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Department of Home Affairs Issues : Delays due to Biometric Testing


Department of Home Affairs Issues: Delays at OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg & Entering SA with Children under 18

The recent unilateral move by Home Affairs to implement the capture of Biometric Data of ALL Persons entering South Africa (also those not requiring Visas and South African Citizens) have in the past few days led to unprecedented long queues and delays at the immigration counters at OR Tambo Airport – after discussion with our SATSA CEO, who had with tremendous urgency taken this issue up with the Department of Tourism it sounds however that the Department of Home Affairs is deaf to our plea and essentially shows no interest in salvaging this disaster for the sake of our industry and in short, this situation is not about to improve. We have experienced delays of up to 3 hours for incoming passengers in recent days. Below please find a press release issued by David Frost (SATSA CEO)

We can only recommend that lay overs between connecting flight are extended beyond the current guidelines given by airlines. Additionally we can offer to book BIDAIR SERVICES EXECUTIVE CONCIERGE (assistance from aircraft to connecting flight) at an approx. cost of Nett ZAR 1.300.00 maximum 2 Passengers (rate subject to change). This service ensures that clients are met off the arriving aircraft, are assisted through customs and immigration to baggage collect and then taken to the next check in counter – at this stage it still seems that this service can provide faster access but delays are not excluded.

In addition we have been informed that no changes are expected to be implemented by the Department of Home Affairs regarding the required documentation to enter South Africa with children – all information communicated to date relating to the necessity of carrying birth certificates, etc., remain in place. We wish to highlight, in addition to the stringent application of documentation required to support the entry of children not accompanied by both biological parents, as stated on the birth certificate – should all this documentation not be 100% in order, clients will be prevented from boarding their flights to South Africa by the airline.

We would also like to repeat that only machine readable passports are accepted as valid travel documentation.

Lengthy queues at OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg are delaying international tourists by hours, with the result that some visitors are missing connecting flights. Satsa CEO, David Frost, has called for urgent intervention. All international passengers arriving in South Africa at OR Tambo Airport need to submit biometric data, Department of Home Affairs Spokesperson, Mayihlome Tshwete, has confirmed. The department had prioritised the rolling out of biometrics at South Africa’s busiest posts, said Tshwete, adding that it was also was being rolled out at other ports of entry. He added that it was also being implemented at Cape Town International Airport and King Shaka International Airport.

He said it would also be implemented at land borders by the end of the financial year. According to Tshwete, taking biometrics at the airport meant that people requiring visas no longer had to apply in person, as initially required with changes to immigration regulations announced in 2014. Asked why international visitors who did not need visas also had to submit biometric data at the airport, Tshwete said it was to improve security. He added that all developed countries required visitors to submit biometric data and the department was moving with the times. He said because an international visitor could be in an accident or involved in a crime, either as a victim or perpetrator, it was necessary to have all visitors’ fingerprints in a database. However, Frost suggested that until Home Affairs had employed more immigration officials, biometrics should only be taken from visa-requiring tourists who had not applied for their visa in person. “Home Affairs does not have the capacity to take biometrics from all international arrivals and long delays are hurting our brand as a tourism destination.” According to Frost, in recognition of the tourism industry’s contribution to the economy, the delays at OR Tambo airport must be dealt with at an inter-ministerial level as a matter of urgency. Additional immigration staff must be hired and trained ahead of the coming high season, he said. “The galling thing is that this is the same department that has wrought legislation that has severely impacted our sector… and now they can’t even do their day jobs properly,” he said. “I urge Minister Hanekom to take this matter up urgently with the Deputy President.”