UPDATE ON IMMIGRATION MATTERS
28 June 2013
· HR / corporate representative: kindly forward to staff & management within your operation
· This newsletter also appears in the news section of our website www.imcosa.com
· Deutsche Version im Newsbereich unter http://www.imcosa.co.za/de ab Montag, 01. Juli 2013
Dear Clients, Friends and Partners,
Mid-year 2013. Whilst your mind is probably on your latest project at work, on how to keep the kids busy during the holidays, Madiba's health, Obama's visit, the volatile Rand or where to get the next hot cup of coffee or soup, there is still the wonderful, challenging and exciting world of immigration which we just cannot let you miss out on. So, sit back and breathe and enjoy as best you can.....
Home Affairs Update
(I would love to start this section with something positive, but it is what it is.....)
If you or any of your staff are currently waiting for the outcome of a local application you will have been informed that the Department of Home Affairs' so-called "Track & Trace" (T&T) system has been offline for the past 3 weeks. This has meant that there was no possibility of receiving updates on the status of any temporary or permanent residence applications, and even if permits had in all likelihood already physically arrived in the office of application, they could not be issued to the applicants. This has been a frustrating time for all those who are urgently waiting for outcomes of their processes.
The reason for the system having gone offline is that Home Affairs is in the process of installing a new (and supposedly upgraded) monitoring system. Officials have been receiving the first training on the system and it is said to be considerably more complicated than the previous version. We therefore suspect that it may take some time until all officials are trained up sufficiently for things to run reasonably smoothly again. Looking at the absolute chaos that erupted in 2010 when the T&T was first introduced, it is probably wise to expect further delays, errors and problems.
Adding to the above, the Johannesburg regional office of Home Affairs is currently being upgraded and new technology being installed (presumably for biometric i.e. fingerprint identification, which is to be introduced for ID applications). Over the coming months, sections within that office will be moved around within the building while one floor at a time will be closed and renovated. Although this particular office is at the moment tightly and well managed, we expect the building activities there to cause further delays and possibly some loss or temporary inaccessibility of documents.
The requests for waivers continue to be a massive headache, as they are still taking 6-9 months – with the odd much-welcomed exception.
Processing times for temporary residence applications have remained fairly consistent in their mediocrity at an average of 4-12 weeks (I suppose this is fairly positive news). After a short period of relief in the permanent residence arena with quite a number of results having come out, we are now seeing a slowing down again – certainly made worse by the T&T problems mentioned above.
ID applications have been slow, and we are told that books will start arriving and being handed out from July.
The quality of decision-making and permit issuing continues to be poor and we are seeing a fair number of incorrect decisions and erroneous permits being issued. Rectification requests are still processed incredibly slowly.
In our last newsletter we reported that the Johannesburg regional office of Home Affairs had introduced a new rule that disallowed the acceptance of any applications where the applicant's current permit was valid for less than 30 days. Due to pressure received from Immigration Practitioners, this rule has been retracted (note: positive news) and "good cause" for late applications is now being considered. Problems are still experienced due to the unusually strict and inconsistent interpretation of the term "good cause".
Some offices in Gauteng have introduced the requirement of personal appearance of the applicant and his/her South African spouse or life partner when submitting applications for "spousal" permits. There is usually an interview and fingerprints of both parties to the relationship are taken. The objective behind this change in processappears to be curbing fraudulent applications where marriage or life partnership is concerned.
The general feeling in immigration circles is that there is some movement regarding the change in legislation (ie. finalization of Immigration Regulations and implementation of the Immigration Amendment Act of 2010), and some officials go as far as stating time frames of a few months. Although the draft Regulations seem far from agreed-upon or finalized, there is clearly a sense of urgency in some parts of the Department. Due to the general elections not being too far away, the amendments will likely either be implemented quite soon, or not until after the elections in or around April 2014.
The Minister of Home Affairs, Naledi Pandor, has recently announced the cessation of refugee status for Angolan and Rwandan citizens in South Africa. Accordingly, all Angolan refugees are to return home (or apply for the appropriate permit for their activity) by the end of August, and all Rwandans by the end of July as these countries have been declared safe zones by the UNHCR. Note: This information is relevant to you if there are Angolan or Rwandan asylum seekers or refugees working in your organisation. Urgent action is required to avoid them from becoming illegal in the country, which would bear significant risk for the employer.
Due to the UK government in 2008 having imposed visa restrictions for short-term visits to the UK by South African nationals and not moving in the direction of easing these restrictions, our Home Affairs minister Naledi Pandor has announced that the visa exemption currently in place for UK citizens coming to South Africa will be scrutinised.
Many of the new forms required in terms of the amended Citizenship Act are still not available at regional offices, which situation makes it difficult to prepare and lodge certain applications.
During the first quarter of this year, Home Affairs wentthrough a tender process relating to outsourced front office services to be delivered at regional centres inside the country. The functions of collection and quality assurance of as well as advice regarding permit applications, and the handing out of results and the running of a callcentre are to be outsourced. The successful bidder will be able to charge market related fees for the handling of applications, although this is an inherently public service and should not incur costs other than minimal administration fees as usually charged by government departments. There is no legislation in place allowing for the outsourcing of this kind of public service. The tender, which had been kept well under wraps, is highly problematic in a number of ways and is expected to be challenged.
Legal Action against the Department
Communication with senior officials of the Department has improved in some areas, but there has still not been a meeting with the Minister of Home Affairs or any of the top officials in Pretoria.
The legal opinion on some of the issues that have been problematic (amongst others, the possibility to change status whilst in the country) was obtained and pressure applied on Home Affairs led to the unlawful directive being withdrawn. IMCOSA, via the Forum of Immigration Practitioners South Africa (FIPSA), is in the process of obtaining further legal opinions on problematic issues, such as the tender for outsourced services and portions of the Immigration Amendment Act still to be implemented.
We are saying good-bye to Denisha Chetty and Christine Matsvai. We thank them for their dedication and hard work during their time with IMCOSA, and we wish them all the very best for their future endeavours.
As we continue to drive our business to greater performance and efficiencies, we are delighted to welcome into the IMCOSA Gauteng team Venessa Beilling and Jessica Demeyere. Venessa comes from the banking sector and has taken to immigration like a fish to water, and Jessica has strengthened the team with her over 7 years of experience in the industry. Venessa and Jessica and the Gauteng team look forward to managing many more successful cases and to satisfying all their clients' needs.
From a permit / immigration perspective quite a bit of uncertainty remains, and there are areas that may become turbulent in the next while, but as per usual our team is working at its maximum every day to ease the effect of these developments on our clients and to make each and every process as pain-free and predictable as possible. Our Home Affairs "warriors" are on the phone, sending emails and going into the various regional offices every day to stay on top of developments, to put well-measured pressure on the system and to administer the most efficient routes and opportunities. We maintain our relations with those officials who are doing their utmost to deliver good service, and we take the appropriate steps regarding those who don't. And most importantly, we keep you, our client, informed and educated throughout the duration of the process.
Wishing you all the best for the second half of the year, with very warm wishes
Julia Willand and the IMCOSA Team
IMCOSA Immigration & Consulting South Africa
Western Cape (021) 462 3184 l Gauteng (011) 326 5131 l www.imcosa.co.za
IMCOSA - Immigration Consultants South Africa - Visa Services, Immigration Agents