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Immigration Blog


South Africans soon to require Visitor Visas before they travel?

In an interesting development last week the New Zealand Government signalled they are reviewing the visa free status of South African passport holders who wish to travel to New Zealand as tourists, to visit friends and family, to check the country out as a place to settle...


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South Africans soon to require Visitor Visas before they travel?

In an interesting development last week the New Zealand Government signalled they are reviewing the visa free status of South African passport holders who wish to travel to New Zealand as tourists, to visit friends and family, to check the country out as a place to settle...


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South Africans soon to require Visitor Visas before they travel?

Posted by Iain on March 16, 2012, 11:13 a.m. in Immigration


In an interesting development last week the New Zealand Government signalled they are reviewing the visa free status of South African passport holders who wish to travel to New Zealand as tourists, to visit friends and family, to check the country out as a place to settle, to look at schools for their children, to attend job interviews and so on.

I would predict right now they will go through with it. 

They are justifying forcing all South Africans who wish to visit here to obtain visitor visas prior to their departure from South Africa on the basis of the risk presented by an increasingly corrupt public service in South Africa that sells passports. Our Government, among others, feel this risk to the integrity of our borders and the potential increase in the risk of terrorism makes this change prudent. It is common knowledge that significant numbers of Al Qaida suspects have been picked up travelling on South African passports. Why terrorists travelling on false South African passports might be interested in New Zealand is a little beyond me, but that’s the official reason.

I suspect to a large extent this is a case of our Government simply being politically correct. While it is fair to say the UK Government used the same reason to justify imposing visas on South African travellers a few years ago I strongly believe the real reason is that visa free access to South African passport holders means the Government cannot prevent all South African passport holders attempting to enter New Zealand – rich, poor, skilled, unskilled, ones they want, ones they don’t……..have an airline ticket, can attempt travel equals risk.

Being able to travel to New Zealand without a visa has never guaranteed entry to anyone (ever watched those stupid Border Security programmes??) but forcing people to get visas allows mitigation of risk from the New Zealand Government’s perspective. In my judgment the risk is actually very small given most travellers to New Zealand are not members of terrorist groups and poor South Africans or refugees to South Africa have limited financial means and most could never afford the Visa application fee let alone the airline ticket to even attempt to travel here. 

I would also venture to suggest our Government is ‘future proofing’ against a South Africa as more and more people of all backgrounds may wish to depart.

It is, it has to be said, a sorry indictment on the ‘new’ South Africa. Corruption and fraud are undermining other Governments’ faith in the country’s Institutions and their integrity. 

I recall a conversation a few years ago with a senior official at the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA). When they decided they should start verifying the authenticity of South African Trade qualifications they found that one in three was false.  

South Africa now holds 1st equal status as the nationality with the highest risk profile for immigration fraud in New Zealand.

No longer are University degrees from once proud world class Universities there automatically recognised within our education system as being comparable to degrees conferred by New Zealand Universities. Any degree issued in 2010 or more recently now has to be assessed/verified by NZQA.

Although New Zealand employers haven’t caught up with this change in recognition this decision by the Immigration Department and NZQA to potentially ‘downgrade’ the status of many South African degrees is caused not just by fear of fraud but by well publicised declining education standards in the Republic. 

Requiring all South Africans to obtain Visitor Visas before travelling here will impose even more bureaucracy on our South African clients, but we do hope that those who are honest about their intentions of visiting here – to scout the place as a possible destination to settle, to check out schools for their children, to see feel first hand the cost of living, the cost of housing, renting, employability and even to apply for jobs is not going to be given as reasons to decline visitor visas as they are not ‘bona fide’ tourists. We routinely deal with this nonsense in many other markets (and I would add virtually always get the visa).

No one should read into this that the New Zealand Government is closing the doors to South Africans – I don’t see it like that at all. What I do know is that politicians and their public servants often end up ‘throwing babies out with bath water’ however and they need to be very careful they continue to allow the South Africans we (they?) do want to visit here in order to ensure the success of our Residence Visa programme.

There is no way the New Zealand Government does not want South African skills here and I will put my reputation on the line in saying so. Nobody should fear any sort of closing of the doors.


South African migrants are highly skilled, demonstrably employable, linguistically identical (or very close) and present a close cultural fit. No one else outside of Australia or the UK comes as close although Singaporeans and Malaysians might dispute that if they were to settle in or around Auckland given the increasingly Asian nature of this city.

The simple reality is to get those jobs the Government demands of skilled migrants in order to migrate here these people need to be here to apply for jobs. New Zealand employers overwhelmingly demand that so to close the door would be unthinkable and I strongly suspect not in the minds of the Ministers.

Having said that a lot of policy gets lost in translation and as it filters down to counter level immigration officers working thousands of kilometres away policy intentions and policy outcomes can become confused and twisted. 

With different policies seeking different outcomes – visitor visas to protect against non-genuine ‘visitors’ yet residence policy demanding jobs which requires migrants to visit New Zealand for starters can, for your average immigration official, cause all sorts of cerebral contortions and confusion. And given the reality is that most immigration officers exist in a somewhat paranoid world of risk assessments and belief that everyone will lie and cheat their way to ‘Paradise’, unintended policy consequences occur. 

'If in doubt, keep them out!' would appear to be the motto.

So for us life will get even more complicated and for South Africans wishing to visit here the scrutiny placed upon you will become even greater. 

We will be working extremely hard to ensure that the sorts of skilled migrants this country needs out of South Africa (and anywhere else that visas are required to travel here) will continue be strongly represented to ensure they have the maximum chance of becoming employees of New Zealand businesses.

And that those who wish to visit friends or family will not be prevented from doing so by the officials that work in the New Zealand Embassy in Pretoria.

Until next week


Iain MacLeod

Southern Man

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8 comments on this post
March 16, 2012, 11:47 a.m. by Graham

Iain, do you have any idea when this legislation will become law?

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March 16, 2012, 11:51 a.m. by Brett Cavan

All I can say to this hair brained idea is that I sincerely hope they do not go through with it. When the UK did this, South Africans simply stopped going there. We and many others switched our holidays to Ireland instead. Last year we had a great holiday in NZ and arranged for our family in Australia to meet us in NZ to avoid having to endure the extremely painful process of getting an Australian visa. Tourists will just stop coming and rather go somewhere that welcomes them.

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March 21, 2012, 10:30 a.m. by Iain MacLeod
Hair brained is what they do. And it is the one thing they do pretty darned well. Unfortunately however because of the very real fraud that is now rampant thanks to a corrupt Civil Service in SA you may well find soon you have few places to holiday outside of Africa as more and more countries adopt the same approach as the British, the Americans, Australians and ourselves. What we are hoping is that the Visa is treated a little like that I require when I go to the US – it is pretty quick and painless and is really just to see if my name comes up on any ‘alert’. That would be logical if as the Government says this is out of concern over false passports and terrorists. If however we end up having to file ‘full on’ visitor visas for every South Africa client wishing to visit friends and family, or whoa re coming to seek highly skilled jobs as part of our Government’s skilled migrant residence programme here then I am with you – it will cost us in terms of tourism at a time when I would have thought we’d take all the tourists we can get. I certainly don’t lie awake at night worried about terrorists and don’t know any New Zealanders that do. I am confident my opinion on the real reason is right and it has nothing to do with Bin Laden’s old buddies.
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March 16, 2012, 2:27 p.m. by Sockie

Hi Iain, I recently got myself qualified as a PR (after 2nd tier assessment) but my partner was declined so I'm forced to take her out of my application in order to proceed. Either that or we both get declined and appeal together. The first idea indicates that once i get to NZ as a PR, she could come over with a visitor visa, and live together to satisfy the 12 months requirement of staying together (this was the main reason they rejected our partnership claim!). My concern is how is this visitor visa going to help my partner get a job in NZ? Coz she can't possibly leave her job in Singapore and be doing nothing for the next 12 months in NZ just to satisfy this claim. What is your advise on this? Should i take the risk and not remove her from my application, and then wait for the decline as a whole to appeal together? By the way, she is not high in the list of most wanted SMC as she is in Logistics, so this is not helping. :(

Replies to this comment

March 20, 2012, 1:59 a.m. by Liza
Could you PLEASE let me know what happens with your situation and what you did if you come alright? As me and my partner might have the same problem when we want to go over.
March 21, 2012, 10:23 a.m. by Iain MacLeod
This is not uncommon at the current time . It’s one of INZ’s little policy interpretations that has changed recently but as usual different branches are interpreting things differently. I suspect you clearly failed to present sufficient evidence to satisfy INZ that you and your partner live together in a genuine and stable relationship that is exclusive and likely to endure (as all who are in relationships must). We also had a client recently who INZ ultimately said failed to satisfy the relationship requirement of SMC policy. They had been married for 21 year and had two teenage daughters but nonetheless the state functionaries decided the evidence was not good enough! What we did was to apply for an open work visa for the husband which was granted (somewhat strangely in my view as the evidence required to get that is exactly the same as that required for the residence case!) and he can fly over to NZ and join his wife. The work visa allows him to work anywhere he likes. Once they can prove cohabitation, exclusivity and financial interdependence then his residence visa will be issued. We got her and her daughters their residence visas already. So don’t withdraw your partner and don’t ask them to decline your Residence Visa – that would be crazy. You won’t win on appeal. I strongly suggest you email me privately –
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March 16, 2012, 7:14 p.m. by Geordie Simpson

Hello Ian, I would like to know when this visa requirement will become law. I have been planning to visit NZ in the near future, maybe I should make the move soon!

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March 21, 2012, 10:14 a.m. by Iain MacLeod
I cannot say as I do not know. Usually from cabinet briefing paper to policy implementation can be measured in months. However when this sort of thing is leaked it can mean Govt moves more quickly as they are often concerned that a small flood of applications might be made as a consequence of things getting tougher. Watch this space.
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March 22, 2012, 1:10 a.m. by Ziphora

I like to Pay a visit also to NZ.

Replies to this comment

July 28, 2013, 6:42 a.m. by Michal
when it will become the law
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Oct. 28, 2013, 11:57 p.m. by Lynda Jones

Hello Ian.

I am planning to emigrate to (South Island?)and would be one of those jump in both feet first, make the best of it and stick with it types.

I am 52, and my son will be getting a proper plumber's qualification at Westlake in Cape Town, which is the only college in the country that still upholds its international qualification, as far as I know.

I have been SELF EMPLOYED for the past 16 years and want to apply for an entrepreneur's visa- i.e. I won't be looking for a job, I'll be making my own (and I'm very good at what I do)and will also provide contract work for other people.

I do transcription (typing up interviews, etc.), translation, proofreading and editing.

My 'job' was portable from Durban to Cape, and I'm hoping it will be as portable from Cape to NZ. Obviously I'd hang on to my existing clients' work until I acquired new clients in NZ.

I would want to buy a house or property in a more rural area as I only have around $45k to buy with, and am also interested in areas with relaxed or no building codes because I'd want to build an eco-friendly house from natural materials, probably all masonry building- no difference in the look of the end result.

Any advice you could give me on areas to look at re: buying house/land would be welcome, North or South island.

Mixed-race areas with tolerance for people as people would be the best choice.

Kind regards,


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Nov. 2, 2013, 1:12 a.m. by Dalene

We have visited NZ twice now and loved it! if they impose the visitors visa it does hold one back as it wil extra cost which is such a pitty. As you said the regular man in the street saves up for the holiday and that extra cost is the deal braker. Lets hope they dont make the cost of the visa unaffordable so that people can still go over and visit NZ. It is an awesome place!!

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Nov. 5, 2013, 9:34 p.m. by Patrick

I am doing a school assessment and would like the answer to this question. South African passport holders are not required to obtain a visa for entry into New Zealand. However they are still required to provide what two things?

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