Government sets timelines for e-visa expansion

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MTBPS 2021: South Africa’s now-completed electronic visa (e-visa) system will be rolled out to 15 countries by March 2022, to support the tourism industry.

This is according to the 2021 Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS), tabled in the National Assembly today.

The e-visa system, established by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), forms part of government’s reforms aimed at bolstering economic activity.

The South African electronic visa system allows eligible citizens short stays in the country for tourism or business purposes.

In March 2018, the DHA confirmed plans to pilot the electronic system in line with efforts to boost tourism and improve turnaround times of travel documentation. In September that year, president Cyril Ramaphosa revealed the system would be “implemented” soon.

At the time, Ramaphosa detailed the implementation of key economic reforms aimed at unlocking investment in important growth sectors, such as tourism. The reforms included immediate changes approved by Cabinet to SA's visa regime, with an electronic system identified as one of the mechanisms that will boost tourism and improve turnaround times of travel documentation.

In 2019, the DHA tested and piloted its e-visa system in Kenya. Following the pilot in the east African nation, the department also earmarked three of the world’s populous countries – China, India and Nigeria – to test out the new e-visas system in 2020.

In his budget vote speech in Parliament earlier this year, home affairs minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi said his department had identified more countries for rollout of e-visas.

While Motsoaledi didn’t mention timelines, the MTBPS notes next March as the rollout date, adding this will provide “much-needed support for the tourism sector”. 

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