Programme Director, DDG Mckay

CEO of Ernst & Young

DG of the Department of Tourism

Stakeholders and partners

Colleagues and friends,

 

Greetings to you all!

CONTEXT

On an engagement such as this, perhaps carefully contextualising, putting matters in perspective may assist. But even before doing so, maybe I should share a few anecdotes from the landscape.

Last Thursday, I read with interest in one of our national newspapers (The New Age, December 3, p. 3) that an advocate appeared in the Orkney Magistrate’s Court for alleged corruption relating to offering assistance to a Mozambican national, to obtain a Mozambican passport. The Mozambican national in question is facing charges for rhino poaching.

The same paper (p. 4) covered a story from Reuters saying the United States of America is “to weigh visa waiver changes” in light of last month’s attacks in Paris. According to these reports the changes considered were “to tighten US border control,” and security, including requiring affected countries “to issue smart e-passports with biometric chips” and “screening travellers with databases of lost and stolen passports and criminals.” What is critical is knowing exactly who is entering or living the country.

In July (2015), I read a Letter to the Editor at The Times (p.12) in which the writer explores the merits of an unabridged birth certificate as an “anti-trafficking measure,” for combating child abuse and trafficking.

I trust that these examples assist in demonstrating why progressively immigration law and regulations are changing, not only in South Africa but elsewhere in the world.

RATIONALE FOR AMENDMENTS

The genesis of the current discussion was the decision on our part to change, for reasons several, our immigration law and regulations, to ensure, among other things, that we know exactly who is entering or living the country, and how this is done, for better regulation.

In a nutshell, given the form and content of the policies we took over, we had to,

  • close gaps in legislation, 
  • entrench orderly migration, 
  • balance openness to travellers with development and security imperatives,
  • respond to growth in international migration,
  • comply with the Children’s Act particularly around travelling with children–
    • parental concern for child passport application,
    • parental consent for travelling, 
  • attend to human trafficking, abduction and kidnapping,
  • combat crime, fraud and corruption, related for example to–
    • dubious characters camouflaging as tourists,
    • high-profile crimes, and
    • marriages of convenience

In sum then, legislative amendments and regulations were essential to beef-up security while ensuring economic interests were met and international obligations fulfilled, even as we were reviewing our entire approach to international migration.

IMPLEMENTATION-RELATED CHALLENGES

As implementation of the changes we introduced in May 2014 was picking up steam, there were concerns raised about ‘unintended consequences,’ largely from stakeholders in the tourism sector. The President therefore set up an Inter-ministerial Committee to investigate and recommend accordingly.

Having investigated and explored areas that needed to be relaxed, the IMC presented a set of recommendations, later approved by Cabinet, this past October.

The concessions were to be phased in, progressively, starting with the immediate that had to be carried out within three months of the announcement – November 2015 to end of January 2016.

Other concessions are to take effect within three months to one year, with those that are long-term extending beyond one year.

CABINET CONCESSIONS

Programme Director, allow me at this point to address directly the October 2015 concessions that Cabinet had announced to assist travellers to comply with the changes.

I take it though that by now most of us are familiar with the concessions, making it best for me tooutline them very briefly, and thus reserving more time for discussion and engagement among ourselves. That is critical– frankly discussing, interpreting and clarifying issues, finding each other in the process, ensuring that beyond this critical engagement we are even better placed to work together around these issues. Our interests are the same. I believe. The differences, where they arise, are indeed reconcilable. We all want what is best for the country.

Let’s zoom into the concessions on visa application in-person.

Application in person:

Concessions that will take effect within the next 3 months:

  • For countries where no South African missions exist, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) will accept applications sent by post. Thereafter, the biometrics and photos of those travellers will be captured on arrival at ports of entry. This concession will only be applicable to Visitors/Medical Visa.
  • The DHA will implement the biometrics (including fingerprints and photos) at ports of entry, starting with a pilot. The pilot sites will be at OR Tambo International Airport, King Shaka and Cape Town International Airport.
  • DHA will introduce an Accredited Tourism Company (ATC) Programme for China, India and Russia with possible extension to other visa requiring countries.
  • DHA will continue to issue a long-term Multiple Entry Visa to frequent travellers. This will be valid for a period exceeding 3 months but not exceeding 3 years.
Concessions that will be effective within 3 months to 1 year:

 

  • DHA will increase Visa Facilitation Centres (VFC) in China, India, United Kingdom, Nigeria Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda. DHA will fast-track the opening of VFCs in Zimbabwe, UAE and Botswana.

Concessions that will be effected beyond one year:

 

  • The DHA will install systems for pre-flight checks (including operation-centres) at international airports.
  • The DHA will upgrade Advance Passenger Processing (APP) systems and implement a Passenger Name Record (PNR) to enhance risk assessment.
  • The DHA will finalise the automation of the visa and permitting system.

 

Child-travel requirements: South African children

In respect of South African children (outbound travel) the IMC accepted the implementation of the current child-travel requirements, including the parental consent affidavits as these seek to protect children.

Concessions to be effective within the next 3 months:

  • School principals will issue letters confirming the permission for children to travel on school tours. This authority will also be extended to include registered sports bodies.
  • The validity of the Parental Consent Affidavit will be extended to a period no longer than 6 months.
 

Concessions to be effective within the next 3 months to a year:

  • The term “Unabridged Birth Certificate” will be changed to “Birth Certificate containing parental details.”
  • Details of parents will be printed in passports, so that parents whose particulars are printed would therefore not be required to carry birth certificates.  

 

Child-travel requirements: foreign children

In respect of inbound travellers, the IMC took the position that where visas are required, provision of original birth certificates or certified copies of required documents should continue during the visa application process as this is in line with practise in many other countries.

In respect of children from visa-exempt countries, the IMC recommended a dispensation in terms of which travellers will be strongly advised to bring along proof of the relation and consent from the absent parent/s or guardian/s.

Transit Visa

Although the Transit Visa is not new, there is a need to attend to it given the concerns raised. Accordingly, we will remove this requirement once biometric capturing at ports of entry is in place.

Other Recommendations

All the other administrative issues affecting the relevant departments will be resolved through inter-departmental engagements.

As I have said, Cabinet endorsed these recommendations and believes these will address the unintended consequences that were raised and also the safety of the children will not in any way be compromised.

Cabinet further endorsed that the DHA should facilitate the legal instrument to implement the recommendations.  It further mandated all the relevant departments to engage with their relevant stakeholders to present these approved recommendations. This should constitute a part of that important process.

Cabinet extended the life of the IMC in order to be able to deal with any issues that may arise while implementing the decision within the first three months.

CONCLUSION

Fellow Compatriots, to conclude, this engagement should help in unpacking IMC recommendations as endorsed by Cabinet, and in clarifying where we are, the plans going-forward and how we can work together, better. 

There shouldn’t be uncertainty on implementation timelines.

Importantly, we thank all of you, especially stakeholders in tourism, for the supportive manner with which you have received and embraced Cabinet’s announcement of concessions, in particular, on in-person visa application and child-travel requirements.

Work is being done already. Our Civic Affairs Branch has a plan in place for assisting speedily the citizens to get unabridged birth certificates. 

We have relaxed the directive regarding the letter issued in lieu of the unabridged birth certificate. It used to be issued to applicants who had not received their certificates within 8 weeks. It is now issued immediately upon request by clients due to the urgency of travel, irrespective of the time when an application had been lodged.

We are making progress in the development of systems for biometric capturing at ports of entry. The Minister will make an announcement next week in this regard.

I trust that participants here will assist in raising awareness for people to be ‘travel-ready,’getting documents even before planning to travel. Some of these as you know like proof of child-parent relationship are required even by other countries, during the visa application process.

Other issues, we can address as we move along.

I thank you!


ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF HOME AFFAIRS