Kenya relaxes visa restrictions for S.African citizens - CNBC Africa

Kenya relaxes visa restrictions for S.African citizens

East Africa

by Elayne Wangalwa 0

Kenya expects South Africa to reciprocate its easing of visa laws to citizens after it scrapped itsrequirements. PHOTOS: Kenya

The East African country suspended visa requirements for South African passport holders travelling to Kenya early this week, which were to be executed from 1 September.

“We have had meetings with the foreign minister of South Africa and we both agreed to address some of the challenges that both countries have. We discussed this and were very open and candid about them. We discussed measures we need to put in place so that we can lax the regimes on both sides,” Foreign Affairs and International Trade Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed said during a press briefing in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital.

(READ MORE: S.Africa and Kenya's tit-for-tat visa regulations)

According to Mohamed, both governments will hold a meeting mid-September to discuss what measures to take to ensure these tit-for-tat regulations are stopped. “So we had planned to have this meeting before the general assembly so we are still hopeful,” Mohamed said.

(READ MORE: Kenya-South Africa visa nightmares a travesty for regional integration)

Kenya had issued regulations to all South African passport holders, which required citizens to apply for visas when travelling to the East African nation. The new rules stipulated that South African travellers had to have a return air ticket and part with 750 rand, as well as have a letter of invitation from Kenya, proof of available funds, and to appear in person for biometrics during a visa application in Pretoria.

“We have had this visa regime in place for a while. We have made our intention clear that we intend to reciprocate, I think we have done that very clearly, we have written, we have had conversations around it, we would have stuck to it but that is where the question on the tourism sector comes in,” said Mohammed.

(WATCH VIDEO: Impact of S.Africa's visa laws on tourism)

East Africa’s biggest economy decided to reverse its visa regulations following the slump in the country’s second highest foreign exchange earner, tourism. According to industry players, Kenya is staring at loosing 40 billion Kenyan shillings in this sector. In July, the tourism sector chronicled a four per cent decline in international arrivals between January and May to 381,000 arrivals compared to 398,000 posted over the same period in 2013.

(WATCH VIDEO: Kenya's tourism sector revenue down 7.4%)

“I had a discussion with them [South African tourists] some of them had bookings that were going, to be cancelled because the tourists who were coming in were not only coming in from Johannesburg, they were not even coming in from Pretoria some of them were coming from cape town others were coming in from further afield and it was going to be much more difficult for them,” Mohamed explained.

South Africa’s government reviewed its immigration laws in May. Foreign nationals with visitors’ visas wishing to extend a stay for longer than three months must provide a police clearance certificate from their home country. Also it is no longer possible to change from a Visitor’s Visa to another visa category within South Africa.