South African travel now requires a visa for Kiwis

Okechukwu Solomon December 14, 2016

Tourists who are planning a trip to South Africa may now have to factor in a trip to Wellington first in order to obtain a visa in person.

In a diplomatic tit-for-tat, the South African Government has withdrawn visa-free travel for New Zealand tourists traveling to South Africa for less than three months. To make matters more difficult, South Africa's Minister of Home Affairs told media New Zealand nationals would have to travel to the High Commission in Wellington in order to submit their visa in person.

The change is a direct response to New Zealand's withdrawal of a visa waiver for South African passport holders, which came into effect in November. Immigration New Zealand ended the visa waiver "as a result of an increase in the number of South Africa nationals who have been refused entry at the New Zealand border in comparison to other visa waiver countries".

One-hundred-and-ninety-three South African passport holders were denied entry between January and May this year.

The South African government has not reported any problems with New Zealand passport holders overstaying or misusing their visas. Instead, the policy is "based on reciprocity", South Africa's Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba told media on Tuesday.

But South African passport holders traveling to New Zealand do not need to travel to a New Zealand Embassy in order to obtain a visa. The visa process can be initiated online, and passports can be sent via courier to the nearest Visa Application Service for confirmation of identity.

Mr Gigaba said New Zealand passport holders wishing to travel to South Africa should visit the Department of Home Affairs' website to find out the documents they will need to accompany their visa application. They will then need to travel to "the South African High Commission in Wellington to submit a visa application form and supporting documents in person," Mr Gigaba said.

New Zealand-South African comedian Urzila Carlson says it's "unfortunate it's come to this".

"I understand why South Africa is doing it, I believe in a tit-for-tat solution to everything too," Carson says.

"However the fact that it is 100 percent harder for Kiwis applying for a visa is a nuisance. That said, there's quite a lot more South Africans coming to New Zealand for a visit than I've ever heard of New Zealanders going to South Africa for a visit."

When approached by Newshub, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, "In terms of visas for entry to South Africa, it's for the government of South Africa to determine its immigration policies."

Newshub was told Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully was unavailable for comment as he is currently overseas. Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse was also unavailable for an interview.

The South African High Commission said in a statement New Zealanders should visit the department's website to "acquaint themselves" with the new process.

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