It’s been 18 months since the Department of Home Affairs’ new visa regulations threw the South African tourism industry into disarray, prompting Cabinet to appoint an Inter-ministerial Committee to review the overall process. It would seem that the DHA has had a change of heart with the Director-General, Mkuseli Apleni recently announcing the implementation of Cabinet’s concessions on immigration regulations – a number of which could attract international business.
Ease of access for African business travellers
A long-term multiple entry visitor’s visa for a period exceeding 3 months and up to 3 years has already been implemented for business people and academics. What’s making headlines is that the department is looking to reward these frequent travellers from Africa with multiple entry visas for up to 10 years (similar to the US Visa).
“This is a crucial move to encouraging international companies to travel to SA for business, especially at a time when our economy needs to attract more foreign investment”, says Jacques Scherman, Vice President of Business Development Africa at Arton Capital – the leading global experts in advising HNWIs on second residence and citizenship alternatives.
Scherman continues stating that, “Bilateral agreements such as these will also do much to improve the power of the South African passport, which is currently ranked 41 out of 199 countries on Arton Capital’s Passport Index. Until the South African passport gains in power (i.e. enables passport holders to travel to and to do business in more countries without a visa and vice versa) South African citizens will need to invest in second citizenship via programs in countries like Cyprus, Malta, St Lucia, Bulgaria and others to facilitate travel and business opportunities abroad”.
A Visa Waiver for BRICS Business
Another concession that could boost flagging business tourism figures is the proposed 10-year visa waiver for business executives from BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and SA) which would allow these execs to remain in South Africa for up to 30 days at a time.
According to the March 2015 Statistics SA Tourism & Migration Report business people constituted 6.3% (996) of tourists from ‘other’ African countries and 3.3% (16, 701) from the SADC countries. North Africa had the highest proportion,13.3% (186)of its tourists in South Africa who came for business purposes.
By December 2015 these figures had dropped significantly with tourists from ‘other’ African countries dropping to 3.6% (524), 1.9% (12, 406) from other SADC countries. Business travellers from North Africa remained the largest group but their numbers decreased significantly to 6.2% (66).
“While these figures could be affected by the fact that fewer people were traveling for business in December it is more likely that the visa regulations were to blame. The long-term multiple entry visas for business will do much to encourage companies to not only visit, but to do business in SA”, believes Scherman.
There were also a few positive indicators for business (both local and international) in President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation Address. The President emphasized the need for creating investment support infrastructure. Government is said to be developing a One Stop Shop / SA Invest initiative and will fast-track its implementation, in partnership with the private sector. This initiative will require the removal of red tape and reviews of legislature and regulatory blockages – which will be overseen by an Inter-Ministerial Committee on Investment Promotion.
The President also addressed concerns about delays in obtaining visas for skilled personnel from abroad, indicating that while the priority will remain employing local workers the migration policy must make it possible to import scarce skills.
“At present the details regarding the migration policy regarding skilled personnel and the SA Invest initiative are promising but vague, a serious effort by government to address these issues in a meaningful way could do much to encourage foreign business” says Scherman.