Dear Clients, Friends and Partners,
At the risk of sounding over-dramatic: We are in a state of emergency. These days, I spend much of my working hours, evenings and weekends listening to people affected by or worried about the list of - at best - illogical and impractical and - at worst - unlawful decisions the Department of Home Affairs has made in recent weeks and months. Although the following summary will attempt to be sober and neutral, I need to clarify that I fully share the concerns and fears: No, many of the changes are not fair, or sensible, or necessary. No, the preparation for, communication about and management of the transition has not been appropriate. No, there has been no regard for how the changes will impact on persons and organisations, and eventually the economy. No, I do not have the feeling that there is a sense of reason and understanding on the part of the decision-makers. And yes, I do think that the system will self-regulate and that the many court cases that are being lodged and prepared at the moment (including one by FIPSA), the media reports and the public outcries against the changes will force Home Affairs to back down, at least somewhat. But it will take continued and more action, and it will take time.
1. Home Affairs-Induced Overstay Leading to 1-5 Year Ban
Persons leaving the country without a valid permit or visa in their passports are being declared "undesirable" for a period of 1-5 years, depending on the length of "overstay" and even when they had applied for an extension or change of their permit in good time (but not yet received the outcome due to the backlogs on the side of Home Affairs). At least one court case attacking this practice has been lodged and will be heard in the coming week. In the meantime, we recommend that persons waiting for the outcome of a pending application either leave the country before their previous permit or visa has expired, or remain in South Africa to await the outcome here. Should you be unable to do either or have been declared undesirable already, there is an appeal process which has been put in place in reaction to the protest and media attention received. The IMCOSA consultants will be happy to assist with the lodging of such appeals.
Although, generally, the turn-around time for appeals is at least 6-9 months, IMCOSA has received confirmation that overstay appeals can be decided in as little as 3-4 weeks. This, of course, does not help the traveler who needs to be back in the country faster than that, and there is also reasonable doubt that Home Affairs will be able to consistently keep up this turn-around time in the long term.
2. Traveling with Children
When traveling with children, South African citizens, permanent residents, temporary residents and tourists alike need to present unabridged birth certificates for them at the passport control. Home Affairs has made a public statement that certified copies will be acceptable, but in the transition period it is advisable to take original certificates along, as well as (if applicable) sworn translations into English. This rule came into force and effect on 26 May (less than a month before the winter school holidays) with two days' prior notice and zero communication to, or training of, stakeholders such as airlines, travel agents, schools and the general public. The turn-around time for unabridged birth certificates by Home Affairs varies from 8 weeks to 12 months and more. In response to the public outcry caused by the rule, Home Affairs allowed for a grace period until 30 September, up until which families will be able to travel without the said documents. However, IMCOSA has yesterday received first-hand traveler reports of officials insisting on the documents in spite of the grace period, and even of a family being prevented from leaving the country due to not being able to present them. Should you need to travel and be unable to obtain the unabridged birth certificates in time, we recommend that you print out the notice on Home Affairs' website about the grace period (http://www.dha.gov.za/index.php/statements-speeches/471-home-affairs-extends-date-for-requirement-of-an-unabridged-birth-certificate-for-children-traveling-with-parents), or keep the link in your phone, and present this to the passport official.
3. Permanent Residence Permit Labels
When granting a person permanent residence, Home Affairs now issues a technologically more advanced certificate, but no longer a permit label to be endorsed into the passport. Permanent residents whose passports have expired will therefore no longer receive a sticker for their new passport. Apparently, the residence status is logged onto and available on the Home Affairs system and can be verified there (one presumes at least in those instances where the system is not "down", as is the case about a third of the time). The advice received on what to carry when traveling differs vastly, and it is not yet clear what will be required on the side of banks, SARS, mobile phone companies and other institutions, especially during the time that the first ID is being awaited (which can take a year or so). To be safe, it is advisable to carry all or as much of the following as is available when traveling: passport, original permanent residence certificate, previous passport with permanent residence label, ID document, receipt showing application for ID document.
4. Extension of Tourist or Visitors' Visas
Contrary to some media reports, it is still possible to extend the visitors' visa once. The rules on this have not changed. Visa exempt persons are still issued visitors' visas for 30 or 90 days (depending on their exemption) on arrival, and they are allowed to apply for a once-off extension of such visa by another 90 days from inside the country. What visitors and tourists are NO LONGER able to do from within South Africa is to make an application for any other type of visa.
5. Section 11(2) Visas or Short-Term Authorisations to Work
Persons coming to South Africa for short-term work (e.g. technicians repairing specialized machinery, consultants on short-term projects, artists, musicians, and a variety of others needing to be in South Africa on short notice) can obtain an "authorization to work" attached to their visitors' visa. Previously, for visa exempt persons this could be obtained rather quickly and through a comparatively un-bureaucratic process, without the need for a full application and with a turn-around time of 1-3 weeks. Under the new rules, even those who are visa exempt are now required to present in person to the South African mission in their country of residence and apply for such a short-term visa in the same way as a non-visa exempt person. Apart from the more onerous requirements, more complex preparation process and the longer turn-around times, the traveling to the relevant missions in their home countries (when they may be elsewhere in the world at the time, and which are often a day's trip away from their home) is an impossibility for many and a certain deterrent for all. It is due to this rule that the film industry and the City of Cape Town have pleaded with government to review this procedure. The filming in Cape Town of the 4th season of the American series "Homeland" was delayed and put at risk as a consequence.
6. Visa Facilitation Services Offices Experiencing Teething Problems
Since 2 June and for the rest of the month, the offices of the Visa Facilitation Service (VFS) have been and will be opening across the country. All new applications for visa and permanent residence are to be made through VFS instead of the Home Affairs offices who remain responsible for civic services such as passports, IDs, birth and marriage certificates etc. As expected, there have been massive teething problems with VFS, ranging from technical errors in their systems to incorrect information on their website, a lack of agreed procedures for a number of side processes (leading to Home Affairs and VFS referring applicants back and forth) and the restriction of applications accepted per day due to capacity constraints. Seeing that Home Affairs offices were closed for new applications country-wide from 2 June, it has since then been impossible to lodge any new applications in those regions where VFS offices were / are not yet open. This has created considerable problems for those with expiring deadlines or documents and other urgent cases, and seriously infringed on applicants' rights.
7. Critical Skills List and Other Requirements Published
- Agriculture and related Sciences
- Architecture and the Built Environment
- Business, Economics, Management Studies
- Information Communication & Technology
- Health Professions & related Clinical Sciences
- Life & Earth Sciences
- Professionals & Associate Professionals
- Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)
- Academics & Researchers
- Post Graduates
The minimum retirement income is now R 37 000 instead of R 20 000 per month (however, dependent spouses and children can accompany the retiree).
The net worth an independent investor has to show is now R 12 million instead of R 7,5 million and the additional fee to be paid in this category is R 120 000 instead of R 75 000.
South African relatives now have to show funds of R 8 500 instead of R 5 000 per month being available to support their foreign family members, including their spouses (only in the case of dependent children the financial assurance is not necessary).
The minimum investment amount and the industries in the national interest for business visas have not yet been published.
IMCOSA's efforts to liaise with the authorities and media continue, and in this context I encourage you to report to us any relevant experiences at the Home Affairs or VFS offices or when traveling. IMCOSA will keep you informed via our website and our newsletter regarding the further developments.
Our consultants will be happy to discuss and explore with you or your organization the solutions and options under the new regime. We look forward to hearing from you.
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