In the recent State of the Nation Address, President Zuma made reference to his plans to position South Africa as a preferred destination for investments on the African continent. As economic growth stagnates and political pressures mount, the importance of this endeavour cannot be overstated and to this end, the Minister of Home Affairs has issued Immigration Directive 4 of 2016.

The Directive extends the period of long term visitors’ visas to academics and business travellers who are passport holders of African countries to a maximum of 10 years and grants the visa holder the right to enter the country multiple times, provided that each visit lasts no longer than 90 days.

In an effort to regulate this process, the Minister has indicated that the concession will not apply to first-time applicants. Other applicants will be required to substantiate their claims of being bona fide frequent business travellers or established academics as their applications will be heavily scrutinised.

The terms of this extended visa are similar to those that have been granted to nationals of non-African countries, except for the stipulation that these travellers may not stay for longer than 30 days. This will facilitate better business relations by easing the burden off of business travellers who were, historically, required to obtain visitor visas prior to travelling to South Africa. These changes aim to strengthen economic and diplomatic relations on the African continent while ultimately aiding the development of each state.

The extended long term visitor’s visa for African nationals is undoubtedly a step in the right direction but needs to be strictly regulated to maintain the veracity of the process. As such, applicants are encouraged to ensure that all supporting documentation, as listed in the Standard Operating Process for Directive 4 of 2016, accompanies their application. These documents include proof of business interest or academic qualifications as the case may be, together with a letter of motivation and of course, a passport from an African country.