Good day, and once more welcome to this media briefing on our response to New Zealand’s withdrawal of visa free travel arrangements for South African passport holders.
You would know that in 1996 the Republic of South Africa and the Government of New Zealand implemented visa free movement to holders of diplomatic, official and ordinary passports from each other’s territory for visits not exceeding a period of three months.
The New Zealand authorities had attached only one condition to the visa exemption for South African passport holders, being that visits to New Zealand should not be for the purpose of medical consultation or treatment.
On 19 September 2016, the New Zealand High Commission officially informed the South African Government of a decision by the New Zealand Government to introduce visa requirements for all South African nationals wishing to travel to New Zealand with effect from 21 November 2016. On 3 October 2016 an announcement in this regard was made in the media.
The New Zealand Government attributed certain factors which led them to the decision to withdraw the visa waiver arrangements for South African passport holders. It listed as among the factors:
- the number of South African visitors who exploit the visa waiver arrangement to visit family and friends in New Zealand, as opposed to travelling to New Zealand for tourism or business purposes,
- the number of South African visitors who had overstayed the three months visa waiver limit or who did not return to South Africa, and
- the number of South African travellers who had been refused entry at the New Zealand border due to counterfeit or fraudulently obtained South African passports.
South Africa has, for some time now, adopted a visa policy which is based on the principle of reciprocity. Therefore, in view of the afore-mentioned, a decision was taken to reciprocate by withdrawing the visa exemption which New Zealand passport holders enjoy.
However, given that the New Zealand authorities gave two months notice to the South African public of its intention to implement visa requirements for travel to New Zealand, and bearing in mind the upcoming festive season, I have decided to implement visa requirements for New Zealand passport holders only with effect from 16 January 2017.
New Zealand diplomatic, official and ordinary passport holders who arrive at a South African port of entry on or after 16 January 2017 and who are not in possession of a visa for the intended purpose and duration of stay, will not be allowed entry into South Africa.
New Zealand ordinary passport holders should visit the department’s website at www.dha.gov.za to acquant themselves with the supporting documents that need to accompany a visa application before visiting the South African High Commission in Wellington to submit a visa application form and supporting documents in person.
Although the fee applicable to an application for a New Zealand visa is almost four times the amount South Africa requires as payment for a visa application, I decided not to reciprocate on that matter.
South Africa’s visa fees are of the lowest in the world and for the past 14 years had remained at R425 for most of the visa categories and R1 520 for permits and work, business and corporate visas. However, the Department will in due course increase its visa and permit fees to align with inflation.
We have further noted that in recent times, a number of countries have imposed visa restrictions on South African passport holders. And in the past, we have not reciprocated due to reasons including tourism considerations particularly in the light of the new immigration regulations that we are implementing.
We have been of the considered view that South Africa on its part should not unduly impose severe restrictions on other states and their citizens wishing to travel to our country. It is not our policy to deter foreign visitors or to reduce the flow of tourists, businesspeople and other travellers to our country. Immigration, particularly for development, is high on our agenda, and thus the current endeavour on our part comprehensively to review our international migration policy.
There has been evidence, including from Statistics South Africa, showing that the supposed impact of our policies on tourism is far from the picture elsewhere painted. The Department of Home Affairs has further noted inconveniences experienced by our citizens given the visa restrictions imposed on us, as well as the reputational risks of being perceived as unsafe by some countries.
I have therefore directed the department to look closely at the decisions of these countries and advise accordingly whether or not South Africa should reciprocate also in these instances.
This I must reiterate. South Africa does not pose a threat to other countries. Add to this the fact that we have greatly improved our security systems, including security features of passports we issue, and the introduction of biometric capturing at our four main international airports – OR Tambo, Cape Town, King Shaka and Lanseria. Our modernisation of systems and processes is on course.
We remain ever committed to the vision of a country, region, continent and world in which people are and feel safe, and shall not be distracted from working for the creation of a better continent and a better world for all of humanity.
I thank you.
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF HOME AFFAIRS