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Home Affairs to fast-track biometric data capturing

Home Affairs to fast-track biometric data capturing

Home Affairs To Fast Track Biometric Data Capturing

Reported on Wednesday, 30 July 2014 South Africa Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba said that while the contentious new visa regulations will be strictly enforced, the Department will do everything in its power to ensure that more upheaval is avoided.

Speaking at a press conference the minister confirmed that there will be no slacking on the tough new visa regulations but that the new visa centres and biometric data capturing systems will enjoy the department’s priority. Gigaba has given the order that these new systems should be fast-tracked to reduce the associated frustrations and undue delays.

Gigaba said spending R5 million on installing biometric systems at all South Africa's international points of entry would eventually do away with the need for transit visas.

“That will mean that instead of us issuing people with transit visas, when those biometric systems are operating properly, we will then obtain biometric details and be able to check those against their travelling schedule.”

This statement came after the minister met with Derek Hanekom, Tourism Minister, who has on several occasions expressed his concerns over the effects of the new rules which many felt were dealing the country’s tourism sector a significant blow.

The new requirement for in-person biometric data collection when applying for a visa to South Africa, in particular, has met with concern from the tourism sector.
In the same press conference Gigaba said that the Department of Home Affairs was not blind to the concerns raised by the tourism industry and have decided to increase the number of visa application centres abroad, particularly in India and China – which represented a large percentage of growth in the tourism industry.
According to Minister Hanekom the number of visitors from China has grown by 235% in the past five years, and those from India by almost 80%.

“In China, for some people it is not only a four-hour flight to apply for a visa but a four-hour return flight before you embark on your journey, because the visa is not issued on the spot,” he said.

“It is a highly competitive market and very easy for tourists to say 'no, we won't do South Africa'.”

Gigaba added: “We are quite aware that the offices we have at the moment are insufficient. We have the capability and the willingness to extend the visa facilitation to those areas of high volume demand.”

Gigaba said that the Department of Home Affairs planned to open another ten centres in India, adding that the Department of Tourism would indicate where the additional centres would be located.

The minister said he believed a major reason for complaints about the new regulations was confusion about the requirements for foreign minors travelling to South Africa to carry an unabridged birth certificate.

What was in fact required was “a document of that country written in the language of that country - it does not have to be translated - but is an equivalent of the South African unabridged birth certificate”.

On whether or not the necessary infrastructure should have been in place before implementing the new visa requirements, Gigaba said that measures to combat child trafficking was long overdue.

He also said that the new system would also help the country to deal with the vast numbers of asylum seekers, as well as other security threats not managed by the previous systems.

“We must not be caught napping in any eventuality. We need to know the identities of the people coming into South Africa and we cannot know unless they apply in person.”

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