EU Visa-free travel: US loss of access to be SA's gain?

2017-03-06 13:14
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Cape Town - Reciprocity is the name of the game when it comes to visa regulations, case in point being SA's recent New Zealand travel regulations.  

And as the EU contemplates ending visa-free travel for Americans, South Africans could see their European travel plans eased considerably. 

The European Parliament has voted to end visa-free travel for Americans, after the US failed to agree visa-free travel for citizens of five EU countries – Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania.  For now, US citizens can travel to all the aforementioned countries without a visa. But, this might soon change. 

If the vote is passed, the European Commission will implement an act to bring the change into effect, after which Americans will have to apply for extra documents to enter the countries. 

SEE: Visa free EU travel: Travel, SA passport popularity to rise

And while the US passport slips in its power, SA citizens are optimistic about the possibility that a proposal to relax visa requirements for South Africans may soon be a reality. 

A formal proposal has been submitted and is now under consideration, according to the DHA - this after Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba announced in September last year that talks were held with the European Union Ambassador Marcus Cornaro regarding the relaxation or elimination of its visa requirements for South African passport holders.

DHA spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete says the department is now awaiting feedback on the proposal. 

UK hard-pressed under Brexit

Andrew Shelton, Managing Director of Cheapflights says, "The process for South African passport holders  to obtain a visa to the EU can be costly and a time-consuming exercise. In some cases it even necessitates an internal flight as well as certain countries only have consulates in Johannesburg. So reports that the EU is considering the relaxation of visa access to member states is great news for South Africans looking to travel to these destinations."

SEE:  Brexit tourists: SA’s rand ranked 4th in strongest gains against dollar-mauled pound

Shelton cautions that with the decision to exit the EU, current visa regulations for travel to the UK are unlikely to change – or at the very least, will have to be renegotiated separately, adding that with the possibility of visa free travel to the EU could see a change to South Africans’ favourite long haul destination - currently the UK according to its data.

“We’d urge South Africans to keep an eye on these developments when searching for their travel, but especially when it becomes time to actually book their flights to ensure they aren’t stung by changes to the law – in their passports or their pockets.”  

US Travel ban continues despite knock in tourism 

And as visa-free travel options may decrease for US citizens, so too Trump's travel ban has put tourism to the country in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. 

Trump's original orders temporarily blocked citizens of Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Syria and Libya from coming to the United States and put on hold the US refugee program.

The US Travel Association on Thursday, 2 March, said the Trump administration's immigration policies are hurting tourism. The non-profit industry organisation said in a statement that there are "mounting signs" of "a broad chilling effect on demand for international travel to the United States."

SEE: Trump slump? International tourism to US slacking down

On Monday, 6 March Trump was preparing to sign a revised executive order temporarily barring the entry of people from certain Muslim-majority countries and halting the nation's refugee program.

A White House official told AP that plans to roll out the order are on track for Monday. The official insisted on anonymity in order to discuss the order ahead of the official announcement.

What can be expected of the new US Travel ban? 

Trump administration officials have said the new order aims to overcome the legal challenges to the first. Its goal will be the same: keep would-be terrorists out of the United States while the government reviews the vetting system for refugees and visa applicants from certain parts of the world.

The revised order is expected to remove Iraq from the list of countries whose citizens face a temporary US travel ban for 90 days. That follows pressure from the Pentagon and State Department, which had urged the White House to reconsider, given Iraq's key role in fighting the Islamic State group.

The new version is also expected to remove language that would give priority to religious minorities. Critics had accused the administration of adding such language to help Christians get into the United States while excluding Muslims.

Trump signed his original executive order in late January, sparking confusion and anger as travellers were detained at US airports and barred from boarding flights at foreign airports.

The signing is expected to spark a new round of lawsuits and controversy.

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