers are no longer required to carry an unabridged birth certificate.
Introducing a long-term multiple-entry visitor’s visa for a period exceeding three months and up to three years.
Introducing a 10-year visa waiver for BRICs countries.
Introducing a long-term multiple-entry visa for travellers visiting South Africa frequently, such as business people, academics and tourists.

Malusi Gigaba’s unabridged loss is South Africa’s victory by Stephen Grootes

Last Friday was a day to remember. Students will remember it for their victory over the government, President Jacob Zuma will remember it as the day he was forced to cave in, and the African National Congress for their inability to successfully hijack a march. But for South Africa’s tourism industry it was a red letter day; the day the industry was saved. And for South Africa’s economy it was the day proper governance won out against massive egos and dark, impenetrable threats about ‘national security’. For Malusi Gigaba, it was a day of personal humiliation. By STEPHEN GROOTES.

There are many beautiful places in the world to visit. South Africa is indeed a stunningly beautiful country. But not the only one in the world. And it is on the other side of the world. It does not take a genius to understand that we don’t need to make visitors’ lives more difficult than they already are.

Six months ago we warned Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba he was going to have a huge battle on his hands around his insistence on new travel regulations. We said he was going up against not just one industry but several, and that the combined weight of the airline, tourism and travel industries would be ranged against him. Later, when Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom broke Cabinet protocol and went public with his criticism of the regulations, this writer suggested Gigaba might win out, not because he was right – and he was catastrophically wrong – but simply because he appeared to have more power within African National Congress (ANC) structures.

That was despite the fact it was clearly insane to demand that people wanting to travel here first travel thousands of miles to the nearest South African facility to apply for the biometric visa, that it was virtually unprecedented to declare that children must have their unabridged birth certificates with them as well as their passports, and that the damage to our economy was plain and visible for all to see.

But, on Friday, the Cabinet proved both Gigaba, and this writer, very wrong. In a long and complex statement, it revealed that almost all of the new regulations were being dropped. In a lengthy release, it was explained that some changes are being introduced immediately, some over the next three months, and some over the next year or so.

There are many changes, but at the risk of over-simplification:

  • the demand for unabridged birth certificates to be brought with children coming here is being quietly dropped (but people will be urged to bring them, and will have to use them to apply for visas);
  • those needing visas will be able to apply through the postal service or use an accredited tourism company, depending on where they are; and
  • biometric information will be captured at international airports as they arrive.

Crucially, the demand that South African children travelling out of the country must have their unabridged birth certificates will remain, but the wording around the document will be changed, to make it slightly easier. And school principals and those running sports teams will be able to sign consent forms to allow the children out of the country.

The Department of Home Affairs was quick to rush out a statement, explaining how it “welcomed” the changes, and agreed with the Cabinet on the major issues. But it was the reaction of the tourism bodies that showed how much of a victory this was for them, and the scale of the defeat for Gigaba. Tourism Business Council chairperson Mavuso Msimang (who had previously been scathing in his criticism of Gigaba in the way that only a former Home Affairs director-general could be) congratulated and thanked the Cabinet, explaining that this is pretty much exactly what they wanted. He said it showed the “patriotism and maturity” of ministers. Other tourism figures echoed those comments, saying that now the job of rebuilding had to start. No doubt they celebrated as the students did on Friday night, just with slightly more expensive tipples.

Up until Friday’s statement, it had appeared that Gigaba had the upper hand. In public, he had been both bombastic and personal in his defence of the regulations. He had claimed that the rapid decline in visitor numbers was due to the tourism industry’s “failure to market the country” correctly. There were claims from his department that the tourism industry “was putting money above children”, with the implication that they would be happier making money than preventing children being trafficked. And there was the comment that revealed that the department was making a complete mistake of governance, by saying that the regulations, and their financial cost, would all be justified, if it stopped just one child from being trafficked through the country.

Of course, Gigaba was completely missing the point that governance is all about quantifying risks, and managing competing interests and problems. Missing from his rhetoric was any hint of reasonableness, or link to reality: there was no acceptance of our porous borders, of how easy it is to move between South Africa and, say Zimbabwe or Mozambique, without bothering with a border post.

All in all, this was bad politics. Every time he spoke on this issue, Gigaba raised the stakes for himself, he painted himself into a corner by refusing to accept any criticism of the regulations, and he came across as uncaring and not prepared to listen. It was his way or the highway. Which makes his humiliation all the greater.

Gigaba has often been seen as someone who could, one day, be president. There was been talk of a 30-year reign for KwaZulu-Natal, with President Jacob Zuma, then Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and then Gigaba as president. At other times it was claimed that Gigaba would run a ‘super-ministry’ which would be centred around public enterprises, a suggestion that he would be next in the line of succession after the deputy president.

Instead, Hanekom, who has occupied important posts in the party (including of course chairing its disciplinary committee during the expulsion of Julius Malema), has emerged the victor. He only went public with his criticism of the regulations after essentially being dared to by Radio 702’s John Robbie. And when he did so, he came armed with facts and figures. Then, clearly, he won a huge game of back-channel politicking. It will be some time before the facts emerge about what really happened in Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s inter-ministerial committee, but Hanekom has shown he is someone not to tangle with.

Another possible result of all of this is that it would seem unlikely at this point that Gigaba will back any bid by Ramaphosa come the ANC’s 2017 conference.

It is not just Gigaba who loses face here. His director-general, Mkuseli Apleni was also vociferous in his defence of these regulations, and he too is now wiping yolk from his face.

And Home Affairs spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete has perhaps been even more aggressive than Gigaba himself, both in words and in tone. While it’s understandable that tempers will flare under this kind of pressure, it’s important to ensure one does not come across as aggressive. Tshwete has the kind of background (and surname) that makes some think he too could enter the Cabinet one day. He is certainly very professional to deal with, and has a great capacity for work. However, this episode may be an important lesson for him not to over-spin the matter.

There are other implications for this about-turn by the Cabinet. It should not be forgotten that it had approved the original regulations. The damage to the economy was completely foreseeable, so why did the same people who reversed their decision make it in the first place? Did no one pay attention? Did they just go with Gigaba because they felt he was the coming man, and Hanekom was not?

And then there is the criticism that is now being voiced more and more often that no impact assessment was carried out by the government before these regulations were brought in. Surely someone neutral should have been asked to investigate what the impact would be? There was such a storm of negative reactions from every side of the political, business and public arenas. Did the Cabinet really have to wait for the damage to be done before understanding how wrong it all was?

In reality, this episode shows just how badly policy is made in this country. Facts and figures were thrown out the window because of the political personalities involved. Unfortunately, the economy, and the world, rely on facts and figures.

In this case reality, and South Africa with it, have won, and Gigaba has lost. DM

Statement on Cabinet decision on the immigration amendment acts and regulations

The Department of Home Affairs has welcomed Cabinet’s decision regarding the recommendations of the Inter-Ministerial Committee the President had established in August 2015 to look at the unintended consequences and mitigating factors relating to the implementation of the Immigration Amendment Acts (2007 and 2011) and Immigration Regulations, 2014. The law, as amended, will remain with adjustments to be made in implementation, to make it easier for people to comply.

In terms of the decision, on the requirement for travellers to apply for visas in person, in countries where there is no SA mission, the Department of Home Affairs will receive applications, including by post, and capture biometrics of travellers on arrival at ports of entry. To address concerns around the geographical spread of countries like China, India and Russia, certain measures will be put in place to ease the process of application, in particular for tourists.

With regard to the travelling of children Cabinet approved four processes. Child-travel requirements for outbound travelling will stay, including proof of parental relations through unabridged birth certificates, and, as necessary, parental consent. In respect of inbound travel where visas are required, it will still be required that original birth certificates and, as necessary, parental consent or certified copies are submitted during the visa application process. Requirements regarding unaccompanied minors will remain, like providing copies of the identity document or valid passport and visa or permanent residence permit of the person who is to receive an unaccompanied minor.

For visa-exempt countries a strong advisory will be issued, with travellers advised to have proof of relationship and consent from the absent parent/s or guardian/s, in case they are asked to provide such on arrival. Cabinet has mandated DHA to put in place the necessary legal instruments to give effect to this decision. The status quo will remain until such time the DHA has provided a legal instrument for this category of travellers. In the meantime travellers are encouraged to comply.

The decision to retain the IMC on Immigration Regulation will greatly assist in dealing with whatever difficulty might arise as a result of the implementation of its recommendations until such time that the main decisions have been implemented.

In order to implement Cabinet decisions on this matter, the Department will do the following:

In the next three months,

·         Implement the capturing of biometrics at ports of entry starting with a pilot at OR Tambo, King Shaka and Cape Town 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, 

·         Principals will issue letters confirming permission for children to travel on school tours,

·         Extend the validity of the parental consent affidavit to 6 months.

Within a year,

·         Add visa facilitation centres, including in Zimbabwe, United Arab Emirates and Botswana,

·         Consider a visa-waiver for India, China, Russia and other countries,

·         Look at issuing visas on arrival for persons travelling to SA having in their passports valid visas for the UK, USA and Canada or any other country that applies stringent checks on visitors to their countries, to ease travel for tourists,

·         Consider granting a certain category of frequent travellers (business and academics) from Africa a 10 year Multiple Entry Visitor’s Visa,

·         Open two Business Visa Facilitation Centres in Durban and Port Elizabeth, in addition to the centre recently opened in Sandton,

·         Print parents’ details in their passports so that they do not have to carry birth certificates.

In the long term, one year and beyond,

·         Install systems for pre-flight checks at international airports,

·         Upgrade Advance Passenger Processing systems and implement Passenger Name Record, to enhance risk assessment,

·         Finalise automation of the visa and permitting system

These measures will ensure the balance between national security and economic interests of the country. Child safety will not be compromised.

For more information please contact