Busting Nigeria: Foreigners working for South African companies need to produce a residence or work permit valid for at least six months, she adds.

Cape Town - South African business travellers beware: countries on the continent are tightening their requirements for business visas.

African countries are now often requiring not only a letter of invitation and an itinerary, but also proof of company registration, bank account statements, tax-clearance certificates and a minimum bank balance.

“Contrary to popular belief, countries are getting stricter in terms of their requirements. Two, three years ago you could get away with the minimum. Now they are really strict,” says Raylene Pienaar, general manager of Corporate Traveller, one of South Africa’s top travel management companies.

Pienaar says while South Africans do not require business visas for many countries – and especially those within the South African Development Community – those requiring permits are becoming more demanding.

Apart from a written invitation from a local company, South African passport holders also need to provide a letter from their company in South Africa, a certificate of incorporation and three months’ bank statements, reflecting a balance of at least R18 000.

“They’re also very particular about the documentation. So, for example, to visit Nigeria, Angola and Ghana, you cannot just have any letter of invitation. It needs to be very specific. The addressee is specific and the name on the invitation has to be exactly the same as what’s in the traveller’s passport. For example, if your name is William but everybody calls you Bill, the invitation has to be addressed to William,” says Pienaar.

Some countries also require all documents to be translated into the local language, while still others require a tax-clearance certificate in addition to the other paperwork. Foreigners working for South African companies need to produce a residence or work permit valid for at least six months, she adds.

“If there's not a six-month validity period, they will not consider the application,” Pienaar says, noting that South African passport holders also have to ensure their passports are valid for at least six months.

She urges business travellers to make sure they are acquainted with whether they require visas, as well as with the documents needed, as it be can be arduous and expensive to get an emergency visa (if the option exists).

“Business travellers need to start thinking about getting their visas as soon as they start planning their trip,” says Pienaar. “They can no longer afford to wait until the last minute. Forewarned is forearmed when it comes to securing a business visa.”

Adapted from a press release for IOL