Kenya has cautioned the South African authorities that it will not suspend a highly contested new visa regime for long.
That is if the South Africans do not relax their stringent visa requirements on Kenyans. Kenya has from September 1 this year introduced a new travel rule stating that South African passport holders are now required to apply for a visa prior to travelling or transiting through Kenya.
Before this new rule, South African passport holders were exempted from visa requirements if they were travelling for 30 days or less. Under the new guidelines, South Africans are required to pay R750 (Sh6,000) as visa fees. In addition, the Kenyan authorities will stop issuing visas to South Africans on arrival to her territory.
To visit South Africa however, Kenyans have always been required to have a visa prior to travelling. South Africa does not issue visas on arrival in the country.
In addition, South Africa outsourced the processing of visa applications from Kenya to a company called VFS Global with the decision on an application taking up to seven days in some instances.
Under the new visa rules issued by Kenya, the only way that an applicant can be considered is by presenting themselves at the Kenya High Commission in Pretoria for biometric processing.
STRICT VISA RULES
Kenya introduced the new regulations to counter South Africa’s strict regime. The two nations have however been trying to resolve the stand-off, with Kenya suspending the requirement that was earlier supposed to kick off in June. The Government however seems determined to impose the strict visa rules if the South African government does not relax their position. Foreign Affairs and International Trade Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed said yesterday Kenya only suspended the new regime following an outcry from the tourism industry that complained of massive losses due to cancelled bookings over the new rules. It is hoped the two governments will meet in South Africa next month between September 18 and 19 to try and resolve the matter, with Kenya indicating that South Africa has to calm down and relax its rules or Kenya will reciprocate.
“We have made our intentions very clear that we want to reciprocate,” said Mohamed yesterday. But she cautioned the government will not be lenient for too long. “We don’t intend to suspend this for too long,” the CS warned. “By September, they either have to remove the restrictions or we impose the same restrictions.”
She however added that an agreement has been reached to allow Kenyan students travelling to South Africa ease of access.
This new requirement has hit the tourism sector hard and other businesses with airlines such as Kenya Airways and South African Airways raising an alarm over the impact of this on their passenger numbers.
Given that there would be a five-day waiting period, the directive is likely to reduce the number of tourists coming to Kenya and to other East African countries via Kenya. It is estimated that about 30,000 tourists came to Kenya from South Africa last year.
– Standard Digital
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