Internal - VAT Increase to 15%

In line with amended tax legislation, IMCOSA has implemented the increase of Value Added Tax or VAT by 1% and is charging 15% VAT on any invoices issued after 1 April 2018.

Is VFS here to stay?

In 2014, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) - not without controversy - engaged a private service provider to take over its front office services.

VFS (Visa Facilitation Service) was contracted and have brought nicer facilities and environments for the public, a vastly more efficient submission and collection system, but also hefty additional costs to applicants and its own challenges such as technology, alignment with Home Affairs policies etc.

The contract with VFS is said to run out at the end of 2018, and there are rumours of it not being extended. In contradiction to that, Minister Gigaba has recently praised the relationship with VFS and the results this has achieved. It is therefore uncertain what may happen come December 2018, but certainly wise to expect some disruptions and plan to make any applications well before that time, or well after.

Home Affairs’ “Repositioning” Plans, E-Visas, Unabridged Birth Certificates

The Department is working on the next phase after the publication of its “White Paper” on the repositioning of the DHA, which in the form of draft legislation, which is said to be published for public comment around March 2019. We will report on the proposed changes then.

Roundabout the same time, Home Affairs plans to pilot a brand-new e-visa system, which will allow for electronic submission of applications (including the supporting documentation!), email notification of applicants regarding the outcome of their applications, and a QR-Code system for issuing visa and permits to reduce fraud and abuse. Applicants will still have to present themselves in person to have their biometric data and supporting documentation verified. As it sounds, all applications will be adjudicated centrally in Pretoria, including those for temporary visa submitted abroad, which are currently adjudicated at the various missions.

If this new system is set up and implemented well, then it can bring about a number of positive changes, such as reduce cases of lost or improperly scanned parts of applications, reduce inconsistencies in the application of the law, reduce the number of fraudulent visa and permits, reduce cases where visa or permits are not/incorrectly loaded onto the Home Affairs system (leading to bona fide foreigners being held and interrogated at the airport, even prevented from returning to their homes and families here), reduce visa processing times, promote tourism from countries whose citizens are not visa exempt.

Judging from past change projects initiated by the Department of Home Affairs, the reality may not look much like this wish list, but for now we can hope!

Lastly, there are indications that the contentious requirement to present “unabridged” birth certificates when traveling with minors, is being reviewed.

Paid a Deposit to Home Affairs before 2014? Expect challenges when trying to get your money back

Before May 2014, foreigners being issued with temporary residence permits (now called “visa”) had to pay a so-called “repatriation guarantee” or deposit to cover the costs of a flight to their home country in case they would be deported.

Persons whose employers took responsibility for any such costs arising were exempted. Home Affairs collected vast amounts of money through this process, a minute portion of which, of course, was required to actually deport persons.

Since 2014, Home Affairs has been working on clearing these funds and encouraging people to claim their deposits back. However, the pay-back procedure seems to have hit some difficulties, and effectively, repatriation fees have no longer been paid out for some time now. Applications are still accepted, but in the words of one official, “the chances of getting your money are zero”.

There are calls for court action against the Department, and if these are actioned, we will inform those of our clients who we know are affected.

Successful Complaints to the Public Protector - SA Citizenship by Naturalisation

UPDATE: According to information received from some Home Affairs office, the 5-year residence requirement is now being applied and applications are being accepted on that basis.

If you have lived in South Africa with permanent residence for 5 years and are interested to take up citizenship, please contact our consultants for assistance.

Since the changes to the Citizenship Act of December 2012, there has been uncertainty about how long a person has to have been a permanent resident of South Africa in order to qualify for citizenship by naturalisation.

The Act is very clear in stating the requirements as being a) permanent residence, and b) ordinary residence of at least 5 years immediately prior to application. In direct contradiction to this, the Regulations to the Citizenship Act say that the “period of ordinary residence” referred to in the Act has to be 10 years. It is a basic principle in law that Regulations to an Act of law may not contradict that Act. If this does happen, they are what one calls “ultra vires” (i.e. beyond their powers) and must therefore be declared to be invalid. In line with this, an internal Home Affairs circular dated December 2012 explains that the period of ordinary residence is, in fact, 5 years.

However, Home Affairs has been applying a requirement of at least 10 years of permanent residence (i.e. ordinary residence after receipt of permanent residence permit) since about 2013. According to our interpretation of the law (and accordingly, our advice to our clients), this is unlawful. A number of affected parties laid complaints with the Public Protector, Busiziwe Mkhwebane, who issued a report at the end of February, in which she declared the rejection of applications for citizenship based on a 10-year requirement unlawful and gave the Department of Home Affairs 3 months to rectify its Regulations accordingly. She ordered the Director-General to apologize to affected applicants and to review the complainants’ applications. Lastly, she ordered the Director-General to come up with standards for turn-around times for these types of applications. According to reports, Home Affairs is still deliberating the report and has put pending applications on hold for the moment.

It may be worth waiting a few more months to see how Home Affairs implements the recommendations, but it seems that chances of getting citizenship for those who have been permanent residents in South Africa for more than five, but less than 10 years, have just gone up. Please contact our consultants for further information and advice on your specific situation.