Clearing up the confusion: What travellers between SA and New Zealand need to know

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All South Africans travelling to New Zealand and all New Zealanders travelling to South Africa must now apply for the appropriate visas, bringing to an end a ten-year visa-free travel agreement between South Africa and New Zealand.

This change, first announced late last year, is reported to have caused confusion among would-be travellers between the two countries. New Zealand media reports quoted would-be holidaymakers as saying they were unsure what documents were needed and were unable to reach the South African High Commission in Wellington for information.

The reintroduction of bilateral visa requirements was announced on 19 September 2016, when the New Zealand High Commission informed the South African government of its decision to introduce visa requirements for all South African nationals wanting to travel to New Zealand with effect from 21 November 2016.

Reasons for the change, we are informed, were due to:

1. 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;
2. The number of South African visitors who overstayed the three months visas (and/or did not return to South Africa);
3. The number of South African travellers who tried to enter New Zealand with counterfeit or fraudulently obtained South African passports;

It should be noted that generally speaking, South Africa’s visa policy has been based on a principle of reciprocity. However, when Britain announced the withdrawal of visa travels for South Africa (for reasons similar to those cited by New Zealand), South Africa did not reciprocate. This may have been due to tourism considerations since a large number of tourists to South Africa are from the UK.

In the case of New Zealand, however, South Africa decided to reciprocate by withdrawing the visa exemption which New Zealand passport holders enjoy, advising that as of 16 January 2017, all New Zealand travellers wishing to travel to South Africa should first acquire a visa from the at South African High Commission’s office in Wellington, New Zealand. Any New Zealand passport holder without a valid visa will, therefore, not be allowed entry into South Africa with effect from 16 January 2017.

Fortunately for travellers, applying for a visitor visa for a period of up to 90 days is a fairly straightforward process. In law, the processing of this application can take up to 60 days but in reality foreign missions process these applications within a period of 5 – 30 days on average.

As a legal firm specialising in immigration law, De Saude Attorneys can also assist in submitting these short (or long) term visa applications.

Originally published on Bizcommunity, 6 February 2017.