UPDATE ON IMMIGRATION MATTERS, YEAR-END
20 December 2013
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Dear Clients, Friends and Partners,
We are closing this eventful year in mourning over the passing of our and the nation's father, uTata Madiba. I cannot imagine that there is anyone who has not been touched by Nelson Mandela's life and death. Personally, the last two weeks have brought up an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the forgiveness and generosity that I and all white people of and in South Africa, have been, and continue to be, afforded by black South Africans (the word "black" meaning to include all the various shades). Let us continue Mandela's legacy in full awareness of this, and of the long road that still lies ahead in terms of race relations in South Africa. Ulale ngoxolo tata.
Looking at the year 2013 from an immigration perspective, it has been a mixed bag. Application processing backlogs built up and were reduced during the year, relations between Immigration Practitioners and the Department of Home Affairs saw slightly more tense and also very amicable times, but on the whole the year ended on a much more positive note than it started and we are looking to 2014 with some optimism and hope for improved service and working conditions.
Home Affairs Update
We reported in our last newsletter that the Minister of Home Affairs Naledi Pandor had initiated a backlog project in order to clear the backlog in the processing of permanent residence applications. She had committed to ensuring that over 20 000 files were processed by the end of the year. Her Head of Permitting confirmed on 29 November that this had been achieved.
Although a number of results have been received by our office during the past months, there are large numbers outstanding, and we are told that this is due to a bottleneck now existing in the Department's division responsible for the issuing and dispatching of permits. Our most recent experience is that it can take up to 2 months from adjudication for results to reach the office of application (both temporary and permanent residence).
The processing times for temporary residence applications lodged within South Africa is still standing at 8-12 weeks instead of the target 4-6 weeks. The function of the Department's IT system that sends out reference numbers is not yet restored, which makes following up on applications more difficult. However, to accommodate Immigration Practitioners who are members of the Forum of Immigration Practitioners of South Africa (FIPSA), the Department of Home Affairs has requested and accepted from FIPSA members copies of long outstanding applications, and will report back on these on a weekly basis. The effectiveness of this new process is still to be proven.
With a view to combatting corruption, officials tasked with the permanent residence backlog were instructed to no longer contact applicants or their representatives in relation to pending applications, to clarify questions, obtain copies of documents that had gone missing in the system or similar. Although the rationale behind this policy is understandable, it may result in more faulty decisions and in unjustified rejections of applications. This is expected to lead to a rise in appeals or reviews and places an additional burden on the system, and for the affected client it means an additional minimum of 4 weeks until a positive result is received. As a consolation, the Department has vowed to deal with appeals and reviews as a matter or urgency.
Good news on the citizenship side is the improved processing time for the determination of citizenship, which is currently about 3 months.
New Immigration Laws
During the past three months I have on three different occasions had the opportunity to speak to and hear the Minister of Home Affairs speak. I would like to be able to say that I have come out of these meetings with clarity on the Minister's stance on immigration policy and the still-to-be-implemented Immigration Amendment Act of 2011. In truth, I am left rather confused regarding a number of key issues, although some exceptionally positive shifts have been made regarding the Department's relationship with and recognition of Immigration Practitioners. The points that seem to be clear on the side of the Minister and, subsequently, her Department, are:
* Immigration Practitioners are important and valued partners to the Department of Home Affairs, both in service delivery to the public and in fighting corruption
* Immigration Practitioners will continue to be allowed to practice much in the same way as they have up until now
* the Immigration Amendment Act is almost certain to be implemented as is, and the target date for implementation is before next year's general elections
* The Minister has commissioned the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) to do a study on immigration policy, covering national laws, policies and procedures and including regional and international comparisons. The study is to be concluded by March 2014 and therefore not expected to go very deep, but is a very positive start.
A number of labour laws are being amended at the moment, and one of them (the Employment Services Act) is expected to add complexity to the process of employing foreigners. It is possible that all positions to be filled by foreigners will need to be advertised and a thorough check for local candidates will need to be done, even if in a particular case this is not required by the immigration laws. The details are still to be confirmed.
Should you, your organisation or anyone else you know require relocation services in the Western Cape or Gauteng areas, such as home finding, school finding, orientation tours, assistance with Telkom applications, bank account opening, licenses etc., please contact your IMCOSA consultant. IMCOSA has recently entered into a partnership with boutique relocation service providers who will be able to fullfill all needs and expectations in these areas.
IMCOSA Corporate Social Investment, year-end Greetings
For the last five years, IMCOSA has been supporting a youth development organisation called Educo Africa (registered NPO). For the past 18 months I have been serving as chairperson of its board of trustees. Educo addresses a number of South Africa's most pressing challenges by helping young people from disadvantaged communities to A) become aware of who they are, of their own autonomy and ability to make conscious choices in life (ie. their potential), and B) to put this potential into action by building projects, initiatives and businesses that grow their skills (ie. improve their employability), uplift their communities and directly or indirectly create an income.
If you or your organisation want to get involved in Educo's work, please contact me. To find out more, go to www.educo.org.za. It is worthwhile reading some of the stories from the field and to watch the clip on Thembinkosi (http://www.educo.org.za/what-we-do/impact-stories). If you have been wanting to get involved in a cause that really makes a difference, but never knew which one, perhaps 2014 is the year to take that decision and to sign up to Educo's Footsteps campaign or otherwise support the work.
In closing, I want to express a massive THANK YOU to you all for your support, partnership and friendship throughout this year, without which IMCOSA would not be the successful, dynamic organisation that it is. We appreciate your continued trust in us and always welcome your feedback regarding our work so that we can keep improving and consistently delivering to you the level of excellence that you deserve. IMCOSA will be closing office at midday on 20 December and re-opening on 6 December. In urgent cases, please call the office numbers to receive an emergency mobile number.
On behalf of our mangement and the entire IMCOSA team, I wish you a peaceful festive season, wonderful celebrations for those who do celebrate, quiet time for reflection and for making amazing and inspiring plans for 2014, and sufficient recovery to build up the energy for making them a reality.
With appreciation and best 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
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