At least 49% of South African travellers prefer overseas destinations with no visa requirements because of the financial burdens and time constraints that come with attaining visas, a study by online booking site Travelstart has found.
“Visas remain a necessary evil, and the knowledge that most travellers’ globetrotting ambitions are at the discretion of an anonymous authority does nothing to ease pre-departure anxiety,” Russell Jarvis, on behalf of Travelstart, said in a statement.
“The financial and time costs of travel visas are increasingly onerous for South African passport holders. Tricky documentation requirements, distant visa application centres and drawn-out turnaround times only add to the headache of navigating a visa submission.”
The study was carried out between April and July this year and 900 South African travellers participated. Only 4% of them admitted to being refused a visa, and most refusals came from the UK, US and the Schengen region. Another 22% had to postpone travel due to visa application complications, and 10% cancelled entire trips as a result.
Some of the main barriers for obtaining visas included costs, excessive documentation requirements and vague application guidelines. These ranked higher than the lengthy application process, lack of visa payment options and far distances to travel to the nearest visa office.
“There is no straight answer in terms of the availability of visa appointments, and in most cases the speed in which a decision is reached remains out of the applicant’s hands. While some authorities take less than one week to process a visa, others can take more than six weeks,” said Jarvis.
How quickly a visa is granted depends on whether there is a backlog of applications at embassies.
“Some local travel agents report waiting up to six months to secure an appointment at the consulate general of the United States,” he said.
The study revealed that 31% of participants received a response about their visas within two weeks of applying, and 28% were responded to in less than one week. UK and Schengen visa turnarounds were found to be inconsistent, with an estimated turnaround time of between two and four weeks.
Jarvis said while authorities were not obliged to give reasons for vetoing a visa, primary motives for denial varied from failing to provide sufficient reasons for the purpose of a visit to inadequate proof of funds, unfavourable visa histories and lack of a travel itinerary. Additional reasons include past and current criminal convictions, damaged passports and inadequate travel insurance.
Jarvis said despite the inconvenience of visas, South Africans were willing globetrotters and fared well in terms of satisfying visa requirements.
“On the plus side, most South Africans complete visa applications without a hitch. Those who refuse to submit to the fuss should not be put off from seeing the world,” he said.