Helpie FAQ

  • What happens if a traveller arrives at a port of entry without a certified negative PCR test?

    In a statement from government, issued on 8 October, the following procedure was outlined for travellers arriving at a port of entry without a certified negative PCR test:

    1. The traveller will be screened for signs and symptoms on arrival.
    2. Upon failure to produce a certified PCR test result, the traveller will be directed to a testing facility at the port of entry.
    3. A staff member from NHLS will conduct an antigen test immediately.
    4. Travellers must be prepared to pay for the antigen test out of pocket (approximately ZAR 150-170) and can claim the fees from their health insurance service provider (pending the relevant insurance agreement).
    5. If the traveller tests negative, they will be allowed to proceed through the port of entry, provided they have been cleared of red flags at the screening phase.
    6. If the traveller tests positive, they will be required to quarantine at a facility designated by that particular port of entry. They will not be permitted to travel across provinces. Contacts of a traveller testing positive at the point of entry, including those who were in proximity of the traveller within the conveyance, will also be tracked and traced.
    7. Travellers who arrive without a certified PCR test and who refuse to test at the port of entry will not be permitted entry and will be required to quarantine at a designated facility.

    It is unlikely that the intention of government is for the antigen test to replace the PCR test certificate, as it appears to be directed more for cross-border travel (e.g. travellers from Lesotho where PCR testing capacity is lacking). Therefore, until otherwise directed, international airlines will still require the PCR test certificate before boarding flights to South Africa.

    We are seeking further clarity on this procedure to ensure that travellers who are safe to enter, are able to do so without unnecessary burden, as well as assessing what this means for overland travel between South Africa and neighbouring countries.

  • Do travellers from Africa have to produce a COVID-19 test on arrival?

    Yes, all travellers from Africa will have to produce a valid certificate from an accredited laboratory of a negative COVID-19 PCR test not older than 72 hours, at all ports of entry. This includes South Africans (re-)entering the country.

    However, the regulations stipulate that business persons providing services across the borders of SADC are allowed multiple entry, provided they can produce a COVID-19 PCR test result not older than 72 hours from the time of departure. This certificate is valid for 14 days.

    This regulation appears to be written for travellers from SADC initially entering South Africa (therefore needing a 72 hour PCR test result on arrival), and then being permitted to depart and re-enter (multiple times) on the same test for up to 14 days.

    However, it should likewise apply for South Africans exiting and re-entering within SADC, for the purposes of business, on the same COVID-19 test (not older than 14 days from the time of departure). It is our understanding that this does not currently apply to leisure travellers within SADC.

    We are seeking further clarity and confirmation all aspects of this issue.

  • Are temporary residents allowed to enter South Africa from high-risk countries?

    Individuals with valid temporary residence permits will be permitted to enter South Africa, regardless of whether they are travelling from a high-risk country, and provided they meet all other entry requirements.

    It should also be noted that the Department of Home Affairs is extending the validity of legally issued visas which expired during lockdown until 31 January 2021. This pertains to visa holders currently in South Africa who will be allowed to remain in the country under the terms of their visa. From now until 31 January, they will also be able to depart South Africa on an expired visa without being declared ‘undesirable’. However, it is unlikely that they would then be allowed to return to South Africa on the same (expired) visa.

  • What can I expect when flying to South Africa?

    Passengers flying to South Africa should allow extra time for check-in and screening at the airport. It is the responsibility of the airline to ensure that all passengers have the required documentation and meet the requirements to enter South Africa (as well as any other destination country).

    For flights to South Africa, the airline will check that passengers have a valid certificate of a negative COVID-19 PCR test, obtained not more than 72 hours from the time of departure from the country of origin to South Africa; a valid visa to enter South Africa, if applicable; and travel insurance for foreign nationals. (Although travel insurance was mentioned by the minister in the recent briefing, it has not been gazetted. Until it appears in a government gazette, it is not law, but airlines may still ask for it nonetheless. We are seeking further clarity on this point.)

    Please print out all required documents to present at check-in before boarding your flight to South Africa to help prevent delays.

    On the plane, all passengers will be given an entry screening health questionnaire to complete. The form asks about passengers’ activities over the previous 14 days.

    As passengers disembark, there will be officers standing by to collect the COVID-19 test certificates. At passport control, the health declaration forms will be collected and the immigration officer will ask to see your passport and visa, if applicable.

  • Who requires a visa to enter South Africa?

    Minister Naledi Pandor’s briefing on 30 September stated that foreign national arrivals from low- and medium-risk countries will be subject to the prevailing visa requirements.

    The Department of Home Affairs since reinstated the visa exemption status of the citizens of the following countries which had been revoked at the commencement of the COVID-19 lockdown in March: South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore, USA, UK, France, Portugal, and Iran.

    This means that nationals of these countries (with the exception of leisure travellers from high-risk countries) are free to visit South Africa, subject to complying with the applicable regulations and health protocols. Airlines may board passport holders of these countries without a visa in line with their visa exemption status before the lockdown period.