Visa Directive Stirs Economic Fears in South Africa
A directive issued by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) in December has raised significant concerns regarding potential economic losses for South Africa, with a particular focus on the Western Cape region.
The directive’s implications suggest that delays in visa processing, especially for short-term visitors seeking to extend their 90-day visas, may result in adverse economic consequences for the nation.
Potential Economic Losses at Stake
The directive outlines that visitors seeking to extend their 90-day visas may need to leave the country by February 29 if their visa renewals are not processed by February 23.
This backlog in visa applications at the DHA has sparked apprehensions about substantial economic losses, potentially reaching billions of rands.
The situation poses a threat to investment and tourism revenue, making it a matter of critical concern for South Africa.
The ‘Swallows’ and Visa Extension Challenges
Referred to as ‘swallows,’ individuals, including property and business investors, migrate to South Africa to escape the northern hemisphere’s winter.
While many receive automatic 90-day visas upon arrival, the directive states that those who do not receive renewal approvals by February 23, having received their initial 90-day visas on or before November 30, must make arrangements to depart by February 29 to avoid being declared undesirable.
Impact on Tourism and Engagements with DHA
Tourism officials in the Western Cape are expressing apprehensions about the potential impact on seasonal tourism revenue.
They are actively engaging with the DHA to address the visa backlog and exploring solutions to mitigate the potential economic fallout.
Tourism consultants stress the economic value of 90-day extensions, as they attract high-spending semi-residents, suggesting a streamlined process with automatic 180-day visas upon arrival.
E-Visa System and Plans for Expansion
South Africa introduced an e-visa system in February 2022 for travelers from 14 countries, allowing online applications and prompt email delivery of visas.
However, the list of eligible countries is limited. Plans are underway to expand the list to include Australia, Canada, the US, and the EU.
Until then, visitors from these countries must continue applying through South African embassies.
DHA Criticisms and Impact on Cape Town’s Global Standing
The Department of Home Affairs has faced criticism from human rights and immigration experts, branding it as “dysfunctional.”
Concerns have been raised about its handling of immigration and exemption permits for citizens of Zimbabwe and Lesotho.
The tourism sector laments that the DHA’s inefficiency is squandering the global recognition of Cape Town, recently voted the second-best city in the world, and hindering the potential benefits of this “free advertising.”Share on Facebook «||» Share on Twitter «||» Share on Reddit «||» Share on LinkedIn