Home affairs earmarks three countries for e-visas pilot

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Three of the world’s most populated nations will pilot the SA Department of Home Affairs’ (DHA’s) electronic visas (e-visas) system in the new year.

This is according to a DHA statement, noting that China, India and Nigeria will test out the new e-visas system, which is currently being tested and piloted in Kenya, in early 2020 until March 2020.

The idea of e-visas in SA was first touted by president Cyril Ramaphosa last year, when he 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 the statement, the DHA highlights the decision to introduce e-visas was informed by observable benefits of this system, adding it is reliable, client-friendly and convenient for visa applicants, airlines, trading partners and home affairs officials.

“Once fully rolled out, prospective visitors will apply online for visas, at home, office or place of work. It will lessen administrative burdens, including those involved in receiving applicants at visa offices, printing visa stickers and returning passports to applicants.

“Currently, the department is testing the new system with Kenya. As part of the pilot, a team of DHA immigration and IT officials visited Kenya. This team is scheduled to return to Kenya next week, on 9 December. The first Kenyan tourist who applied for the visitors’ visa on the new e-visa system arrived yesterday afternoon and more are expected this week as part of the pilot.”

The department points out it is continuously monitoring the pilot process to ensure user experience is not compromised.

Fighting long queues

Meanwhile, the department was advised to look at holistic approaches in dealing with long queues, including technology and extending relationships with banks.

Last week, the DHA briefed Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs on progress in dealing with long queues at the department’s front-line offices.

In a statement, the committee says it wants to see the queues decreasing and people receiving quality of services.

In finding workable solutions, the committee was unanimous in the need to utilise technological advances, such as an online appointment system that will ensure clients arrive at the department when they are expected.

Furthermore, the committee has called for the extension of the department’s footprint in banking institutions to lighten the load on departmental offices.

It states: “The committee has called for a re-engagement with labour unions to resolve the impasse on the opening of the home affairs offices on Saturdays, which alleviated weekday pressures on the offices. A collaborative effort between the unions and the department is necessary to ensure the department’s effectiveness.”

The portfolio committee also highlighted the roll out of mobile trucks, especially to rural areas, as an area of focus, saying the department needs to equip the mobile trucks with adequate infrastructure to be able to offer all departmental services.

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