Dear clients, partners and friends,
Happy Level 1, what a relief! Low case numbers and high preparedness in South Africa’s medical sector have made a substantial lifting of Covid-19 restrictions possible, taking effect on Monday, 21 September, and although the State of Disaster was extended to the 15th of October, we are pleased that South Africa’s borders will finally open (with certain restrictions), and that foreign embassies and consulates are opening for applications. All government services are to resume, and thus we are hopeful that local offices will very soon open for visa, immigration and citizenship services. Please keep checking our website (www.imcosa.co.za/news) for updates on the details.
Today we send you a short and sweet update on the essentials: visas expired during lockdown, visa cancellations, visa exemptions, critical skills, stricter laws on foreigners in certain industries, and citizenship for young people born in South Africa.
For any questions or further information, my team and I are available and will be delighted to hear from you. What a massive relief that we can finally look forward in a more positive way, just in time for spring and summer in South Africa!
Be well and safe,
Nothing in this article should be construed as constituting legal advice or a legal opinion. An expert should be consulted for advice based on the facts and circumstances of each application or case. Even though great care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information provided, IMCOSA does not accept any responsibility for consequences of decisions taken based on any part thereof. Our IMCOSA consultants will gladly advise you in detail and relevant to your individual situation.
Waiting to make a visa, permit or citizenship application or travel internationally?
On 16 September 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the following:
1. Three international airports will be operational when borders open on 1 October 2020: King Shaka in Durban, OR Tambo in Johannesburg and Cape Town International. The land border posts which were identified as essential during previous lockdown levels will be open to travellers for business and leisure activities.
2. Missions will start accepting visa applications again and all government services are set to resume
3. Long-term visas will be reinstated
4. There will be restrictions on travellers from certain countries. Unconfirmed reports spoke of the US and the UK being on the list, while Brazil and India are not, which would be debatable from a medical point of view. The list remains to be published and it will make sense not to jump to conclusions. Non-restricted travellers entering South Africa will have to produce a negative Covid-19 test not older than 72 hours. No mandatory quarantine on arrival will be implemented for travellers without symptoms.
In the coming days new regulations and immigration directives will be published which will provide specific details on the above. Please keep checking our website (www.imcosa.co.za/news) for updates on the details.
Visas expired during lockdown
As per an extended Ministerial exemption, no-one whose visa has expired during or shortly before the lockdown will be penalized. Persons with visas that have expired after 15 February are permitted to stay in the country, leave the country or make an application for a new visa, until 31 October 2020 without being declared illegal, undesirable or having to be legalized first. The application for extension or change of previous visa can be made as soon as VFS opens for applications. We expect a big rush for applications, so it will be wise to start preparations now and secure application appointments as soon as possible. You are welcome to contact us should you require assistance.
Visa cancellations and visa exemptions
As per President Ramaphosa’s announcement of 16 September, long-term visas will be reinstated. Thus, those visas revoked in March will be made valid again. We strongly advise that you have your visa validity checked before planning to return to South Africa, we will be happy to assist where necessary.
The visa exemptions of certain countries (China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, USA, UK, Portugal, Hong Kong and Singapore) that were withdrawn on 25 March, have not yet been reinstated. This means that citizens of these countries will have to apply for a visa before coming to South Africa. We expect this rule to be reviewed shortly, and for the requirement of a negative Corona test result not older than 72 hours to remain the only requirement for most of these countries. Keep checking our website (www.imcosa.co.za/news) for updates in this regard.
Changes to critical skills list are coming, apply now
We are still awaiting the publication of a new draft list of critical skills for comment by the public. At the end of August, the Department of Higher Education and Training published a draft list of occupations in high demand in accordance with the Skills Development Act. Although not directly related, the DHET’s high demand occupations list is an indication of what professions may be included in the Department of Home Affairs’ critical skills list. According to the DHET’s report, it is professionals, technicians, trades workers and, to a slightly lesser degree, managers who are most in demand across the board. Over 30 pages of occupations include many key categories, but omit some professionals who we have seen to be recruited abroad. The final list could be published before the end of the year.
For the moment, the existing critical skills categories remain in place. Due to the critical skills visa’s (and relevant permanent residence’s) favourable terms and faster turn-around times, qualifying individuals should think about making their application now before any changes are made. They will have 12 months to secure a relevant job offer in South Africa.
Restrictions on employment of foreigners in certain industries
Due to pressure from unions and high unemployment rates, exacerbated by the Corona pandemic and its effect on the economy, an “Inter-Ministerial Committee on Foreign Workers in SA” has been established. The committee will look at action needed to build the economy and securing all critical and scarce skills necessary for that, and at more strongly policing violations of immigration laws to ensure that jobs that can be performed by South Africans are available to them. Thankfully, President Ramaphosa has pushed back on what he called the “populist temptation” to blame foreigners for South Africa’s unemployment. However, restrictions - particularly in certain industries - may be on the cards.
Born and bred in South Africa and turned 18 after 2013? You may qualify for citizenship.
South Africa’s citizenship laws in force since 2013 set out a right to citizenship by birth or naturalization for persons born in South Africa and turning 18 after having lived here their entire lives. In April, the constitutional court confirmed this. Although the Department of Home Affairs has not yet fully adjusted its procedures accordingly, it may be worth testing whether you qualify. Our team will gladly assist you.
Due to the lockdown, processing times have been disrupted. As soon as new trends can be made out, we will inform you.