New SA biometric visa capabilities will see the scrapping of transit visas

December 16, 2015, 8:46am

By Selene Brophy, Traveller24. Photo: Traveller24

Cape Town - Department of Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba says as South Africa rolls out its pilot biometric capturing at four key ports of entry, security will be enhanced while easing the pressure on travellers, including those in transit.

The DHA started training officials to capture biometric data at South Africa’s international airports in November, as part of the enhanced Movement Control System (eMCS) Biometric Pilot programme, first introduced at Lanseria International Airport and currently in place at OR Tambo, King Shaka and Cape Town International Airports.

The pilot is part of the Modernisation Programme of the Department at all ports of entry, aimed at enhancing border security and has been in the pipeline for a while, following the recent adjustments to the visa regulations in South Africa.

"By using biometrics, SA immigration is helping to prevent the use of fraudulent documents, protect visitors from identify theft and to stop criminals and immigration violators from entering the country," Gigaba said.

Gigaba said the capturing of the travellers’ biometrics on arrival would alleviate the pressure to apply in person in visa-required countries or in those countries where we have no representation.

The lack of facilities following the implementation of changes to SA's immigration policy has been a sore point for many tourism bodies who lamented the ill-effects of forcing travellers to expend more time, money and energy in order to make the application in-person in order to travel to SA. This was particularly problematic in China, a key tourism source market, where potential visitors needed to travel to Beijing and Shanghai due to lack of facilities.

While South Africa is not the only country in the world asking people to apply for visas in person, examples include the United States of America, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Bulgaria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Singapore, Ghana, Tanzania and Kenya - the introduction of biometric visas on arrival will not only make it easier for travellers to visit but also prevent the use of fraudulent documents, protect visitors from identify theft and to stop criminals and immigration violators from entering the country, says Gigaba.

The DHA confirmed the scope of capturing biometrics at these four pilot sites is currently limited to selected passenger processing counters, but will be extended at the beginning of 2016.

Its Phase 1 biometric solution will be completed by 31 March 2016, after which a roll-out plan will be developed to implement the capturing of biometrics at the other 67 ports of entry across the country.

At OR Tambo International Airport, there is currently a specific focus on the capturing of biometrics in the transit area, meaning that for travellers using ports of entry that have biometric capacity, the Transit Visa will no longer be required.

What you can expect:

- Biometrics capture of photo and fingerprints

- For the first registration, the Department will capture all 10 fingers.

- Subsequent movements will require capturing of only one finger for verification purposes.

- Normal scanning of the passport to record the movement on DHA enhanced Movement Control System

Gigaba said the department is aiming for a smooth process with limited glitches expected from the new project, but trained Immigration Officers would be on hand to assist.