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Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies, turned down an opportunity to broach the need to renegotiate tourist visas for South Africans visiting the United Kingdom (UK).
At today’s gathering of South African trade leaders, Wesgro delegates and representatives of the British government to discuss the UK’s ongoing Brexit negotiations, Minister Davies made it clear that he has no intention of using Brexit as an opportunity to request a reinstatement of visa-free entrance to the UK for SA tourists, admitting he didn’t want to “play hardball” with the UK government.
About 200,000 South Africans visit the UK every year and are collectively charged upwards of R170 million for tourist visas. Currently, South Africa does not charge British nationals for their entry into the country.
Prior to 2009’s passport security breach at Home Affairs, which occurred under the watch of then Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, South Africans were given visa-free entrance to the UK.
Ryan Rennison, managing director of UK immigration specialists, Move Up, says that South Africa has since upgraded their passport service to a more secure, biometric system and that the 10,000 lost, blank passports that created the security breach should all be expiring this year.
“There is no good reason South Africans should still be expected to pay for tourist visas to enter the UK. Today Minister Davies confirmed that British nationals are freely received into South Africa – I see no barrier to reciprocation from the UK government,” says Rennison.
Speaking directly after Minister Davies the British High Commissioner to South Africa, Nigel Casey, declared that visas are not part of the Brexit negotiations. However, the UK plans to continue its visa-free program for EU nationals, even after Brexit.
Rennison also believes that a refusal of the SA government to renegotiate local work permit conditions is a missed opportunity to impact national healthcare services.
“Our government can learn from how the UK uses its foreign workforce to support its public healthcare. For every year a South African is granted permission to work in the UK, they have to pay R8,000 per applicant towards the National Health Service (NHS). It is a compulsory payment above visa costs,” he says.
“In more shocking terms, that’s R40,000 per applicant for each 5-year work permit,” he added.
The UK government granted 45,000 work permits to South Africans in 2018, effectively requiring South Africans to contribute R360 million per year towards the UK’s NHS.
“The bottom line is the South African visa system can be improved. We need to look at how we structure foreigners’ contributions attached to acquiring work permits,” he added.
Move Up recently launched a new online UK visa assessment that dramatically reduces the time it takes to identify which visas each applicant is eligible for and speeds up the time it takes to process UK visa applications where an immigration agency’s services have been retained.