Article Posted: By Shannon Correia – The South African in Travel: 5 December 2019
If you’re planning a trip abroad soon, you’ll need to plan a trip to the relevant embassy to have your visa processed. Here’s what you need to know before you go:
Visa applications and time frames
People are advised to note that visas take the full processing time during the festive season. The times are country-specific and can usually be found online.
Beyond noting the processing times, one also needs to consider the appointment times. Many Schengen embassies and visa application centers have been experiencing delays with appointment times.
Application documents should be submitted as soon as possible to avoid delays.
- If you’re headed to the UK, allow for a minimum of 15 working days for normal visas and seven working days for priority visas from the date of appointment, all of which are pending availability.
- If you’re headed to the US, expect a waiting period of up to as much as 10 weeks to secure a submission date.
The global average processing time should not be taken as a lodgement target date. During peak periods, these processing time frames can increase as they reflect changing demands.
Applications cannot be expedited on account of last-minute bookings. Booking a flight ticket may not secure your application being processed. Only a documented medical emergency will be considered for urgent processing. All other applications will be assessed on a lodgement date basis.
Flight specials will not be considered as an urgent reason to jump the processing queue.
Biometric collection for visa
Each applicant is required to provide their PIDs (personal identifiers) as part of the visa application process. Applicants aged 0 to five years only provide a facial photograph. From five years upwards, a facial photograph and a full set of fingerprints are required.
This requirement is linked to every application submitted by clients who reside in a biometric collection country. Regardless of the time passed between subsequent visa applications, a new collection of biometrics per each visa lodgement is required.
The biometric request letter includes a time frame for the biometrics to be collected. If an applicant does not provide their biometrics within this time frame, a case officer is entitled to refuse the application. Extensions can be made for certain reasons, but this needs to be communicated and rescheduled as soon as possible.
Travelling with minors
New South African passports for minors under the age of 18 are being issued containing the details of both parents as a standard feature. Children travelling on these new passports do not require any additional documentation when travelling abroad if accompanied by both parents. Refer to the updates for more information regarding the requirements for minors with one or no parents.
Tips for travelling abroad
The Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) has the following tips for South Africans travelling abroad:
- Take time to learn about the financial, political, cultural and economic environment of their intended destination.
- Have the contact details of the nearest South African Representative office and carry contact details of a next of kin.
- If your passport is lost or stolen while you are travelling abroad, report the loss/theft immediately to the local law enforcement agency. Take a copy of the police report to the nearest South African High Commission, Embassy or Consulate-General where you will apply for an emergency travel document. There is a fee attached to the application for an emergency travel document.
- A visa is your permission to travel to, transit or remain in a foreign country, though it does not guarantee entry into the foreign country, as the decision to grant entry remains the decision of the immigration officials of the foreign country.
- It is strongly recommended that you take out travel insurance before travelling abroad. Travel insurance should cover hospitalisation and related medical costs as well as a possible emergency evacuation.
- Travellers who intend driving abroad must apply for an international driving permit (IDP), issued by the Automobile Association of South Africa. Ensure that you have both your original driver’s licence as well as your IDP with you and keep copies (preferably certified copies) separate from the originals. South African drivers’ licences are recognised in SADC countries.