The Republic of Ireland has suspended visa-free short-stay travel from South Africa and now requires South African passport holders to apply for a visa or transit visa, regardless of where they reside or the reason for their travel to Ireland.
The Irish Embassy said visas would only be granted for a limited set of priority and emergency cases at present. Applications for non-priority and non-emergency applications for long-stay visas and preclearance applications will continue to be accepted but a decision on these will not be issued until at least March 5. This date may be extended depending on the restrictions in place in Ireland at that time.
South African passport holders who are normally resident in Ireland and hold a valid Irish Residence Permit (IRP) and a valid passport are deemed to meet this visa requirement and do not require an additional visa, but will need to comply with the COVID-19 rules, including those relating to non-essential travel, PCR tests and quarantine. All other South African passport holders, including those who hold work permits but do not yet have a valid IRP, will need to apply for a visa or transit visa, according to the embassy.
“If you must travel to Ireland for a genuine humanitarian emergency, you need to contact the Irish Embassy in Pretoria on 012 452 1000 and fill out a COVID-19 Passenger Locator Form online on https://gov.ie/locatorform,” it added.
All passengers entering Ireland are also required to have a negative result from a pre-departure COVID-19 PCR test carried out no more than 72 hours prior to arrival. And if their journey started in South Africa, they will be required to quarantine in an officially designated quarantine facility on arrival.
Head of Consular for the Irish Embassy in Pretoria, Paul Evans, told Travel News that the visa requirement had been implemented to discourage people from travelling to Ireland. He confirmed that Ireland was in full lockdown until March 5 and that no short-stay visas would be issued unless they were for genuine emergencies. He explained that the ruling was intended to be a temporary measure and that it would be reviewed before March 5.
Paul said he understood that there would be no costs involved in issuing the visa but that the embassy in Pretoria was awaiting instruction from Ireland relating to which categories of emergencies would be granted visas and what the application requirements would be.
Ceo of Asata, Otto de Vries, said while he understood that the measure was intended to be temporary, travel restrictions in any form were not good for the industry.
“My real concern is that the visa requirement has been motivated to protect against the SA coronavirus strain and every time another country introduces restrictions against us for this reason it puts South Africa front and centre as a high-risk market and has a knock-on effect on how other countries perceive us.
“It is still a nightmare to plan and book international travel due to the fluidity of regulations and the only way that travel can fully restart is for global communities to implement simple, standardised regulations. If countries implement a requirement for a negative PCR test to be taken before departure and on arrival this will allow markets to open up globally and for those who are negative to travel freely,” said Otto.