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Africa Tightens Business Visa Requirements

Some African countries are getting stricter in terms of their visa requirements. They often require not only a letter of invitation and an itinerary, but also proof of company registration, bank-account statements, tax-clearance certificates and a minimum bank balance.

By Raylene Pienaar.

Contrary to the article published in Tourism Tattler last month (see Visas in Africa for African Travellers – Ed.), some African countries are getting stricter in terms of their visa requirements. Two, three years ago you could get away with the minimum. Now they are really strict.

While South Africans do not require business visas for many countries – and especially those within the South African Development Community – those requiring permits are becoming more demanding.

Apart from a written invitation from a local company, South African passport holders also need to provide a letter from their company in South Africa, a certificate of incorporation and three months’ bank statements, reflecting a balance of at least R18 000.

They’re also very particular about the documentation. So, for example, to visit Nigeria, Angola and Ghana, you cannot just have any letter of invitation. It needs to be very specific. The addressee is specific and the name on the invitation has to be exactly the same as what’s in the traveller’s passport. For example, if your name is William but everybody calls you Bill, the invitation has to be addressed to William.

Some countries also require all documents to be translated into the local language, while still others require a tax-clearance certificate in addition to the other paperwork. Foreigners working for South African companies need to produce a residence or work permit valid for at least six months. If there’s not a six-month validity period, they will not consider the application. South African passport holders also have to ensure their passports are valid for at least six months.

Business travellers are urged to make sure they are acquainted with whether they require visas, as well as with the documents needed, as it be can be arduous and expensive to get an emergency visa (if the option exists). Business travellers need to start thinking about getting their visas as soon as they start planning their trip. They can no longer afford to wait until the last minute. Forewarned is forearmed when it comes to securing a business visa.

Below are a few frequently asked questions from South Africans about securing business visas:

FAQ on securing a business visa for South African business travellers

Q: Which African countries require business visas? South African passport holders don’t need business visas for Botswana, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. They do, however, require visas for Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda and Tanzania.

Q: Do I have to apply a visa from South Africa? Several countries, such as Tanzania and Rwanda, allow you to procure your visa on arrival. For others, such as Angola, Nigeria, Ghana and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, you need to apply before you fly.

Q: What if I have a foreign passport? Then you generally need a visa. But you can get it on arrival in many countries, including Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Q: Is a business visa more expensive than a tourist vis? There is generally little difference between the cost of business and tourist visas. However, for Tanzania, a business visa is 30% more expensive than a tourist visa.

Q: How long does it take to process a business visa? Business visas typically take longer to process than tourism visas because you are required to produce more documentation.

Q: How do I pay a business visa? It differs from country to country, but the most common is a bank transfer / deposit. Nigeria allows you to pay online, but you have to use your personal credit card. Ghana however deems that the only acceptable proof of payment is a bank deposit slip and does not allow electronic fund transfers (EFT). You should contact the relevant consulate to find out which form of payment is deemed acceptable.

Q: What if I don’t have much time to get a visa? Some countries will allow you apply for an emergency visa, which is typically more expensive. Ghana and Angola, for example, both offer emergency visas. For Angola, it takes three days to process and, once the visa is issued, the traveller has 72 hours to arrive in Angola. Travellers on emergency visas to Angola may only stay for seven days.
Nigeria has two options: express and regular. The express option takes anything from 48 hours to four days, while the regular option takes between seven and 10 days. The difference in cost between the two visas is about R500.

About the author: Raylene Pienaar is the General Manager of Corporate Traveller – a travel management company based in South Africa and a division of the Flight Centre Travel Group. For more information visit www.corporatetraveller.co.za