While the South African Department of Home Affairs recently announced the postponement of the implementation of some of its new visa requirements the Department have stated that bio-metric visa requirements are here to stay.
Late last month South Africa’s Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba, announced that the visa rules requiring adults traveling with under aged children to present unabridged birth certificates for every child in their traveling party would be postponed to 1 June 2015. Yet Gigaba stated that other visa requirements would take effect as planned.
Besides the Zimbabwe Special Permit and bio-metric identification for all visa applicants would remain in place as scheduled.
Of the biometric requirement for visa applications Gigaba said "biometrics, but also to make sure that we know the intentions of person travelling".
Gigaba explained that the biometric requirement would mean that visa applicants would have to appear at visa centres in person to ensure that for example; of people applying for visas to different countries using different names, stating that appearing in person will help curb this sort of irregularity.
With the announcement of this requirement came backlash from various travel industry role players, tourists and even some government departments and political parties.
Of major concern was the fact that the new requirement highlighted the lack of visa facilitation centres and the need to travel long distances in order to complete the application process. This would mean that some visa applicants would be excluded from applying for visas purely due to their proximity to visa facilitation centres and a complete lack thereof in some countries.
The publication Tourism Update already showed that reports revealed that visitor numbers from China have declined from October 2014, when the new unabridged birth certificate was initially meant to come into effect.
Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom has added his department’s voice of concern to the situation stating that the department of tourism was in consultation with the department of home affairs and the issue was being addressed in major cities outside of Shanghai, Beijing, Deli and Mumbai where visa facilitation centres are a problem.
“We need to find the right balance between appropriate measures to protect our boundaries, combat child trafficking and to do it in such a way that it has a minimal negative impact on tourism,” said Mr Hanekom.