New SA visa regulations questioned

2014-11-11 11:09

During the week of 3 November 2014, the DA Western Cape spokesperson for Economic Opportunities, Tourism and Agriculture, Beverley Schäfer, delivered a stern report claiming that the new visa regulations in South Africa are damaging and will further damage a number of industries key to the Western Cape and South African economy.

Here is a tweet actually confirming this from both parties:

Malusi Gigaba reponds to Beverley Schäfer's tweet

A further interview on CNBC Africa followed with spokesperson Schäfer and myself. Below is a copy of the televised and broadcasted interview which occurred live during the week. During this interview, led by Alec Hogg, it was clear that the Department of Home Affairs continues to insist that nothing is wrong with the new immigration regulations.

Yet, this is in stark contrast to evidence presented that, among others, both the tourism and film industries are already suffering great losses in revenue. For the Western Cape, but for South Africa at large, these are very important. Home Affairs' retort is that they are trying to balance security imperatives with economic ones, however it is difficult to discern whether they are simply giving security more emphasis or rather just unwilling to budge on what they believe is the right policy.

Unfortunately, it clearly is not the right policy. With no public participation process and no lead times for people to comply, foreigners of all types and nationalities were thrown into disarray in May 2014 when the new laws came into effect so suddenly that overseas SA embassies were not even aware of them. Some of them, literally awaiting visa outcomes that the Department itself was late to adjudicate, found themselves abruptly illegal, having fully complied with both the old and new laws. Companies too were totally confused - their inquiries were not answered for over a month while the DHA sorted its ranks out. One wonders if Moody et al have taken SA's new immigration policy into account when recently downgrading our status yet again.

Ironically, some of the regulations on security are currently useless in some countries, such as that which requires applicants, even for tourist (visitors) visas to appear in person. In Russia, one would have to fly for many hours to reach the only SA embassy in Moscow. Yet, since they have not received biometric capturing equipment, they are still accepting applications in the post. Back at home on our borders corruption is still rife, with officials being paid "not to look". From the point of view of someone who deals daily with foreign SA missions, it is clear that little coordination has been attended to by the DHA.

South Africa is in dire needs of economic growth and critically lacks certain skills that are boosted greatly by allowing the right people into our borders in a swift and effortless manner. While the Department of Home Affairs has made excellent progress in service delivery to South Africans, with passports taking two weeks to issue and Smart-ID cards a few days, the hoops that expats, tourists and other foreigners have to jump through are currently ridiculous. A postponement of the new regulations has long been called for and one can still hope that this will occur.

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