During its summit in Rwanda last July, the African Union (AU) announced its plans to launch a common passport that would grant all holders visa-free travel to all 54 nations on the continent.
However, a new White Paper issued by the South African department of Home Affairs says the visa-free entry in to the country will not be immediately available to all African citizens across the board.
South African authorities will initially only admit a group of “trusted travelers,” such as diplomats, officials, academics, business people, and students, when the new passport regime goes in to effect in 2018, reports News24.
According to the White Paper, while the South African government “fully supports the vision of an Africa where its citizens can move more freely across national borders, where intra-Africa trade is encouraged and there is greater integration and development of the African continent,” the prevailing conditions make it premature to introduce visa-free privileges to all and sundry.
The paper detailed further that South Africa had shifted its immigration policy from an administrative-based approach to a security-based approach, warning that the scrapping of the visas needs to be done gradually and with caution.
With the new policy, only citizens from African countries that have signed bilateral travel agreements with South Africa can enter visa-free.
In addition, travelers will be required to present visas when there is the risk of foreign nationals overstaying as well as in situations where there are security risks, such as organized crime, terrorism, and the threat of sociopolitical instability due to poor civil registration procedures by a foreign government that leads to a high number of nationals who abuse the asylum system.
The South African government will, however, continue to grant visa-free entry to African citizens for visits of up to 90 days, recognition of visas for third parties as well as agreed standards on immigration, border management, and civil registration.
The White Paper also said that where visas are required “South Africa should make it as easy as possible for bona fide travelers to enter South Africa,” by standardizing and expanding the use of long-term, multiple-entry visas for frequent travelers, business people, and academics.