Cape Town - The South African and Russian governments have introduced visa-free travel for their citizens as part of the marking of the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the countries.

A new process has been implemented between the government of the Russian Federation and South Africa on a mutual waiver of visas, making the process easier for travellers.

Russia will host the 2018 Fifa World Cup.

Consul General of Russia in Cape Town, Roman Ambarov, said a lot of work and preparations by the relevant governmental bodies of the two countries preceded the move.

“In a diplomatic note Russia formally proposed to South Africa visa-free travel for holders of valid passports who have no intention of working, studying or living in the other country’s territory.

"Together with the response note from the South African party stating the acceptance of this proposal, the notes constitute the intergovernmental protocol on mutual waiver of visa requirements,” said Ambarov.

He said citizens from either country could enter, stay, transit and leave the other country’s territory without a visa for a duration of up to 90 days, to be implemented today.

“South Africa is our close and long-standing friend, as well as a good partner in Brics, and naturally we are happy to step up bilateral co-operation.

"Introducing visa-free travel is an important milestone for our relations, and will certainly contribute to an increase in tourist flow and strengthen business and cultural ties between our two countries,” said Ambarov.

He said the waiver would allow travellers to experience the hospitality of each country with more ease, which included the World Cup.

Home Affairs spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete said: "Minister Malusi Gigaba approved the visa exemption as he believes it will promote movement of travellers for tourism, trade, business, exchange programmes and other benefits between the two countriesThis will strengthen relations.”

He said the department had already introduced stricter measures to safeguard its national Population Register and its passport processes.

Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Janine Myburgh said: “While it will be easier for South Africans to attend the World Cup next year, trade opportunities are limited.

"The new visa regulations would also make it easier for more Russians to visit South Africa, something that is likely to occur if the controversial nuclear deal with Russia goes ahead.”

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Cape Times