The Department of Home Affairs is placing technology at the heart of operations through the implementation of the e-Visa system by making it easy and secure to enter and depart South Africa.

This will be done through the process of simplifying South Africa’s visa regime via visa waiver agreements with identified countries and issuing long-term multiple entry visas to promote migration and tourism into South Africa and movement within the continent.

 “The tourist module of the e-Visa has been activated in 14 countries thus far, including China, India, Kenya and Nigeria. As the president announced in the 2022 State of the Nation Address, the Department of Home Affairs will continue to streamline and modernise the visa application process to make it easier to travel to South Africa for the purposes of tourism, business and work,” said the department.

The e-Visa system allows tourists and visitors to South Africa to apply for their visas online. The applications are sent to a central adjudication hub for approval while applicants sit in the comfort of their homes. This will result in the issuing of virtual visas.

“This paperless virtual visa will combat visa fraud and open South Africa as a desirable destination. The e-Visa system will have huge tourism growth implications for the country. The Department of Home Affairs will continue to streamline or simplify the visa process to facilitate and attract direct investment.”

While the department confirmed that an expansion of the scheme is on the cards over and above the 14 countries available at the end of March 2022, it noted that work still needs to be done to ‘stabilise’ the current system.

“The stabilisation of the system and further integration with other key DHA systems such as the Biometric Movement Control System (BMCS) is a necessary intervention before the further rollout of the system to other countries can be considered. An efficient and secure system will improve service delivery, security and turnaround times for issuance of visas to deserving clients.”

Biometric Movement Control System (BMCS)

The department is in the process of developing a Biometric Movement Control System (BMCS) which will enable the capturing of fingerprint and facial biometric data of all travellers who enter or exit South Africa.

This will be built onto the existing live capture platform and be rolled out at 34 ports of entry across the country, it said.

While the list of identified ports of entry is subject to change, the system is expected to roll out at the major airport and land borders including:

·  OR Tambo International Airport;

·  Cape Town International Airport;

·  King Shaka International Airport;

·  Lanseria International Airport;

·  Beit Bridge;

·  Lebombo (including KM 7 and 4);

·  Maseru Bridge;

·  Ficksburg;

·  Oshoek;

·  Kopfontein;

·  Caledonspoort;

·  Ramatlabama.

E-gates and trusted passenger system

The department is currently piloting e-gates at Cape Town International Airport aimed at improving passenger processing times and experience while maintaining the security and integrity of the country’s borders.

The goal is to expand these e-gates to the country’s other major international airports alongside the introduction of a new passenger name record system.

The passenger name record system will be used to identify unknown threats based on passenger profiles, and the advanced passenger processing system is used to identify known suspects – for example, those on stop and watchlists.

Tech expansion necessary for tourism 

Marc Wachsberger, managing director of the Capital Hotels and Apartments, said the expansion of the e-Visa scheme is necessary to help return tourism in the country to pre-pandemic levels.

“This often means that they would have to incur travel time and costs just to apply for a visa, and then again to collect it, if they live somewhere other than the South African representative office’s location – adding an often insurmountable obstacle to their travel plans,” said Wachsberger.

“Mostly, they’ll just look for somewhere else to go, that either doesn’t have visa requirements for their home country, or that has a quick and effective online visa application system, followed by a virtual visa delivery.”