SA to engage UK authorities over visas

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Cape Town - The South African Government says it will engage authorities in the United Kingdom to look at how to ensure that inconvenience is minimised, following the British Government's announcement on holiday visas.

The UK government on Monday announced that with effect from 3 March, South Africans would require a holiday visa in order to visit or transit the UK.

Speaking at a media briefing on Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Director General, Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba, said the decision of the UK government will introduce an element of inconvenience for South Africans traveling to the UK, however they will engage with the UK authorities.

"We will continue to engage the UK authorities to look at how to make sure that inconvenience is minimised as much as possible building on the fact that we do have good bilateral relations and those relations are important for us to preserve," Dr Ntsaluba said.

The DG said both countries are anxious that those bilateral relations are not affected as a result of these new developments.

"On our side, we will continue to work with the Department of Home Affairs and continue to make the necessary representations and will handle the issue with the UK High Commission here to try and make sure the inconvenience of South Africans traveling abroad is minimised as much as possible," Dr Ntsaluba said.

The British High Commissioner to South Africa, Paul Boateng, said the decision follows a global review of the UK's pre-entry immigration controls and shows the UK government's "commitment to strengthening its borders".

There were concerns that people from countries neighbouring South Africa were obtaining travel documents and going to Britain without stringent security checks.

The British government said the new visa requirement will deter those who want to enter the UK under a false identity or on fraudulently obtained South African documents.

However, South Africans with a stamp in their current passports indicating they have previously traveled to Britain, will be able to travel there without a visa until the end of June.

The holiday visa, which South Africans will need from 3 March, costs R991 (e65) and a transit visa will cost R686 (e45).