South Africa will begin testing their new electronic visa system this November. The goal is to make it easier for foreign visitors to enter the country. The South Africa e-Visa would allow eligible citizens to apply online for an electronic visa to visit South Africa. Applicants would need a valid passport, an email address and a debit or credit card.
Siya Qoza, a spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs, said that the trial would allow the government to test the resilience of the system. The department has already had successful trials in controlled environments. Qoza said, “the pilot will be conducted with Kenya first at the OR Tambo and Lanseria Airports.” He added, “at the end of the month, we will evaluate the project and look at which other countries to expand the e-Visa system to.”
Therefore, according to the Department of Home Affairs, the e-Visa for South Africa will be available for nationals of Kenya to test the effectiveness of the system. It has been estimated that the entire application process should take around 20 minutes. Kenyan applicants should, however, have the South Africa e-Visa requirements in hand when completing the online form.
South Africa to Improve Visa Processes
The South Africa Department of Home Affairs is improving the visa system for several reasons. The e-Visa is expected to contribute to growth in the tourism sector. However, besides the online visa, improving different visas processes would make it more accessible for foreign investors to come to South Africa, as well as people with skills that are critical to building local economy.
On October 7th, Home Affairs Minister Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi said that his department has lowered turnaround times for critical work-skills to four weeks in 88.5 percent of the applications it received.
Dr. Motsoaledi also emphasized that getting an electronic visa will take a lot less time as it is done simply online. Once a traveler’s application has been approved, it will be sent to the email they provided on their application.
Throughout November, South Africa will be processing online visa applications from Kenyan travelers. This would allow to identify any issues with the system, the difficulty of said issues and possible solutions. After the trial period with Kenya, South Africa will slowly roll out the e-Visa to additional countries. According to the minister, South Africa is considering India, China, and Nigeria as there is a high number of visa applications from these three countries. He did not confirm when the e-Visa would be available for other countries.
At this time, citizens from 52 countries are not required to obtain a visa for stays of 90 days and citizens of 28 countries do not need to apply for a visa for stays of up to 30 days. Citizens from countries without a visa exemption are required to present their visa application at a South African mission (an embassy or consulate).
South Africa currently issues short-term visas for tourism, visiting family of friends, medical treatment, work in the entertainment industry, attending a conference, treaty conditions compliance, maritime crew, transit and cultural, economic, and social exchange programmes.
Several countries have already successfully introduced electronic visa systems as they allow foreign nationals to provide their passport information and personal details quickly. These systems are able to check data against security databases and identify individuals that may pose a threat. Electronic visa systems speed up the process of getting a visa and contribute to smoother arrivals.
E-gates at South Africa Airports
Qoza confirmed that Home Affairs is working alongside the Airport Company South Africa (Acsa) to test e-gates at South Africa airports. Nonetheless, the department is yet to confirm when the e-gates will be functioning. They will be introduced gradually in different ports of entry.
The introduction of the e-gates has different goals. “The broad objective of the project is the facilitation of low-risk travelers through a self-service solution, hence freeing capacity for the assessment of high-risk categories by an immigration officer”, the department explained.
The first phase of the project will focus on South African passport holders, excluding minors. E-gates would allow: biometric verification, passport authenticity and validity checks, and checks against the BMCS risk engine. In the future, the e-gates would help address the issue of traveler identification management.