New South African visa application centres to make life easier for Aucklanders
New Zealanders needing a visa to visit South Africa could face a quicker, less costly process with the opening of two new visa application centres - provided they live in Auckland or Wellington.
Changes effected on January 16 mean all Kiwis now need a three-month holiday visa to visit South Africa, ending a 20-year visa-free travel arrangement between the two countries.
While visas initially had to be obtained in person at the South African High Commission in Wellington, the two new centres in Auckland and Wellington will receive all applications from February 14. The commission will remain the sole authority for processing and issuing visas.
"The new VFS Global Visa Application Centres (VAC) will offer an easier, more accessible visa application process for applicants with the help of an appointment-based system, easy fee collection, along with a secure dispatch system," the commission said, adding that walk-ins will be accommodated.
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House of Travel commercial director Brent Thomas said that while the new centres will make it easier for Aucklanders travelling to South Africa, those in other parts of the country will still have to spend a significant amount of time and money on the visa application process.
"It is still costly, particularly if you're a family as mum, dad and the kids all need to travel to Auckland or Wellington," he said.
Also, an $86 service charge is added to the $95 visa processing fee for applications received in Auckland, bringing the total cost to $181, he noted.
Thomas said there are a significant number of travellers from New Zealand to South Africa each year, including South Africans who live here.
"Southern Africa is on a lot of people's bucket lists. People want to see the nature and wildlife and go on the safaris. It's one of those special trips a lot of people want to do in their lifetimes."
North Shore Immigration Services senior immigration advisor Simona Woodberg said last week that the application process will be "inconvenient" for many as it is not online.
She said Monday that she believes the new Auckland centre will be of help given that the highest concentration of South Africans in New Zealand live there.
However, she said it remains to be seen whether visa processing times are shortened.
"If the volume of applications they receive is [exceeds] their expectations, then it may well take much longer than the one to two weeks they are currently saying it would take."
New Zealand passport holders in Australia can apply for visas at the commission in Canberra, while those in other countries must submit their applications at the nearest South African Embassy, High Commission or local VFS VAC.
Yana Shvarts, acting country manager for South African Tourism Australasia said "The New Zealand market remains an important and growing market into South Africa. We wish to continue to welcome New Zealanders into our beautiful country and therefore welcome these positive developments to make the visa application process as seamless as possible".