After months of speculation and anticipation, the Department of Home Affairs has made the new immigration laws official
President Jacob Zuma and the Minister of Home Affairs, Naledi Pandor, signed off on new immigration regulation on Friday, 16 May 2014 in a move that marks the first time since 2004 that the law has been adjusted. The changes officially came into effect on Monday, 26 May, and the amendments to the act impact foreigners looking to visit, study, work, live and own a business in South Africa.
In an effort to shed some light on the repercussions, we’ve turned to expert consultancy Intergate Immigration to unpack the 272 page government gazette that stipulated the modifications. As one of the largest service providers in South Africa, the company’s well-versed in navigating the Department of Home Affairs’ (DHA) web of legislation and visa requirements, and thus if you have further questions about the revised rules or if you’d like to meet with a consultant face-to-face, contact Intergate directly.
NEW SOUTH AFRICAN IMMIGRATION LAWS
Applying for Visa/Permits
- The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has officially outsourced the handling and processing of visa applications to a company called Visa Facilitation Services (VFS).
How Will the VFS Process Applications?
- The VFS will be opening 11 offices, which will be referred to as Visa Application Centres (VACs), around South Africa beginning on 2 June 2014.
- The centres will be opening in these cities and towns on the following dates:
|Pretoria||Cherry Lane Office Park, 1st Floor, 114 Fehrsen Street, Nieuw Muckleneuk, Brooklyn||2 JUNE 2014|
|Rustenburg||Von Wielligh 26, Bo Dorp||2 JUNE 2014|
|Kimberley||Unit 3, Building 2, Agri Office Park, N12||2 JUNE 2014|
|Durban||Suite 3, Silver Oaks, Ground Floor 36 Silverton Road, Musgrave||9 JUNE 2014|
|Bloemfontein||Suite 4, The Park, 14 Reid Street, Westdene||9 JUNE 2014|
|George||Unit 5, Royal Eagle, 5 Progress Street||9 JUNE 2014|
|Johannesburg||1st Floor Rivonia Village, Cnr Rivonia Boulevard and Mutual Rd||18 JUNE 2014|
|Cape Town||21st Floor, 2 Riebeek Street, Absa Building||20 JUNE 2014|
|Polokwane||Shop 13, Thornhill Shopping Centre, Cnr Veldspaat & Munnik avenues, Bendor||23 JUNE 2014|
|Nelspruit||Office 5F, Nedbank building, 30 Brown Street||23 JUNE 2014|
|Port Elizabeth||Office 7D, 1st Floor Moffet on Main, Cnr 17th Ave and Main Road, Walmer||23 JUNE 2014|
- At the VACs, applicants will submit their applications and biometric data for processing.
- Once the applications have been thoroughly checked, they will then be scanned and forwarded to the Head Office of Home Affairs in Pretoria.
- The VFS will operate strictly as a processing operation and will not offer potential immigrants any advice on immigration rules etc. Therefore, prospective immigrants will still have to seek advice from immigration consultants, and the consultants will be able to accompany applicants.
- Zimbabwe nationals on Special Dispensation for Zimbabweans Project, Asylum and Refugee cases will still be directly handled by the Department of Home Affairs.
- The VFS does not have the authority to grant or refuse visas as that decision still lies with the DHA.
- The VFS will charge an additional service fee of R1350 incl. VAT per application. (Do note that this amount excludes the standard DHA application fee.)
- Submission timings are between 8am and 4pm (Monday to Friday)
Changing to Another Visa Whilst in South Africa
- New regulations also state that one cannot change from a Visitor’s Visa to another type of visa; these applications for change of conditions must be made at a mission abroad, i.e. an embassy or consulate, where the applicant is an ordinary resident or holds citizenship.
- However, exceptional circumstances include if an applicant is in need of life saving medical treatment or is an accompanying spouse or child of a business or work visa holder who wish to apply for a study or work visa
Life Partner and Spousal Visas
- Spouses and life partners looking to apply for temporary or permanent residency in South Africa based on a spousal or life partner visa will need to prove that they have been together for two years.
- The ‘relationship-proving’ time period was significantly reduced from the proposed five year period stated in the draft regulations after the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) received immense pressure from the public to do so.
- If a partner or spouse was in a previous marriage, it is necessary to provide official documents that prove the dissolution of such marriage either by divorce or the death of the other spouse.
- The updated regulations also state that life partners will need to attend separate but simultaneous interviews to determine the authenticity of the existence of their relationship.
Eradication of Exceptional Skills and Quota Permit Categories
- The DHA has officially eradicated the Exceptional Skills and Quota permit categories
- It is unclear whether those who have submitted an application under one of these categories will still have their application processed. Consult your nearest DHA branch for specifics.
- Current Exceptional Skills and Quota Permit holders will not be able to renew their permits going forward.
Renewing a Visa Whilst in South Africa
- Those looking to renew their visa while in the country must do so 60 days before the current one expires. This change was reportedly made due to the DHA’s inability to process an application in the previous time period (30 days).
General Work Visa
- Applications for this visa will have to include a certificate from the Department of Labour confirming the following:
- despite a thorough search, the prospective employer could not find a South African employee with the skills and experience equivalent to those of the applicant.
- the applicant has proven skills and experience in line with the job offer.
- the salary and benefits of the applicant are not inferior to those of citizens or permanent residents.
- the contract signed by both the employer and applicant stipulates conditions that are in line the labour laws of South Africa.
- You will also need a document to prove that your qualifications have been approved by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA). This document must be translated into one of the official languages of South Africa by a sworn translator
- The work visa will be valid for a maximum of five years.
Scarce/Critical Skills Work Visa
- The introduction of this visa has not been made clear and there is no official list of what exactly constitutes a scarce skill; meaning, at this moment in time, it’s actually not possible to submit an application within this category.
- This visa will replace the Exceptional Skills and Quota Visas.
- Visitor’s Visa holders who wish to change the terms or status of their visa must submit an application no less than 60 days prior to the current visa’s date of expiration.
- Those wishing to extend a stay for longer than three months must provide a police clearance certificate from their home country.
- Is it no longer possible to change from a Visitor’s Visa to another visa category within South Africa.
- It will now be a requirement for businesses to get a recommendation letter from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
- The DTI will conduct a thorough and forensic assessment of the feasibility of the business entity as well as the contribution to the national interest of South Africa.
- Experts fear that this assessment could cause major delays in the process.
- A minimum amount of cash that will need to be invested into South Africa will be determined by the Minister of Labour after consulting with the Minister of Trade and Industry.
- Any accountant registered with the South African Institute of Professional Accountants or the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants can verify the availability of funds for a business visa. Previously, this would have to have been done by a chartered accountant (not just any professional accountant).
- 60% of the business owner’s workforce must be South African or must be permanent residents employed in various positions.
- Business visas will be granted for no longer than three years at a time
- No business visa will be issued to a foreigner who intends to establish or invest in a business that is listed as undesirable business undertaking.
Intra -Company Visas
- The employee in question must be employed with the foreign office/ business for a minimum of six months before being eligible for transfer to South Africa.
- This visa will now be available for four years but is non-renewable.
Study Visa/ Exchange Visa
- Holders of a Study Visa may not conduct part-time work exceeding 20 hours of labour a week.
- Both Study and Exchange Visas will only be issued for the duration of the study period or exchange programme respectively.
- An exchange visa (for persons under 25 years) will not be granted to conduct work pertaining to an undesirable work as published by the Minister in the gazette, after consultation with the Minister of Trade and Industry.
- An application must be accompanied by a police clearance certificate.
- Applicants will no longer need to prove a minimum monthly income of R20, 000 per person from a source other than work; rather, the sum will still be determined by the combination of assets realizing, per month, determined from time to time by the Minister of Labour.
Asylum Transit Visa
- An Asylum Transit Visa issued at a port of entry will be valid for a period of 5 days to enable the holder to report at a nearest Refugee Reception Office.
- Fines will no longer be charged for overstaying. Persons who overstay for a prescribed number of times will be declared as undesirable.
CONTACT INTERGATE IMMIGRATION: To get in touch with a consultant about your work permit or permanent residence query.