South African News

South Africans worried as Ireland denies them visa-free travel

South African travellers to Ireland have been left anxious and confused by the prompt and immediate decision to revoke visa-free travel for South African and Botswana nationals.

Ireland has introduced a new set of new visa restrictions, which will come into effect from tomorrow.

The Minister of Justice in Ireland, Helen McEntee, yesterday said South African and Botswana passport holders would be required to obtain a visa before travelling to Ireland from Wednesday.

McEntee said the “carefully considered decision” would bring Ireland into closer alignment with the Schengen Area in respect of both countries.

She said a transit visa would also be required if nationals of either country intended to transit through Ireland en-route to another destination.

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The Dublin Visa Office will now establish a dedicated ‘South Africa desk’ to process applications from South African nationals. The Irish Department of Justice will also establish three Visa Applications Centres (VACs) in South Africa with visa service provider Global VFS.

“Irish visa requirements are kept under ongoing review, having regard for the need to ensure that effective immigration controls are in place whilst also facilitating those who wish to travel to Ireland for the purposes of a visit, to work, to study, or to join family members,” McEntee said.

“The visa system is an essential part of our immigration system to determine who can travel to Ireland. A wide range of factors are taken in account when introducing visa requirements to ensure we can continue to facilitate travel with processes that are robust, effective, and fair.”

The Irish Embassy in Pretoria said South African and Botswanan passport holders who have booked travel to Ireland before 10th July 2024 and will travel to Ireland before 10th August 2024 may travel to Ireland provided they are in possession of a valid passport; and documentary proof from their carrier (and not a travel agent) showing the date of purchase of their ticket(s), their name as the passenger, the flight(s) number and date of travel.

Irish Ambassador to South Africa, Austin Gormley, said this documentation would need to be produced where requested to do so by a carrier or an immigration officer.

Gormely said normal immigration rules that apply to non-nationals on seeking entry to the State would apply to any person availing of the transitional arrangements.

“For avoidance of doubt, please note that any person who has booked travel to Ireland before 10th July 2024 and is travelling to Ireland after 9th August 2024 cannot avail of the limited transitional arrangements and will need to have obtained an Irish visa before travelling,” Gormley said.

“Any person who books travel to Ireland after 10th July cannot avail of the limited transitional arrangements and will need to have obtained an Irish visa in advance of travel, even if travelling to Ireland before 10th August 2024. Persons who are in possession of a valid Irish Residence Permit (IRP) card do not separately need to have an Irish visa.”

Flight Centre South Africa said although the change had been under consideration for some time, the swift implementation during the peak travel season had impacted travel plans to Ireland, a traditionally popular visa-free destination for South Africans.

Lynette Machiri, a customer experience leader at Flight Centre South Africa, said this decision has caused stress and uncertainty to many of their customers.

“This unexpected announcement has left many travellers with questions and concerns. We are actively engaging with the Irish embassy to gather the latest information and provide clarity to our customers,” Machiri said.

“We understand that many travellers may be worried about potential disruptions to their trips, especially with the tight turnaround time for visa applications. “Unfortunately, some carriers have indicated they are unlikely to offer waivers, further underscoring the need for swift action. We are here to assist in every way possible to minimise the impact on our customers’ travel plans.”

IOL

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