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Kenya and South Africa move to ease visa requirements

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenyan and South Africa on Monday agreed on measures to ease visa application rules and entry conditions for their citizens.

Kenya’s ministry of interior said that starting from Dec. 1, business people and academics travelling to South Africa will now be issued with multiple-entry visas valid for up to 10 years while frequent travelers will be eligible for three-year multiple-entry visas.

“Government officials travelling on official business to South Africa will be granted three-month free visas with immediate effect,” the ministry said in a statement, following extensive deliberations between the two countries’ government officials in Pretoria.

According to the ministry, the agreement reflects the doctrine of reciprocity after Kenya set up a more responsive and straightforward online application process for short-term visas for visitors from all African countries, a move that Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said would foster pan-African brotherhood and fraternity.

In 2014, South Africa imposed tough rules for Kenyans seeking to visit South Africa, in addition to a service charge for applications.

The decision by South Africa to outsource its visa processing services to VFS Global meant that Kenyans would have to pay an additional 60 U.S. dollars’s service charge on top of visa fees.

Kenya initially retaliated with similar measures but suspended them in 2014 after South African authorities reportedly called for talks. Those talks, however, never materialized.

Currently, Africans visiting Kenya for a period of less than 30 days do not require visas, but those intending to stay longer are issued with visas on arrival at the point of entry or through the online e-visa platform.

The interior ministry said discussions with South Africa on visa restrictions have been ongoing and have seen Presidents Kenyatta and Cyril Ramaphosa discuss the issue extensively.

“With Kenya Airways already doing an average of three non-stop flights from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) to South Africa daily, the new arrangement is expected to enhance people-to-people contact and unlock the two countries’ tourism and business potential,” the statement said.

The two countries also agreed to step up joint efforts against illegal immigration and also to protect the integrity of each other’s travel documents.

“This move also comes as Kenya’s immigration department steps up efforts to streamline immigration services through automation of immigration services, digitization of immigration records, and the establishment of the e-passport system,” said the ministry.

It said the two governments are also in consultation on the strategies to mitigate transnational crimes, especially human trafficking and smuggling emanating from elsewhere in the continent and beyond.


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