Visa Red Tape Frustrates SA Travellers

According to local travel booking site, 49% of South African travellers say they consciously choose overseas destinations with no visa requirements or those that issue a visa on arrival.

The financial and time cost of travel visas is increasingly onerous for South African passport holders. Tricky documentation requirements, distant visa application centres and drawn-out turnaround times only add to the headache of navigating a visa submission.

The Cost of Visa Refusal

Among those surveyed however, the ‘negative sentiment’ towards travel visas is largely dominated by visa costs, excessive documentation requirements and vague application guidelines, which ranked ahead of lengthy application processes, lack of visa payment options and far distances to travel to the nearest visa office (which carries its own cost implications for people residing outside major cities).

Some ways visa refusal affects South African pockets

  • postpone travel (22%)
  • lose money (17%)
  • cancel an entire trip (10%)
  • miss flights (6%)

Appointments and Processing Times

How quickly a visa is granted often hinges on whether the Embassy or Consulate is suffering from a backlog of applications. Some local travel agents report waiting up to six months to secure an appointment at the Consulate General of the United States.

31% receive a decision on their visa within two weeks of applying and 28% receive a decision in less than one week. UK and Schengen visa turnarounds are inconsistent, but applicants can expect an estimated turnaround time of between two and four weeks. Express visas that are meant to be processed faster come at a much higher fee, and don’t guarantee a visa at the end of it.

Reasons for Visa Refusal

Despite the inherent inconvenience of visas, South Africans are willing globetrotters and fare well in terms of satisfying requirements with only 4% confessing they have been the subject of a visa refusal.

According to the research, most refusals are issued by the United Kingdom, USA and the Schengen area respectively. Processing authorities aren’t obligated to give reasons for denying a visa, but common criteria for refusal vary and tend to include:

  • Failing to provide sufficient reasons for the purpose of a visit
  • Inadequate proof of funds (to support stay in destination)
  • Irregular and unfavourable travel histories
  • Lack of a travel itinerary
  • Past and current criminal convictions*

By Gabrielle Jacobs