Members of parliament pass immigration bill

News24.com

Mar 22 2011 12:47

Cape Town - The immigration amendment bill was approved in the National Assembly on Tuesday after a division called by the Democratic Alliance, one of several opposition parties opposed to the measure.

Introducing debate on the bill, Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said the government understood the value of immigration and acknowledged its immense contribution to the development of the economy and wealth creation.

"In fact our nation owes its diversity to the different waves of immigration that have swept through the country, although not always for good reason," she said.

But immigration policy had to be in line with national priorities, most notably job creation.

The bill would, among other things, facilitate the recruitment of critical skills through the introduction of a critical skills visa.

Requirements for student visas had been simplified, and the visa regime and permitting for business and investors had also been simplified.

However, it was also necessary for checks and balances to be put into place to stop the spread of organised crime, trafficking in persons and corruption.

"We must discourage the open abuses of our immigration policy.

"For too long now abuses of the country's immigration policy in its current form has compromised our national security in addition to tarnishing our international reputation," Dlamini-Zuma said.

The legislation sought to ensure the system could no longer be abused while discouraging corruption.

The department wanted foreign nationals to apply in person for permits and not through the proxy of immigration practitioners, who were free to continue dispensing advice services.

"We will no longer be issuing permits and other documents to faceless applicants," she said.

"We want to see them in our offices and know who we are giving the permit to. But of course, as far as the business side is concerned, it is neither our mandate (n)or intention to interfere there."

Foreigners issued with visitor's or medical treatment visas would not be able to change their visa status while in South Africa.

Most of these who arrived on visitor's visas did not create any problems.

"They come, they enjoy South Africa and they go (home). But there is a critical mass who do create problems for us.

"They come on a visitor's visa; the next thing they are now on a spousal visa; the next thing they are on a relative's visa, and they never want to go home."

In future, if they wanted to change their status, they would have to go back home and apply for their new status from there, Dlamini-Zuma said.

The bill now goes to the National Council of Provinces for concurrence.