South Africa's Department of Home Affairs is to issue special "event visas" for soccer fans coming to the 2009 Fifa Confederations Cup and 2010 Fifa World Cup, enabling fans to use dedicated counters at major airports around the world for pre-clearance before they arrive in the country.
South African immigration officials - who are able to speak in several languages - will be stationed at several of the busiest airports around the world, including in the UK, India, Dubai and Hong Kong, where fans will be able to go through a free pre-screening and pre-clearance process.
Speaking in Johannesburg this week, Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said this would be the first time that such a visa is used by a country hosting a major world event.
The immigration officials will also be equipped with hi-tech devices for scanning passports or travel documents. By electronically capturing information from the documents, officials will save time by not having to type in information.
With such improvements, the department hopes to do better than the international best practice times of interaction between the traveller and immigration official, which is between one minute and one minute and 30 seconds.
The department says its immigration officials will be working with foreign governments and airline personnel to identify irregular migration patterns during the course of the event, as well as ensure that "undesirable persons", who may be a threat national security, do not enter the country.
Home Affairs' 2010 programme manager Morne Fourie explained that certain minimum requirements had to be met when issuing a special visa: "You need proof of purchase of your ticket for the match, you need to meet certain health requirements - like holding a yellow fever certificate, if required - and you need to have a return ticket and a valid passport."
Quick entry, exit
Those passengers who have received pre-clearance by South African immigration officials will be able to arrive in South Africa and go straight through to baggage collection and on to customs.
Mapisa-Nqakula said that the move would enhance the department's ability to facilitate the entry and exit process through the country's borders, resulting in a less frustrating journey, leading to a positive impression of the country as a whole.
She added that the visas had been finalised, and that the 2009 Confederations Cup would provide a good test of the new system.