South Africa believes that the only mechanism to deny access to high-risk travellers is by imposing visa requirements, even for those nationalities which have not traditionally required visas to visit South Africa.
Further to requiring a visa, South Africa will also review the Advanced Passenger Process (APP) lists of passengers prior to the arrival of passengers by air and flag any potential cases. The flight will be flagged and retained in a special area for checking before passengers are allowed to disembark.
The primary changes to visa restrictions include the following:
- The visa exemption enjoyed by nationals of high-risk countries – namely Italy, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, France, Germany, the USA, and the UK – has been withdrawn. Therefore, any foreign national from the listed countries who proceeds to a port of entry without a valid port of entry visa will be refused entry into South Africa. No foreign national who departed from these high-risk countries will be allowed to enter the Republic of South Africa with effect from 18 March 2020.
- The visa exemption enjoyed by nationals of medium risk countries – namely Portugal, Hong Kong and Singapore – has also been withdrawn. Any foreign national from these medium risk countries who wishes to visit South Africa is subject to visa requirements. They are required to submit a medical report attesting to the fact that they have not tested positive for COVID-19 when applying for a visa.
- Port of entry visas issued to citizens of China and Iran before or on 15 March 2020 have been cancelled with immediate effect and declared null and void.
- No foreign national who has visited a high-risk country since 15 March 2020 will be admitted to the Republic of South Africa, with effect from 18 March 2020.
The Minister of Home Affairs stated on 17 March 2020 that the assessment to allow access to South Africa will be based on travel history, not nationality to ensure there is no discrimination. In theory, this means that a national from one of the high-risk countries who has not travelled to one of the high-risk countries may be granted a visa to visit South Africa.
Foreign nationals on South African student visas, work visas, or residency permits will not be affected.
The government will continue to regularly issue travel alerts referring to specific cities, countries or regions as the situation evolves based on the risk level.