General News of Friday, 4 December 2015
South Africa High Commission says Ghana’s Foreign Affairs Ministry failed to respond to a 2014 memo indicating that no Ghanaian resident would be granted a visa without a biometric passport.
Officials at the Commission told Joy FM’s Francis Abban on Thursday, the Ministry and the Ghana Immigration Service were informed in September 2014 that the new regulation would take effect in November 2015.
But the Foreign Affairs Ministry was silent over the memo for over a year, officials said.
It was until the decision began to bite that the Foreign Ministry called the South African High Commission to ask why it is not accepting non-biometric passports.
The decision of the South African High Commission is reportedly causing a stir at its Visa Section as expectant applicants seethe with frustration.
A Ghanaian businessman, Kwame, explained he was disappointed after he was told his passport was no longer acceptable. He told Joy News, he had American Visas and other visas from European countries and could not appreciate why it was no longer good enough for the South African authorities.
He was told last Sunday over the phone to “go and get a valid passport and come back for the visa”.
He was surprised that the High Commission failed to notify him of the new regulation and yet collected visa application fees.
But an official at the Commission directed him to a notice on its website.
“The South Africa High Commission wish to inform all visa applicants that effective 24 November 2015 applicants using machine readable passports and handwritten passport MUST acquire Biometric Passports before visas will be granted”.
“Therefore applicants are advised to acquire Biometric Passports before attending the submission center for submission”.
Kwame says he has had to cancel a business meeting in South Africa as he now anticipates a stressful process of acquiring a biometric passport.
The decision by the South African authorities contradicts the position of the government of Ghana that non-biometric passports are as valid as biometric passports.
Government had moved to calm passport applicants who were growing increasingly frustrated with the slow and bureaucratic process of acquiring biometric passports.