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Immigration amendments are welcome news!

TThe news on amendments to Immigration Regulations have been announced just before the festive season and could not be more welcomed by tourism stakeholders in South Africa. New visa changes have been introduced to address apprehensions raised by tourists, South African travellers and stakeholders in the tourism sector regarding revisions introduced over the last year. The announcement was jointly made on Friday the 23rd of October by the Tourism Ministry and Jeff Radebe, minister in the Presidency for planning, monitoring and evaluation.

New visa rules that came into effect in October 2014, made travelling into South Africa slightly inconvenient. Visitors had to apply for visas in person at South African embassies to record biometric information. The rule for children under 18 years old travelling in and out of South Africa to produce an unabridged birth certificate at entry ports was also introduced, causing much confusion and inconvenience. While it has been noted by the government that these requirements were necessary to safeguard the best interests of children, a recent Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Immigration, headed by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, has now made several recommendations to deal with the security consideration and the unplanned consequences of the regulations on various sectors, including tourism and investment.

Cape Town Tourism chief executive Enver Duminy said in a statement that the tourism industry would benefit from the approved recommendations allowing travel agents to make visa applications on behalf of their clients and that the birth certificate requirement for travelling minors would no longer include the word "unabridged". Additionally, the Department of Home Affairs will increase Visa Facilitation Centres around the world which will significantly aid in effective visa applications. Streamlining processes and procedures are fundamental to these amended regulations.

To assist with crucial investment by international companies into South Africa, the department will also introduce an Accredited Tourism Company (ATC) Programme for China, India and Russia, with possible extension to other visa requiring countries. This is a important step to ensure economic growth in South Africa and an integral part of the amended regulations.

Many other recommendations have also been put in place to ensure that South Africa becomes an accessible place to visit. From a visa application, through to travelling back home; it should be a valuable and smooth process. The new regulations are committed to building a professional, modern, world class department fully capable to provide secure and efficient identity and immigration systems without jeopardising tourism and investment. There was such a vast statistical decrease in travellers coming into the country between 2014 and 2015 that these amended regulations can only mean positive results for the tourist industry.

Planning a trip to South Africa? Use the simple infographic below to avoid the confusion and to become informed with the latest SA Immigration Regulations. Assisting countries in navigating information and changes are clearly mapped out here.

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