Archive from May, 2018

WC Home Affairs names five offices on red status watch-list

WC Home Affairs names five offices on red status watch-list
26 April 2018 Cape Talk
Home Affairs Department’s across the country will introduce a classification system in an effort to curb long queues and boost turnaround time.
This week, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba declared a “war on queues” which hamper the department’s operations.
Western Cape regional manager Yusuf Simons explains that the classification system will label offices as green, yellow or red status.
Simons says green represents the “smart” offices with efficient services. Yellow represent offices that are stable but can improve, while red represents offices that are performing poorly.
According to Simons, there are five Home Affairs offices which carry red status in the province.
Those are the Bellville office, Cape Town CBD office, Wynberg office, Somerset West office and Paarl office.
Those carry high volumes of clients. On some days, more than a 1000 clients visit the office individually each day.
— Yusuf Simons, Western Cape Home Affairs manager
It really puts a strain on the processes and the waiting times.
— Yusuf Simons, Western Cape Home Affairs manager
He adds that the longer queues have also been sparked by false claims that the Green ID book would be discontinued earlier this year.
We as a department are very concerned about the longer queues.
— Yusuf Simons, Western Cape Home Affairs manager
Take a listen Yusuf Simons explain how the department plans to improve services:

‘Lazy’ Home Affairs staff hit back over Gigaba claim

‘Lazy’ Home Affairs staff hit back over Gigaba claim
By TimesLIVE – 26 April 2018

We are not to blame for the long queues. That was the message from public servants to Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba as they condemned his statement that staff were to blame for the long queues at offices.
His comments had come after visiting Home Affairs offices in Centurion‚ Orlando West‚ Wynberg and Pietermaritzburg, the Public Servants Association said.
During unannounced visits as part of his “war on long queues” campaign‚ Gigaba found that queues were seen to move faster than usual as soon as he arrived.
The union said his statement gave the impression that staff were either slow or sometimes lazy in dealing with the public.
“The PSA previously engaged the department on inadequate staff and a malfunctioning computer system,” PSA general manager Ivan Fredericks said.
He said Gigaba had contradicted himself by stating that only 20% of all Home Affairs offices were able to capture documentation online.
“The statements have a demoralising effect on employees.
“The public is entitled to an efficient service. The PSA demands that the minister urgently considers lifting the moratorium on the filling of vacant posts‚ improves the undependable computer systems‚ and puts alternative measures in place to address long queues and strain on staff.”

Home Affairs bungle separates man from pregnant wife

Home Affairs bungle separates man from pregnant wife
By GroundUp• 26 April 2018
Farai (not his real name) is a 38-year-old Zimbabwean engineer who has been living in South Africa since 2009. But after visiting Zimbabwe during the holiday season, he was denied entry back into South Africa on 5 January. His passport was also stamped with a code preventing him from coming back to the republic. This was despite his papers being in order.
He is now stuck in Zimbabwe, on the verge of losing his job, and has been separated from his children and pregnant wife since December.
Farai applied for a Dispensation of a Zimbabweans Project permit (DZP) in 2009. This then became the Zimbabwe Special Permit (ZSP). Last year it was changed to the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP). All Zimbabweans in South Africa who were on this permit had to re-apply for a ZEP, because the ZSP expired in December.
But the process for getting the ZEP has been slow and often delayed. Farai is still waiting for his to be processed. Home Affairs has therefore declared that ZEP applicants are allowed to travel as long as they produce proof of their application. This Farai did.
“ZSP holders who want to travel outside South Africa for the festive season, will be able to do so. They only need to produce their passports with the ZSP stickers and their ZEP application receipts,” said a Home Affairs statement dated 10 November 2017.
An immigration official at Beitbridge stamped “V-LIST CODE K” on Farai’s passport when he tried to enter South Africa. According to Gabriel Shumba, lawyer and chairperson of the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum, the V-listing means a person has overstayed his or her visit in South Africa and may be banned from entering the country for up to five years.
Farai is now stuck in Zimbabwe. “I have no criminal record and I am being prejudiced by an error made by an immigration official. I am on the verge of losing my job. My employers are now threatening to fill my position,” said Farai.
“My life is now established in South Africa after I relocated eight years ago. I am suffering from emotional stress as a result of separation from my heavily pregnant wife and two young children. My wife is frequently in and out of hospital due to stress.”
GroundUp has previously reported a case similar to Farai’s.
Farai is originally from Murehwa in Mashonaland East province, about 90km from Harare. In trying to sort out his situation he has to spend money on accommodation in Harare where he visits the South African embassy — money he doesn’t have because he has not been paid since December.
The embassy told him he has to write an appeal. He did but there was no response. He went back to the embassy where he was told it takes three months to respond to an appeal. He also wrote to the Director General and the Minister of Home Affairs. He also hired a legal firm, which wrote to Home Affairs.
A similar incident happened to Farai in December 2014. Then he had travelled from South Africa to Zimbabwe through Oliver Tambo International Airport, also while waiting for his permit to be renewed. An official denied him entry to South Africa despite a similar communique by Home Affairs stating that Zimbabwean permit holders still waiting for their permits to be renewed should be allowed entry.
On 19 March GroundUp contacted Home Affairs spokespersons Thabo Mokgola and Mayihlome Tshwete by email. Copies of Farai’s documents and the appeal he wrote to Home Affairs in January were attached. GroundUp phoned two days later and Mokgola said he needed Farai’s documents, which we explained had already been sent to him.
On 29 March we wrote to Home Affairs again, but received no response.
In April we phoned Tshwete who promised to respond. He hasn’t.
As of 25 April there was still no change in Farai’s circumstances and Home Affairs has still not contacted him or his lawyer

Parent visa hopes crushed as Australia demands sponsors earn more

Parent visa hopes crushed as Australia demands sponsors earn more
27 April 2018 – SBS
Migration agents say clients who have been waiting for years are now “panicking” after realising they no longer have the income to sponsor their parents to come to Australia.
Yi Cai thought she had ticked every box.
The 25-year-old Chinese-Australian has a well-paid job as an accountant in Melbourne. Three years ago, she applied for a parent visa for her mother to join her in Australia – and then, when she was promoted last year, she added her father to the application.
But earlier this month, the Turnbull government more than doubled the required salary for sponsors with a quiet change to visa regulations, without needing to pass a bill through Parliament.
Ms Cai now needs to prove she has an annual income of $86,607 to sponsor her two parents – up from just $35,793 under the previous rules.
“I feel so hopeless now, all my three years’ time waiting has been wasted,” Ms Cai told SBS News.
“It’s really tough, because I know I won’t pass it.”
She’s not the only one. Three migration agencies in Sydney and Melbourne told SBS News they have been inundated with calls from concerned clients on the waiting list – both parents overseas and their children in Australia – who fear they will fail the government’s new requirements.
“I believe at least 30,000 applicants who were already in the queue before 1 April 2018 will be affected by this change of policy,” migration agent Yan Kirk, director of migration agency NewStars Melbourne, told SBS News.
The government has a cap on parent visa places of just under 9,000 this year, and the waiting list is long.
‘Thousands’ of hopefuls affected
The Home Affairs department said the number of people in the queue is “not publically available”, but the department’s own online calculator suggests there are at least 30,000.
For the most commonly granted parent visa (contributory 143), the wait is around two or three years. For the much more restrictive non-contributory parent visa (103), the waiting list is a staggering 30 years.
Cases are vetted by The Department of Home Affairs, formerly known as the Immigration Department.
One of the last steps is to send ‘Assurance of Support’ (AOS) paperwork to Centrelink. The AOS requires the ‘assurer’, usually the child sponsor, to demonstrate they have a high enough income, and to put down a hefty bank deposit.
They must guarantee they will pay for any social security their parents need during their first 10 years in Australia.
Social Services Minister Dan Tehan said the changes “will not be applied retrospectively” and that AOS forms lodged with Centrelink before 1 April will be assessed under the old rules.
But many who have been in the queue for years – those waiting for their case to be vetted by Home Affairs and who are yet to submit their AOS paperwork – will need to meet the new standards.
Kwok, a migration agent in Sydney, said she had 60 clients in the “pipeline” who were likely to fail under the new rules.
“I guess none of them meet the requirements,” she said, explaining that most of the sponsor children were young Chinese migrants themselves, still trying to establish careers in Australia.
“My clients are just so scared,” Ms Kwok said.
“Some of them now are panicking and saying: ‘Oh, what should I do?’”
My clients are just so scared.
– Jennifer Kwok, migration agent
Ms Cai said some applicants on the waiting list are now receiving letters from the Department of Home Affairs, after years waiting for a decision, asking them to get their paperwork ready for the AOS.
“The funny thing is, after the requirement of the AOS changed, I received the email from Immigration department saying I can now start preparing all the documentations,” she said.
A letter seen by SBS News asks for the AOS forms to be lodged “within 28 calendar days after you are deemed to have received this letter”.
How have the requirements changed?
The changes mostly affect parent visas.
An individual who wants to sponsor their two parents now needs an annual income of $86,607, up from $35,793 under the previous rules, while a couple sponsoring two parents now needs a combined income of $115,476.
A single person sponsoring just one parent needs an income of $57,738.

The higher salaries are required for all the main parent visas: both the temporary and permanent versions of the contributory parent visa (143 and 173), the contributory aged parent visa (864 and 884) and the non-contributory parent visa (103 and 804), as well as the ‘remaining relative’ (835) visa.
All the above visas also require a bond from the sponsor and a legal promise to cover any Centrelink costs, but the size of the bond and the duration of the guarantee depend on the visa type.
The non-contributory parent intake has ground to a near-halt, with the department now warning applicants they face a massive wait time of around 30 years for the popular visa.
That’s because sponsors of those visas only need to guarantee two years of welfare and put down a bond of $5,000. But there are only 1,500 places set aside for non-contributory parents this year within Australia’s total migration cap of 190,000 – hence the ballooning queue.
By comparison, there are more than 7,000 places this year for contributory parents, for which sponsors must commit to a 10-year welfare guarantee and a bond of at least $10,000. The current wait time is roughly three years for these visas, not 30.
On 1 July next year, the minimum bonds for the two streams will rise to $7,500 and $15,000 respectively.
Mr Tehan said the government was updating the rules to make sure migrant parents did not become a drain on the welfare system.
“The Australian Government wants to ensure newly arrived migrants have the financial capacity to support themselves, while also ensuring the social security system remains sustainable,” the minister told SBS News in a statement.
The department can also optionally require an AOS guarantee for adoptions, child visas, some orphans and former residents.
Parent visas also require an upfront application fee, which cannot be refunded if the visa is refused.
A spokeswoman for the Home Affairs department told SBS News the no-refunds rule would still apply to families who applied before the changes.
An online government calculator shows a permanent contributory parent visa (143) can cost nearly $4,000 in upfront fees.
Minority communities ‘concerned’
Australia’s main industry group for migration agents said the changes would block many applicants already in the pipeline.
A “huge number” of people “will not be able to meet the requirements for currently lodged parent visas,” Kevin Lane, president of the Migration Institute of Australia (MIA), said.
SBS News understands some migration agents are writing to the MIA to coordinate a response and lobby the government to reverse the changes.
An online petition has been set up with more than 9,000 signatures.
The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) has been receiving concerned feedback.
“What I’m hearing from communities is that they’re really concerned that the goalposts have changed,” FECCA chair Ms Patetsos said.
She said the minister should “urgently” clarify who would be affected.
Labor accused the government of a “stealth attack on migrant families” but has not committed to reverse the changes.
“In recent days Labor MPs have received many emails from angry families, particularly from Australia’s Chinese community,” the joint media release from shadow immigration minister Shayne Neumann and shadow social services minister Jenny Macklin said.
“This is just the latest attempt by the out-of-touch Turnbull Government to make life harder for multicultural communities around Australia.”
The Greens are also opposed to the move.
Relief for lucky few
Migrants still in the department’s vetting ‘pipeline’ will have to face the tougher AOS requirements if and when they are cleared.
But those who already lodged the form with Centrelink before 1 April will only have to meet the old income requirements.
The Department of Human Services confirmed AOS forms handed in before 1 April were “subject to the previous eligibility rules”.
Ms Kwok said her clients who sent in their paperwork just in time “feel so lucky”.
In another subtle change, the AOS rules now ban anyone with a debt to the Commonwealth, like a HECS student debt or a Centrelink debt, from sponsoring a visa.
The department’s spokeswoman confirmed it was currently processing around 2,000 AOS applications.
She said there was “no available data” on how many existing applicants were in debt to the government.
Another way to cut immigration?
The changes come during a fractious internal debate within Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s government over Australia’s rate of immigration.
Some Coalition conservatives, including former prime minister Tony Abbott, want a major cut to Australia’s annual intake of 190,000 permanent visas. But the 190,000 figure is a cap, not a target.
In the most recent 2016-17 financial year, the intake dipped to 183,000. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has already hinted the 2017-18 intake would again be “less” than the current cap.
Ms Kwok said she suspected the move was designed to cut back on parent visas.
Signatories on the petition complained the changes were unfair, especially for existing visa applicants. One accused the Turnbull government of “reducing migrant numbers through a technicality”.
The impact on immigration numbers, if any, may not be clear until future annual reports are released.
The changes also come just weeks before the federal treasurer releases the 2018 Budget. It remains to be seen if the Treasury will write down any savings or loses from the change.
Chinese community feels the sting
The Chinese are the biggest consumers of Australian family visas, according to 2015 immigration data.
More than 11,000 family visas were granted to Chinese citizens that year, compared with around 6,000 for India.
Ms Kwok said about 90 per cent of her clients were Chinese. Many were children of China’s one-child policy and did not have siblings, she said, so they wanted to have their parents in Australia.
“That’s the visa that [lets] the children show they can contribute to the family. Usually it’s the other way, the parents always helping the children,” she said.
“It’s the visa that can link the Chinese family together again, but since these changes, I don’t know.”
For Yi Cai, the young accountant, the changes are personal. She herself was born in the one-child era and has no siblings.
“During my 10 years of life in Australia I’ve lost three of my grandparents,” she said.
Sponsors can combine incomes to meet the requirement, but only with up to three people. And there’s another catch. The total sum required increases for each sponsor who signs on to the guarantee, to make sure they can support themselves too.

Time to Demolish the Visa Wall between Russia and China

Time to Demolish the Visa Wall between Russia and China
24.04.2018 – Valdai Club

No geopolitical partner is more important for Russia today than China. The official classification of bilateral relations as “comprehensive partnership and strategic interaction” [1] is a reflection of reality rather than just an empty diplomatic formulation. But the picture of increasingly close and trust-based relations between Moscow and Beijing is spoiled by the visa requirements maintained by the countries. To enter China, Russians must obtain a PRC visa. The same goes for PRC citizens wishing to visit the territory of their “strategic partner.”
Visa-free travel to half the world but not China
The visa situation seems abnormal for yet another reason. Russians can travel without visas to 110 countries. In 2017 alone, Russia signed agreements on reciprocal visa-free travel with the UAE, South Africa, Myanmar, and Samoa.[2] During the last few years, Russia introduced parity-based visa-free travel with two of its Northeast Asian neighbors – South Korea and Mongolia. Russian citizens can enter South Korea without visas for 60 days and Mongolia for up to 30 days. South Koreans and Mongols have the same right.In addition, Moscow has repeatedly hinted that it would like to sign a visa-free agreement with Japan. But Tokyo is not yet ready for the deal, largely because of the unresolved territorial dispute. We can also recall Russia’s longstanding, if unreciprocated, wish for a visa-free agreement with the EU. Incidentally, Russians are free to enter Europe in their private vehicles [3] (provided they have a Schengen visa), but there is no such option between Russia and China. Not particularly urgent discussions about how it would be nice to have a Russian-Chinese agreement on border crossing in private cars, at least for the border areas, have been going on ever since the 1990s, but there is still no solution.
The result is paradoxical and even a bit indecent. We claim that China is our main strategic partner, practically an ally, but still keep it behind a visa barrier. At the same time, we have abolished visas for South Korea (a US ally) and are seeking visa-free arrangements with the EU and Japan (even closer US allies). True, Russia and China allow visa-free travel for organized tourist groups numbering no fewer than five persons. A new agreement is being drafted, which will reduce the minimum size of tourist groups to three persons,[4] and this is being presented as a major achievement. An e-visa option for foreigners, including Chinese, entering the Free Port of Vladivostok has been in effect since 2017. But all these are stopgaps and half-measures. The bigger picture is that Russia and China are still separated by a visa barrier.
The mythical “Chinese threat”
Even though the Chinese do not air their official position in public, there is little doubt that Beijing has nothing against abolishing visas with Russia. The West’s intrigues have also been a factor, of course. In the US and European mythology, Russian and Chinese interests are incompatible and China poses the main threat to Russia. Odd, but for all our distrust towards the West, many people in Russia willingly take this myth on faith. Russian experts and decision-makers are convinced that millions of Chinese eager to settle in the Russian Far East and Eastern Siberia will pour into Russia as soon as visas are abolished.
But we must build relations with our main neighbor on the basis of reality not myths. There is no Chinese demographic invasion of Russia, nor is one on the horizon, visas or no visas. The statistics over many years show that the Chinese are not eager to live in the Russian Far East or elsewhere in Russia. The overwhelming majority of PRC citizens in Russia are tourists, students and seasonal workers. For the most part, they come for a limited period of time and are not keen on “staying for good.” It is no accident that Russia does not have a single full-scale Chinatown. Russian-Chinese marriages are few and far between. Practically no Chinese apply for residence permits or Russian citizenship. Neither are there many eager buyers of real estate in Russia: rich Chinese prefer to buy houses and apartments in London, Dallas or Sidney, rather than in Moscow or Vladivostok. The number of more or less permanent Chinese residents in the Russian Far East is around 40,000 and unlikely to grow by much: like all normal people, the Chinese seek to migrate to localities with a good climate, good quality of life, and good earnings. Much of Russia, including the Russian Far East, lacks all three. The tide of Chinese migrant labor to Russia is on the ebb: earnings in many economic sectors in China are already ahead of those in Russia. To quote the head of a Far Eastern company: “The pay levels in the PRC are such that we are no longer able to attract Chinese specialists. I think, in a couple of years, labor migration will change directions from Russia to China.” [5]
Effects of visa abolition: Economics and politics
How does Russia stand to benefit from abolishing visas for PRC citizens? First of all, it will be a symbolic act demonstrating that we really regard the PRC as our friend and partner rather than a potential threat. I think the Chinese will appreciate that. This step will not lead directly to rapid growth of investment (the shortage of Chinese investment in Russia is another well-known weak point in bilateral relations), but will create a better investment climate. For example, it will be easier for representatives of Chinese small and medium-sized businesses to travel to Russia and vice versa, something that should lead to a rise in joint business projects.
Fully visa-free travel will be a powerful incentive for tourism. Today Chinese tourists in Russia are mostly lower middle-class,[6] who come on visa-free group tours and stretch every renminbi. Wealthy Chinese tourists prefer to travel on their own and many of them are discouraged by the need to obtain a Russian visa. Abolishing visas with South Korea has swelled the ranks of South Korean tourists to the Russian Far East. Today Vladivostok is full of them. Visa-free travel with China will immediately boost the number of “quality” visitors from the PRC.
Ending visas requirements for the Russian-Chinese border will also have an international political impact. As mentioned, many in the West are convinced that Russia and China are unable to cooperate in earnest, since they don’t trust each other. The strategic partnership between Moscow and Beijing, according to them, is a chimera. Visa-free travel will provide an important counterargument and will force Western capitals to take the burgeoning Eurasian alliance a lot more seriously. The Japanese, who have followed the state of Russian-Chinese relations closely for a long time, may mull it over and conclude that they too should bolster ties with Russia. It can’t be ruled out that Tokyo will become more amenable to abolishing visas for Russians.
Abolishing visas for PRC citizens does not mean no control over their entry and stay. In any event, they will have to present their foreign travel passports at border checkpoints and their information will be entered in relevant databases. Russian law enforcement officials have a constantly improving arsenal of tools to track foreigners’ movements in Russia and take measures if someone abuses the system by overstaying, for example. Trespassers of this sort are unlikely to be numerous. Russia and China could sign a visa-free agreement for two or three years to see how it works. If the experiment is deemed unsuccessful, the agreement will not be extended. Simple as that.
The visa-free idea has many more pluses than minuses, and its potential benefits outweigh hypothetical risks. A long-term “Chinese challenge” to Russia does indeed exist, but it is epitomized by the growing gap between the two countries’ economies rather than a threat of uncontrolled Chinese migration. For the foreseeable future, China will be a major external resource for Russia’s economic development, and there is no alternative in view. The abolition of visas should help, to quote Vladimir Putin’s 2012 article, “catch the Chinese wind in the sails of the Russian economy.”
Waiting for the EEF?
President Xi Jinping is expected to be the main guest at the Eastern Economic Forum [7] scheduled for September 11-13 on Russky Island in Vladivostok. The Xi-Putin meeting in the capital of the Russian Far East offers an ideal opportunity to announce their intention to pull down the visa wall.

Management at certain Home Affairs offices ‘terrible': Malusi Gigaba

Management at certain Home Affairs offices ‘terrible': Malusi Gigaba
24 April 2018 – 567 Cape Talk
Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba has admitted that the quality of management in certain Home Affairs offices is ‘terrible’.
He’s outlined some of the challenges the department will be dealing with head on to ensure that they are delivering the best possible services.
On Monday the department launched its “war on queues” campaign aimed at tackling the issue of long turn-over times.
Gigaba says many of the problems stem from the ratio of clients to service centres.
We provide services to 56 million South Africans and millions of immigrants but we have 411 offices across the country.
— Malusi Gigaba, Minister of Home Affairs
Gigaba adds that technical restraints also put offices under extra pressure.
Secondly, some of the difficulties emanate from the fact that some of the offices cannot be converted into live capture offices because they lack data network.
— Malusi Gigaba, Minister of Home Affairs
The department has prepared an assessment report on how best they are going to manage queues, but Gigaba also admits that management in some offices is poor.
The third problem highlighted is that some of the areas we found to be lacking good quality leadership on the ground. The quality of management is some of our offices is quite terrible and we need to pay attention to it.
— Malusi Gigaba, Minister of Home Affairs
The fourth problem is that in all Home Affairs office we have an unreliable network. You arrive at Home affairs offices and you are told that the system is offline. That is not because of Home Affairs or because the staff doesn’t want to work, but if the system is offline there is nothing they can do.
— Malusi Gigaba, Minister of Home Affairs
We have declared war on queues and it is going to be an ongoing campaign that we hope to be resolved by the end of this year.
— Malusi Gigaba, Minister of Home Affairs
Gigaba says the solution requires the provision of a reliable network at its offices nationwide.
The department is also looking at expanding the footprint of its services through the banks.

Falsely married, but no Home Affairs joy

Falsely married, but no Home Affairs joy
Pretoria News / 19 April 2018,
But in real life, the 31-year-old woman from Soshanguve has never been married and has just two children.
On finding out that she was married and had three children, Nkuna immediately turned to Home Affairs, but has yet to be assisted.
According to the department, Nkuna had to get an affidavit stating that she had been married without her knowledge. Only then would the department investigate.
“The woman must get an affidavit from the police stating that she has been married off without her consent. She must then visit the nearest Home Affairs office and we will institute an investigation into the matter,” departmental spokesperson Thabo Mokgola said. “If the outcome of the probe confirms that she is indeed married without her knowledge, we will duly update her details on our system to reflect her correct status.”
Nkuna, who works as a security officer, said she was shocked to learn that she was married when she had gone to renew her Securities Industry Regulatory Authority certificate. She said she was informed her ID had been cloned.
“It was in 2015 when I learntthat I was married to a 67-year-old Thomas Mathebula. I had gone to renew my certificate and when they took my fingerprints, the picture of the woman who appeared on the system was not me. I immediately went to Home Affairs in Ga-Rankuwa to enquire.” There she was advised to apply for the smart card ID, which she did, but the card was not issued.
Nkuna said she was informed that the department could not issue the ID card under her surname because she was married.
She said failure to renew her certificate meant she could soon lose her job as a security guard. In addition, she claimed she consistently got phone calls from retailers demanding payment on her accounts.
However, she has never opened any account. “I really need help because I will soon lose my job. My employer always reminds me to update my certificate.