DA to petition ministers over e-visas

2014-08-29 11:53

Johannesburg - The Democratic Alliance launched a petition on Friday urging the tourism and home affairs ministries to introduce electronic visas (e-visas) for tourists.

The DA wanted both ministries to introduce regulations that would pave the way for tourist e-visas so that jobs in South Africa could be saved, tourism spokesperson James Vos said in a statement.

"A study commissioned by the Tourism and Business Council of SA on the impact of the new immigration regulations indicates that the country may lose 270 000 international tourists."

This would in turn see 21 000 jobs lost annually due to the regulations, costing South Africa R9.7 billion.

South Africa's new immigration regulations introduce a new visa regime. The regulations draw a clear distinction between short-stay visas and long-stay permanent residence permits.

They stipulate that visa applications need to be made by applicants in person, and those wanting to change the status of their visa can no longer do so in South Africa but at missions abroad.

Vos said visitors to South Africa needing to apply for their visas in person was an additional and unnecessary travel expense for those who did not live near South African embassies, consulates or visa centres.

Some potential visitors did not live in countries with these facilities at all.

"Reports from China, one of South Africa’s largest tourism markets, confirmed that marketing packages relating to South African tourist destinations will come to an end by October 1 this year due to this added difficulty."

This was a serious blow to South Africa's tourism industry and would condemn many South Africans to joblessness, without the hope of finding new employment.

"Tourism has been identified in the National Development Plan as a key job driver for our economy. Currently, tourism supports one in every 12 jobs in South Africa," Vos said.

Introducing e-visas would protect jobs and present "significant advantages" by reducing the turnaround times for issuing travel documents.

Vos said e-visas were also more secure than existing permits.

"Electronic visas have proven to be highly effective in comparable countries such as Turkey," he said.

"The DA has therefore launched this online petition for all South Africans and those abroad to register their disapproval of these destructive new regulations, and to express support for our proposal to institute electronic visas."