Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

THOSE wishing to come to South Africa on tourist or other visas would have to take the pain of complying with new immigration regulations while the system was being perfected, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba said on Wednesday.

With Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom by his side, Mr Gigaba was addressing the media after a lengthy meeting between the two to discuss the potential effect of the new visa rules on South Africa’s tourism industry. This followed concerns that the new rules would affect visitor numbers.

Mr Gigaba said the regulations would require those planning to visit South Africa to submit their documents and biometric details, among other things, in their country of origin. He pointed out that transit visas still posed a risk as those in transit sometimes changed their statuses once in South Africa or moved to a neighbouring country and then re-entered South Africa as irregular migrants.

The two ministers agreed that the installation and use of biometric scanners to take electronic photographs and fingerprints would be speeded up at points of entry. The biometric system would be used for the first time on the South Africa-Lesotho border.

"The issue of biometric systems is going be a big part of our challenges facing us," Mr Gigaba said. The objective was to establish a "trusted traveller programme" so that those people who visited South Africa most frequently would be able to enter the country using their fingerprints only, without passports.

Wednesday’s meeting also focused on expanding the number of visa facilitation centres in countries such as China and India supplying growing numbers of tourists to South Africa .