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South Africa’s new e-visa system is launching in November – here’s what you need to know

South Africa will trial a new e-visa system in November, making it easier for tourists to enter the country thanks to the online capture of visa applications and biometric information.

Speaking to BusinessTech, Department of Home Affairs spokesperson Siya Qoza said that the pilot aims to test the resilience of the system, with the department already holding successful trials in a controlled environment.

“The pilot will be conducted with Kenya first at the OR Tambo and Lanseria airports,” he said. “At the end of the month, we will evaluate the project and look at which other countries to expand the e-visa system to.”

Qoza added that the system is quick and has been designed to be as user-friendly as possible.

He estimated that the entire application process would take around 20 minutes, provided the applicant has all of the necessary supporting documents ready for submission.

Should one of the required documents be missing, applicants can resume the process exactly where they left off at a later date, he said.

E-gates

Qoza also confirmed that Home Affairs was working with the Aiport Company South Africa (Acsa) to pilot e-gates at the country’s airports.

While Qoza was hesitant to confirm when the these systems would be introduced, Home Affairs said in April that the e-gates would be introduced in a phased approach.

“The broad objective of the project is the facilitation of movement of low-risk travellers through a self-service solution, hence freeing capacity for the assessment of high-risk categories by an immigration officer,” the department said.

“In line with the risk-based approach to managing migration, the first phase will focus on South African passport holders (excluding minors).”

With the e-gates pilot at Cape Town International Airport, South African passport holders travelling internationally will proceed to e-gates for self-service immigration clearance where the following would be performed:

Biometric verification;
Passport authenticity and validity checks;
Checks against the BMCS risk engine; and
The BMCS will record the movements of persons on the system after all system checks have been successfully performed.
Home Affairs said that the e-gates project will help address the key issue of traveller identification management, which is at the heart of secure and facilitated travel.

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