The roll-out programme for eVisas in South Africa will commence in the last quarter of the next financial year, by March 31, 2019, according to a written statement by the Department of Home Affairs, to Shadow Minister of Tourism, James Vos.

The statement indicated that “the roll-out programme will be gradual starting with Phase 1, Release 1, which entails applications for temporary residence visas, adjudication of temporary residence visas, applications for waivers, notifications to the applicant via email and biometrics captured at the Mission. The ePermit will be piloted at one Mission or local office in the last quarter of the next financial year by 31st March 2019. This is to ensure system stability. Once stable, more offices locally and abroad can then be gradually brought online.”

Vos says he had been calling for an eVisa system to facilitate easier access for tourists to South Africa, as well as the scrapping of the unabridged birth certificate requirement, which have both hampered tourist access to the country and seen a resultant decline in international tourist arrivals. “South Africa’s tourism industry is still recovering from the disastrous visa regulations debacle which, according to the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association, resulted in an estimated R7.5bn (€506.5m) loss to the tourism economy and a decrease of about 600 000 tourists.”

With the rand being at its lowest point in 14 years, South Africa should be thriving as a tourist destination for foreign travellers, says Vos. “But in spite of this, the government’s visa regulations continue to make it difficult for tourists to select South Africa as a destination due its cumbersome visa application processes.”

An eVisa system could mean a greater tourist influx, as well as local job creation. Vos concludes: “We need to streamline tourist facilitation to our country to make it easier for travellers to select South Africa as a country of choice when it comes to travel and trade. Ultimately government should cut the red tape and roll out the red carpet.”

The eVisa system will operate as follows, according to the written statement by the Department of Home Affairs:

“eVisa introduces online capture of visa and permit applications and capturing of applicant’s biometrics in South Africa and abroad. An application will be captured and submitted online together with the required supporting documents that will be scanned and attached to the application. The applicant will then present himself/herself before a DHA Official for biometric enrolment and verification of the submitted supporting documents is conducted at this stage. The application form together with supporting documents and biometrics are then electronically routed to DHA Head Office in Pretoria for adjudication. The applicant is electronically notified of the outcome via email as well as via the application portal. For an approved visa/permit, a secure QR-Code is generated for print on the notification notice/letter sent to the applicant. This QR-Code contains the approved visa/permit detail and is maintained and managed by DHA at a secure web-storage facility. The same QR-Code will be scanned to view and validate the issued virtual visa/permit upon arrival of the applicant within the Republic. The same QR-Code is also pre-loaded into Biometric Movement Control System upon approval of the application and the virtual visa/permit (eVisa/ePermit) will be further validated at the Port of Entry upon arrival of the applicant.”

Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom, announces visas back on the agenda at Wesgro briefing in Cape Town today (Tuesday March 20). Read the full article here.