South Africa to relax visa rules to boost investment, tourism

PRETORIA (Reuters) – South Africa will ease some immigration rules, including agreeing visa waiver agreements with more countries, in an effort to boost investment and tourism, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba said on Tuesday.

Malusi Gigaba addresses Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa February 21, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

The changes are part of a broader economic turnaround programme announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa last week as his team seeks to drag Africa’s most developed economy out of recession. [nL8N1W71RC]

“We play a critical economic role in admitting over 10 million international visitors to South Africa annually, which includes tourists, business travelers, investors and neighbours,” Gigaba told reporters.

“Millions of jobs are sustained by the economic activity generated by these travelers.”

Visitors from India and China, highlighted by Ramaphosa as important investment growth areas, will have travel regulations relaxed from next month, including allowing applications for 5-year multiple entry visas.

Gigaba said negotiations were also being finalized to conclude visa waiver agreements with more than a dozen countries across Africa, the Middle East and eastern Europe, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Qatar and the UAE.

Much-criticized rules on traveling minors will be simplified, he said.

In June 2015 new rules were implemented requiring parents to carry an unabridged birth certificate for accompanying children and consent letters from parents who were not traveling.

The tourism industry said the regulations, which came into effect during Gigaba’s previous tenure as home affairs minister, were hurting business.

Tourism contributes more than 400 billion rand ($28 billion) to South Africa’s economy, or around 8 percent of GDP.

($1 = 14.3510 rand)

Reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo; Editing by Joe Brock

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