Things are moving fast for those who intend to make South Africa their next holiday destination. If you are not from a visa-free country and will need to get a South African tourist visa prior to departure, the country’s Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has great news for you.
South Africa is currently testing the new eVisa, an electronic traveling authorization that will allow eligible tourists to enter the country for short-term stays. The new system will eliminate entirely the need to visit a South African embassy in person and long waiting times. It will be possible to apply for the visa online in minutes and once granted (just a few working days), tourists will receive their travel permit directly in their inbox.
The eVisa pilot has already started for Kenyan nationals. This means that travelers participating in the trial are testing the system — while other eligible citizens still need to sit tight a little and wait for the full roll-out of the eVisa.
However, the South African Government has announced on December 1, 2019, that nationals of 3 more countries will be included in the pilot in early 2020 — India, China, and Nigeria. This phase will then run until March 2020.
When Will the South African eVisa Go Live?
South African officials say that the new electronic visa program will be launched and become fully operational as soon as all trials are over. Right now, the system is being tested with citizens of Kenya.
The first phase of the eVisa pilot was launched in Kenya and has already been completed. Authorities are now making improvements in the system following feedback from the test phase in Kenya and applying it to the second phase of the pilot scheme in India.
South African authorities are now exploring the option to make the eVisa a multiple entry electronic visa for Indian citizens, and are also looking for air carrier willing to operate a direct flight from Mumbai to South Africa to boost users of the online system.
The third phase of the eVisa pilot is expected to be launched in February 2020 for citizens of China. Once the test run is completed, the South African eVisa will be rolled out to other eligible nationalities on April 1st, 2020.
Who Can Apply for a South African eVisa?
The South African eVisa is going to be available to a great range of nationalities and it is expected to replace short-term traditional tourist visas in the long run.
Currently, the majority of foreigners must apply for a traditional tourist visa as part of their requirements to travel to South Africa. Holders of passports issued by 52 specific countries can travel to South Africa visa-free for stays of up to 90 days while 28 countries are allowed visa-free stays of up to 30 days.
At the moment, only Kenyan travelers are allowed to apply for an electronic visa as part of the trial. However, the government has recently announced that citizens of China, India, and Nigeria will access the online application soon — as early as the beginning of 2020.
Many more nationalities are expected to follow as soon as the tests are completed, estimated to be by the 1st of April, 2020.
Why Are More Countries Being Included in the Test?
South Africa is opening itself up to the world. Tourism supports 10% of jobs in the country and the government is actively implementing new ways to encourage arrivals and facilitate travel.
The new electronic type of visa will save time and money for international tourists. President Cyril Ramaphosa put it this way during the 2019 Africa Travel Indaba in Durban:
“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”.
The benefits of the electronic visa system are clear to the DHA, which stated:
“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 is then natural to see why the system is being implemented and why South Africa is impatient to extend it to as many eligible foreign travelers as possible.
Not Only the eVisa: Visa-Free Travel
The eVisa is not the only measure taken to facilitate movement and foreign tourism. Recently. The South African government has recently signed new agreements that will grant visa-free status to 6 more countries — Cuba, New Zealand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sao Tome and Principe, and the United Arab Emirates.
The government is also committed to a more connected continent open to freer movement. President Ramaphosa said:
“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”.