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Plan to Open Up Tourism in South Africa – Including International Flights – But No Dates Yet

The Department of Tourism presented its revised budget in parliament on 9 July, highlighting how the coronavirus pandemic and the national lockdown have caused massive damage to the industry.

Addressing parliament’s tourism portfolio committee, Tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, said that while easing lockdown regulations in the sector was aimed at assisting businesses, it had to be done under strict conditions, and while reinforcing government’s health objectives towards defeating Covid-19.

The minister added that her department’s focus will be on supporting domestic tourism as the first point of recovery.

However, she caution cautioned that the recovery of the entire tourism industry would largely depend on how travel-ready authorities are in terms of managing and controlling coronavirus locally and globally.

The below graphic, taken from the department’s presentation, shows how tourism and the aviation sector is likely to open up in South Africa.

The department did not provide information on when these phases are likely to be introduced – noting again that they were heavily dependent on aviation regulations. However, it made it clear that it will focus on ‘domestic tourism first’.

“Tourism recovery will experience a number of phases, from hyper-local community attractions, through broader domestic tourism, regional land and air markets, and lastly resumption of world-wide international travel.

“The phases may not necessarily follow the same sequence but of certain is domestic tourism first.”

Tourism director-general, Victor Tharage, confirmed that the department lost close to R1 billion in its readjusted budget as announced by finance minister Tito Mboweni.

However, Tharage said that although there were difficult times ahead for the industry and those dependent on it, his department would still be able to meet all its amended targets in line with its adjusted budget.

Travel

At the end of June, Transport minister Fikile Mbalula announced that a number of air travel restrictions will be eased as part of the country’s move to ‘advanced’ level 3.

Mbalula said that this will include the reopening of a number of domestic air routes, as well as general relaxations around the industry.

The airports include:

  • Bram Fischer International Airport (Bloemfontein);
  • Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport;
  • Pietermaritzburg Airport;
  • Port Elizabeth International Airport;
  • Richard’s Bay Airport;
  • Skukuza International Airport.

OR Tambo International, Cape Town International, King Shaka International airport, and Lanseria have been open since the start of the June.

South Africans are currently only allowed to fly domestically for business purposes, with international travel only allowed for repatriation and medical evacuations.

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email info@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

Opinion: South Africa Needs More Visa-free Agreements if it Wants to Stop Losing ‘Passport Power’

Although the South African passport has lost 10 positions over the last decade on the latest Henley Passport Index, the country could play catch-up if a concerted effort is made to secure mutual visa waivers with so-called “high quality nations”.

This is the view of Amanda Smit, managing partner and head of South, Central and East Africa at the UK-based global citizenship and residence advisory firm Henley & Partners.

South Africa ranks 56th on the latest index, which ranks passports in the world according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa. It is based on data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

The UAE, for example, managed to increase its passport’s position on the index by 47 places over the last 10 years to 18th place, Smit told Fin24 on Wednesday.

Looking specifically at the BRICS countries, of which SA forms part, Smit said that, while Brazil and China improved their positions on the index over the past 10 years by nine and sixteen places respectively, India and Russia have also seen the power of their passports decline during that time, dropping by seven and two places respectively.

Smit says one might think the SA passport’s visa free or visa on arrival access to 100 destinations is a lot, but compare that to the Japanese passport (ranked in first place on the index) which offers 191 visa-free destinations.

On top of that, none of the 100 visa free destinations for an SA passport are in what Smit describes as the “most popular” destinations. In her view, that makes it more difficult to be “mobile” for business or leisure purposes.

She also argues that, while other African countries’ passports mainly remained static on the index, the SA passport lost ground.

Among African countries, the Seychelles remains the regional lead, ranking 29th globally with a visa-free or visa-on-arrival score of 151, while Mauritius retains second place with a visa-free or visa-on-arrival score of 146.

“My advice is that, if SA wants to improve the strength of our passport, we must be more proactive to obtain mutual visa agreements with other countries – preferably ‘high quality’ nations,” Smit says.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email info@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

Our Key Takeaways: Home Affairs Round-table in Cape Town

The British Chamber of Business in Southern Africa (BCBSA) was invited by the ANC’s Progressive Business Forum, which you can read more about here, to participate in a recent engagement with the Minister (Aaron Motsoaledi) and Director General (Thulani Mavuso) of the South African Department of Home Affairs.

The round-table took place at the Taj Hotel in Cape Town, and the Chamber was represented by our very own Lynn Mackenzie – Relocation Africa’s Immigration Lead – who was eager to engage with the Minister and DG.

The Minister discussed each of the main South African visas applied for – Business, Critical Skills, Intra-company Transfer, Corporate, and General Work – and was open to comments from attendees throughout. On the matter of Business Visas, it was noted that the various departments involved seem to be working well together, with the Department of Trade and Industry performing its due diligence.

Concerningly, consensus among those at the meeting was that there is increasing inconsistency between the Act and regulations, and their implementation, especially in overseas missions.

The transition to permanent residence was a hot topic, with practitioners insisting the process should be made easier. Many who move to South Africa still find themselves stuck in limbo, having to renew visas, while being under the impression they are on the path to gaining permanent residency, which brings with it a host of benefits, and allows the individual to feel more entrenched within South African society – something which the DHA assumedly has an interest in.

The Critical Skills visa list from 2014 is currently being updated, however the attendees’ experience was that the system is already in transition, with the new list being implemented in practice. The DHA did not comment on this matter. It is expected that the Department of Higher Education will give the DHA the new list by March 2020, however DHA has been vague about timelines up to this point. We will endeavour to share more information as and when we receive it.

The DHA claimed during the meeting that turnaround times for visas are an average of 4 to 8 weeks, however attendees noted they have not experienced this. We are hoping that waiting times improve in the new year, as the new systems officially roll out. Attendees were also happy to hear that there is frequent engagement and communication between the Home Affairs, Labour, and Trade and Industry departments.

Practitioners at the meeting expressed the fact that rejections are the highest they have seen in recent years and asked for data relating to this matter. The DG staged that data is available for turnaround times and percentage of applications approved. It was also noted that General Work Visa applications are rarely successful, and people are therefore refraining from applying for them. One attendee suggested to the DHA that this category is abolished entirely.

Finally, some meeting members conveyed their dissatisfaction with the bureaucracy in dealing with the DHA, saying that administrative procedures are, at times, excessively complicated. It is our hope that the DHA will cut down on this element of its practices and be more flexible in the coming years.

To end off the meeting, the Minister said there would be follow-up meetings, and regular engagement with DHA, which we greatly appreciate.

We would like to thank the Chamber for providing us with the opportunity to attend this valuable engagement session and thank Minister Motsoaledi and DG Mavuso for taking the time to hear and provide feedback in these kinds of round-table meetings. Relocation Africa looks forward to what 2020 will bring in the South African immigration space.

 

Relocation Africa offers a range of Immigration-related services across Africa. To find out more, click here.

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email info@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

South Africa’s e-Visa Pilot Is Live

The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has started with the testing and piloting of the electronic visa application system, the e-Visa.

The DHA revealed their plans at a briefing recently.

This follows President Cyril Ramaphosa’s promise at this year’s Africa Travel Indaba in Durban, to introduce a world-class e-visa system and reduce the red tape that travellers face when visiting the country.

Ramaphosa said at the time: “We must reduce the onerous and often unnecessary bureaucratic red tape that tourists who want to visit our countries face. This requires us to streamline our tourist visa regimes.

“As South Africa, we are committed to working towards the African Union’s goal of visa-free travel and a single African air transport market. We are in the process of radically overhauling our visa dispensation for the rest of the world and introducing a world-class e-visa system. The challenges are going to be ironed out,” he said.

DHA revealed in a statement that the decision to introduce the e-Visa provided many benefits. “It is reliable, client-friendly and convenient for visa applicants, airlines, trade partners and Home Affairs officials.

“Once fully rolled-out, prospective visitors will apply online for visas, at home, office or place of work. It will lessen administrative burdens, including those involved in receiving applicants at visa offices, printing visa stickers and returning passports to applicants.”

It also revealed that the department was testing the new system with Kenya.

“As part of the pilot, a team of DHA immigration and IT officials visited Kenya. This team is scheduled to return to Kenya next week, on December 9, 2019. The first Kenyan tourist who applied for the visitors’ visa on the new e-Visa system arrived yesterday (Saturday) afternoon and more are expected this week as part of the pilot.

“We are continuously monitoring this pilot process to ensure that user experience is not compromised,” the statement revealed.

China, India and Nigeria will be included to the pilot early next year, which will run until March 2020.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email info@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: PretoriaTravel [1], [2].