While the U-turn announcement made on 23 October has been met with delight by local travel and tourism organisations, many industry leaders say the “damage has been done” as potential foreign arrivals seek out alternative family destinations to avoid hassles at South African border posts.
Since the new legislation came into effect on 1 June 2015 it has been a sore point for travelling families and tourist service providers. Travelstart monitored the impact of the new regulations via a survey on their website.
The South African travel website polled 1000 international travellers from more than 26 countries about their experiences with what local media have dubbed the new “child visa” regulations.
When entering South Africa 6% said they had experienced issues at their point of origin on the way to South Africa while 4% were denied entry into South Africa by an immigration official with “misinformed and confused immigration officials” characterising visitors’ frustrations.
The Unabridged Birth Certificate requirement drew international criticism in July when a prominent US Doctor was denied entry into the country.
While the announcement that the Unabridged Birth Certificate requirement will be reversed is still new and details are yet to emerge about how the reversal will affect foreign travellers in practice, Travelstart advises the following:
· In respect of inbound travellers, proof of original birth certificates or certified copies would only be required during the application process, as this is in line with practice in many other countries.
· Visitors travelling from countries where no visa facilitation centres exist will be allowed to submit their application to the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) by post. These individuals will then be required to submit biometrics, including fingerprints and photos on arrival at ports of entry. This concession will only be applicable to visitors/medical Visa, Cabinet said.
· The Biometric pilot site ports of entry include OR Tambo Airport, King Shaka Airport, Cape Town International Airport.
Cabinet said all other administrative issues affecting the relevant departments will be resolved through inter-departmental engagements, and believed the endorsed recommendations would address the unintended consequences raised, without compromising the safety of the children travelling to and from the country.