The South African passport is now invalid for attaining entry into the UK, where South Africans will need to apply for a Visa to be granted UK entry rights. With the UK government embarking upon one of its most radical regulatory regimes, by deeming the South African passport as invalid to gain entry onto UK based soil, merely as an added security measure, South African based expert Immigration group, 1st Contact, explain the stark reality and practicalities surrounding this stringent new policy and how this is set to really affect South Africans.
According to 1st Contact, not only will this be a lengthy and cumbersome administrative process for South Africans to gain the correct Visa status to visit the UK, but there is also a newly introduced bio-metric component attached to this new regime. It has been alleged that South Africans will be required to complete a 10 page application form, incur fees anywhere from £ 65 (for holidays Visas) to £ 600 (for business Visas) and then still make their way to VFS (Visa Facilitation Service) office, for finger printing and retina scans. The biometric scans are then sent to the British High commission along with the application to review, before the granting of Visas takes place.
1st Contact predicts that UK authorities may clampdown even further and that the application process may not be as simple and straightforward as what we, as South Africans, would have hoped for.
This new policy is set to come into full effect on 3 March for first time South African visitors to the UK, where it is predicted that the full regime will come into play by mid 2009.
Historically South Africa has made up the 5th largest tourist group in Britain. According to an article published in the BBC, in 2007 419 000 South Africans legally visited the UK, comprising of 168 000 tourists and 46 200 business visitors, where over 3000 South Africans were even granted work permits. According to 1st Contact, the new regime is not designed to curb tourism from South Africa but has simply been designed to strengthen the UK’s borders.
It is alleged that 6 months ago, South Africa was forewarned by UK officials to improve its passport security systems, where failure to do so would result in stricter entry measures. Countries such as Botswana, Brazil, Malaysia, Mauritius, Namibia, Trinidad and Tobago had improved their systems sufficiently and on time to prevent further stringency from the UK government
1st Contact offers the following advisory tips for South Africans with travel aspirations, to make the most out of this unfortunate situation:
* Since this process is a cumbersome one, with predictions being made of a further clampdown, initiate your Visa application with an expert immigration firm, in order to avoid delays to the issuance of your visa. The cost of acquiring these visas is extremely high, and coupled with travel expenses, traveling to the UK has now become an expensive undertaking. As such any errors made in the application process could result in individuals running the risk of loosing their non-refundable visa fees. Consulting an expert will ensure that you do not loose your application fee unnecessarily should your application be denied due to a technical error.
* Ensure you know the visa entry requirements for the UK prior to departure, as repatriation to South Africa can be costly.
* If you are only coming to the UK as a visitor, do not carry things such as CV’s, job offers, employment references etc… in your hand luggage. This will increase your chances of being refused entry by a UK immigration officer!
For more information about this issue, or to make contact with one of our expert visa consultants, visit www.1stcontactvisas.com.