SA's immigration laws to get radical shake-up

2014-02-27 12:24

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Cape Town - Far reaching changes have been proposed to South Africa’s immigration laws  and are due to come into effect on 1 April 2014.

Jess Green, who runs Immigration South Africa, confirmed the new regulations will mostly affect foreign nationals wanting to work, study, run businesses or be with loved ones in South Africa.

Predicament for unmarried couples

Foreign national partners of South African citizens could find themselves having to move when the new five-year cohabitation requirement comes into effect. Formerly the requirement for was having been together for three-months.

“If a couple has only cohabited for three years and the foreign national’s life partner permit runs out, then they will not be able to renew it,” says Green.

“If the foreign national does not qualify for a different visa, that person will need to leave the country. The constitutionality of this requirement is highly doubted.”

South Africans living abroad with foreign national partners will also be forced to wait the five years before they can return home with their partners.

“The message to young, unmarried couples living abroad appears to be, ‘Neither you or your foreign national loved ones are welcome in South Africa. Find another country to live in together for five years, then you can return home.’” says Green.

All visas applications to be done in person

Arguably the most significant change says Green is that all visas, including visitor’s visas, must in future be applied for in person. Raising the question, “”Why is South Africa turning a blind eye to electronic means of communication and the efficiencies of the global courier network?” 

Current policy allows applicants to submit via mail or courier service, said to be especially useful in Australia.

“Under the new policy, prospective visitors from Perth will need to travel the breadth of the continent, a distance roughly equivalent to Kinshasa from Cape Town, in order to apply for South African visas,” says Green.

“The overwhelming majority of instances of immigration fraud occur right here in South Africa. Anti-fraud measures could easily have been targeted at home and other high risk territories.

“Regrettably, applicants from territories such as Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Western Europe and Great Britain, where very few instances of immigration fraud occur, have now been placed on the altar for the sins committed elsewhere."

Exceptional skills influx into SA at risk

The proposed changes also raise the question of how the inflow of valuable foreign skills will be affected, since the Exceptional skills visas is set to be scrapped.

Under current policy, celebrated sportsmen and women, designers, artists, specialist medical practitioners and chartered accountants could enter the country on exceptional skills work permit permits, regardless of whether they had already secured employment or not.   

Nicola Lochner, immigration manager at Immigration South Africa confirmed that an a new Critical Skills visa might be an alternative but the list of professions to be included for this category have not been detailed as yet – and some exceptional skill professions might not be considered “critical”.

Some welcomed changes:

Habitual over-stayers to be blacklisted

Immigrant workers who overstay their visas a prescribed number of times will be banned from future entry into the country. This is expected to alleviate the frustration of immigration officials who find that immigrant workers who habitually overstay simply settle their fines and return at a later date.

Clamp down on growing issue of child trafficking

Stricter requirements set out in respect of children who travel without their biological parents are also being put in place.  In future, adults travelling with children will need to produce affidavits from parents proving permission for the children to travel.

The public has until Friday 28 February 2014 to comment on the proposed changes to the Immigration Act 13 of 2002, which would also be the first major change to South Africa’s immigration policy since 2004.

To submit commentary for consideration email:


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