Positive signals from and for investors

The first South Africa Investment Conference took place in Johannesburg in October, was attended by 1 300 business leaders and civil society, and resulted in nearly R290-billion investment commitments by various multinational companies.

The Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom commented from the conference, saying that investors now had the “appetite to invest” in South Africa again because government was starting to do the right things (including changing the visa rules).

“A new dawn” were the words used by German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier during his visit to South Africa in November. Being the first German Federal President to visit South Africa in 20 years and pointing out that the last visit was to President Mandela, Steinmeier was describing the feeling of fresh opportunities for cooperation between the countries under its current leadership. This sentiment seems to be in line with German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s recent announcements of tax incentives for SMEs in Germany and Africa to invest in Africa.

More international and global recognition came in the form of South Africa winning the UNCTAD award winning the UNCTAD award for boosting investment sectors that help meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and being named the Global Destination of the Year at the 2018 Global Sourcing Association Awards ceremony ceremony. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) honours investment promotion agencies and their governments for their achievements, but also showcases best practices in attracting investment into SDG-related projects.

Update from Home Affairs

The recently issued Home Affairs Annual Report for 2017/2018 contains some interesting pieces, which I have summarized below.

Green bar-coded ID books will be phased out over 7 years, ending 2025.

E-visa facilities and processes are being developed to be available for all application categories. As confirmed by a senior Home Affairs official, all applications will be made online in the future, and decisions on them will be taken centrally in Pretoria. If this is done well, it will eliminate the challenges currently experienced at SA missions abroad around inconsistent decision-making, errors due to lack of training, the need for personal presentation, queues and poor treatment by mission staff. The various elements of the Home Affairs systems will be linked to allow for press-of-the-button complete access to a person’s movements and applications, reducing room for errors, but also making it substantially more difficult to hide from the authorities.

By switching from manual to electronic adjudication, Home Affairs was able to improve its processing times. The report claims that the Department met all its targets of the 2017/2018 financial year:

  • 97% of permanent residence applications finalized within 8 months (they then surreptitiously list “critical skills, general work and business” in brackets, and thus exclude from this statistic those categories still taking 2-3 years to be processed, being spouses, retirees, financially independent persons etc.),
  • 98% business and general work visas finalized within 8 weeks
  • 89% critical skills work visas finalized within 4 weeks
    The above shows the clear focus on the critical skills, work and business categories, which manifests in the processing times experienced in practice.

Multi-entry long-term visitor’s visas are successfully being used by frequent travelers, such as the 10-year visa for business travelers and academics from Africa, and the 10-year visa for business executives from BRICS countries.

Appeals – due to the high number of erroneous rejections, the functioning of the appeals unit is critically important. According to the report, capacity has been created to improve delivery during the 2018/2019 year. With waiting times going onto a year for visas, and onto 3 years for permanent residence, we are still waiting to see a positive effect on the ground.

Young and financially independent? Apply now

Under current immigration law, any person with the minimum passive income for the required period of time, can apply for a retired person’s visa and for permanent residence as a retiree, irrespective of their age.

Some South African missions abroad (Switzerland comes to mind) have been refusing applications by persons below the age of 65, without even the slightest legal basis for it and simply because they refuse to believe that a 40-year old can live off his or her inheritance or earnings from a lucky business deal, and not work here. This “policy” may soon become law, as according to a senior Home Affairs official, a minimum age will be introduced to the Immigration Act in the future, at least in the context of permanent residence.

So, if you are younger than 65 and thinking to live in South Africa on income derived from your assets, consider starting the process soon.

Similarly, those applying for permanent residence as independent investors, may in future have to invest their assets of R 12 million in the country, whereas they can currently leave them wherever in the world they are.

Our consultants will gladly advise you on your options and applicable deadlines.

Asylum seekers and refugees still waiting to apply locally

Home Affairs is taking its good time to implement the recent Constitutional Court judgment, in terms of which persons holding asylum seeker permits, awaiting outcomes on their appeals to rejected applications for refugee status, or who are recognized refugees, may apply for any category of permanent residence from within the country if they meet the criteria, as well as for temporary residence visa if they first obtain a so-called waiver.

Thus far, applications of this kind have not been accepted by the responsible VFS centres, and applicants are advised that instructions from Home Affairs are being awaited.

Keep visiting our newsbox for updates!

Travel rules – Amendments to Regulations provide some, but not enough clarity

On 29 November, draft Amendments to the Immigration Regulations were published, which seem to have come into force and effect a mere 2 days later, on 1 December.

The draft contains changes to the travel rules for minors, which confirm the previous statements, but do not provide the much-needed further clarity.

They provide that:

  1. A passport that contains the parents’ details (as new South African passports do, for instance) replaces the (unabridged) birth certificate, ie. when traveling with such a passport, there is no need to carry a birth certificate.
  2. South African minors still need to provide all the documents required up until now.
  3. Non-South African children who are not visa exempt, i.e. have had to apply for a visa prior to arrival in South Africa, do not need to provide any further documents as they have already been presented together with the visa application.
  4. Children traveling with one parent only or with an adult who is not a parent, MAY be asked to produce the documents previously required. There is a strong recommendation to carry those documents. AND, if such documents cannot be presented within 24 hours of being requested, the persons may be refused entry or departure. This wording suggests that travelers in this situation who are unable to obtain the needed documents on the spot, might be held at the airport or border post for up to 24 hours. Clearly, traveling without the extensive documentation in this scenario seems to be a risky affair, and we would advise against it.
  5. Minors traveling without an adult need to present all the required documents.
  6. NB: The scenario of non-South African minors from visa-exempt countries (i.e. those who receive tourist visas on arrival) traveling with both parents is not listed in the draft. This suggests that these families do NOT have to produce the documents previously required. If this is indeed the intention and implemented as such, it will provide SOME relief to many families visiting South Africa.

Because the above could not yet be tested in practice, and because the changes will likely not be implemented consistently during the transition phase, our advice to be safe and carry the extensive documentation for the time being, stands. Therefore, and until further notice (please visit our newsbox regularly or follow us on LinkedIn), please continue to take along all the document required since 2015.