Archive from January, 2020

South African living in the UK caught out by New Zealand’s new visa rules

We all hate the admin of visas – and many countries are tightening border security – even for visitors who are visa exempt – with the risk of not having the necessary documentation heightened.
New Zealand’s influx of visitors has seen it implement new security measures for travellers from 60 visa-waiver countries, in October 2019.
All visitors from these countries are expected to fill in a New Zealand electronic travel authority (NZeTA). South African travellers need a visitor’s visa – so they do not qualify for this security measure.
However, the NZeTA requirement has caused confusion for permanent residents of other countries, as one South African living in the UK discovered.
Jean van Wyngaardt and his Polish partner Kasia Luzynska booked their flights to New Zealand in April 2019 – saying they checked this new visa information on the Immigration New Zealand (INZ) website beforehand.
The New Zealand travel authority details the form takes about 72-hours to process at a cost of between NZ$9 to NZ$12 ( about R86 to R115 at R9.59/NZ$).
Van Wyngaardt filled in the NZeTa form with the understanding that he had a permanent Resident Visa for the UK and would be validated on that basis, even though he travels on a South African passport.
Wyngaardt has been in the UK since 2008 and is currently a business owner. He says he initially moved to the UK to travel more. “After some time I found that I really enjoyed the incredible diverse cultures of the people that live here.”
He has now shared how an admin nightmare has their upcoming adventure of lifetime in flux, as the authorities he initially spoke to telephonically were also unsure about the requirements.
“The NZeTA visa waiver page states you can apply for the NZeTA if you have the right to reside permanently in the UK. As it turns out, this only applies to UK passport holders, which is incredibly ambiguous. I mean, why would a UK passport holder not have the right to reside in the UK?” questions Van Wyngaardt.
Van Wyngaardt says the provision of the “right to reside” on the website, next to the UK implies a special condition and is misleading. He now requires a visitor visa as he is not a citizen of the UK or travelling on a UK passport. According to Immigration New Zealand, some UK passports issued to residents of UK overseas territories do not allow the holder to reside in the UK. But more importantly he is travelling on an SA passport.
Now more than a month after filling in the NZeTA and applying for his visa, and with less than a week to go before they are set to begin their trip, he is still waiting on his visa.
He will travel to Singapore for the two-days he and his girlfriend had planned before their actual trip to New Zealand on 15 January – however, if he does not get his visa approved in time, he will lose all the flight costs.
The NZeTA application can take up to 72hrs to be approved if done online, however travellers are being advised to check all the criteria beforehand to avoid any mishaps or messed-up travel plans.
“South Africa is an amazing place, and I come back regularly to visit family and friends,” says Wayngaardt.
But in this instance for travel to New Zealand he warns, “Triple check the information provided because as it’s written on the NZeTA website, it’s not clear.”
www.samigration.com

South Africans to pay more for Schengen Visas

South Africans will as from next month pay a fee of €80 (R1,283) instead of €60 (R962) when applying for a Schengen Visa from South Africa.
The increase also affects children, who will now have to pay €40 (R642) instead of €35 (R561), as it is currently.
South Africans will also be subjected to several changes in terms of visa application procedures, rules and benefits, starting from February.
Due to the implementation of the Updated Schengen Visa Code, adopted by the EU Council in June 2019, all representative missions of the Schengen Countries located abroad are obliged to apply the new rules, including the ones in South Africa.
The Schengen visa is one of the most famous visas in the world, and one of the best to have.
The French Embassy in Pretoria confirmed the price increase to SAnews.
“This decision has been taken by the European Union for all the Schengen countries,” said French Embassy Head of the Press, Yana Brugier.
Granting to its holder the possibility of traveling to 26 European countries, 22 of them part of the European Union, the number of Schengen visa applicants has been steadily increasing every year.
Currently, travellers from 104 countries and entities need to obtain a visa to enter the EU for stays up to three-months within the Schengen Zone.
“Since Regulation (EU) 2019/1155 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 June 2019 amending Regulation (EC) No 810/2009 establishing a Community Code on Visas (Visa Code) is binding in its entirety, and is directly applicable in all EU Member States in accordance with the Treaties, all Schengen countries, including Lithuania, will apply it from 2 February 2020,” an official from the Information Monitoring and Media Division of Lithuania explained to SchengenVisaInfo.com.
The new rules also permit South Africans to submit an application up to six months in advance of their trip, instead of three as it is now, and foresee a harmonized approach to the issuing of multiple entry visas with lengthier validity to regular travelers with a positive visa history.
According to SchengenVisaInfo.com, Member States that are not represented in South Africa in terms of visa admission, are now obliged to cooperate with external service providers, in order to facilitate visa application for travelers.
The external service providers are allowed to charge a service fee, which cannot be higher than the visa fee. This means South Africans applying at an external visa service provider may have to pay up to €160 per visa application, if the external service providers set the maximum service fee permitted, which is €80.
In addition, the updated Visa Code introduces a mechanism that assesses whether the visa fees should change, every three years. Another mechanism that will use visa processing as leverage will be introduced, in a bid to improve cooperation with third countries on readmission.
According to Gent Ukëhajdaraj from SchengenVisaInfo.com, due to this mechanism, the fees may increase even to €160, if the EU authorities see it necessary.
“A visa fee of €120 or €160 will apply to non-cooperative third-countries, in cases when the EU Commission considers that action is needed in order to improve the level of cooperation of the third country concerned and the Union’s overall relations with that third country,” Ukëhajdaraj explains, adding that this provision shall not apply to children under 12 years old.
The mechanism may also shorten visa validity, and introduce prolonged visa processing periods.
Statistics by SchengenVisaInfo.com show that in 2018, Schengen embassies and consulates in South Africa processed 221,790 visa applications, of which 5,403 were rejected.
Italy was the top favourite country for visa submission, as 44,298 of the applications submitted in South Africa were for Schengen visas to Italy, followed by France with 37,042 and Germany with 32,167 applications.
In terms of expenditures, in 2018, South Africans spent €13,307,400 in visa applications to Europe, and €324,180 was spent by applicants who had their visas rejected.
www.samigration.com

Amended Refugee Act restricts fundamental rights

Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi says Refugee Act amendments tie up loose ends and reduce regulation abuse. Others say they curtail the human rights of refugees and asylum seekers.
Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi has defended the new amendments to the Refugees Act that came into effect at the beginning of the year, saying they serve to tie up loose ends and fill gaps that led to regulation abuse. But they have been met with an avalanche of criticism citing human rights.
The 1998 Refugees Act, which is modelled on the 1951 Refugee Convention, a United Nations treaty, prescribes rules and regulations for asylum seekers and refugees. The act was recently amended to restrict access to work, curtail certain liberties and discourage political involvement or contact with diplomatic missions under threat of deportation.
Some of the amendments include a withdrawal of refugee status if one engages in political activity or campaigns, an age limit for dependents of refugees and a committee determining a refugee’s field of study and the limits to the work for which refugees may apply.
Vusimuzi Sibanda, chairperson of refugee advocacy group the African Diaspora Forum, says it is hoping this position will be reconsidered using the South African Constitution as a guide.
“There are certain parts of the Constitution that look at rights which can be limited. The right to participate in the political affairs of a country is a right that cannot be limited by anyone because that is a right to self-determination,” he says.
Sibanda adds that even if asylum seekers are in South Africa fleeing human rights violations, they are still citizens of their own countries. They have to be given the option of getting politically involved in fixing their country, so they can return.
Academic Jane Duncan agrees, saying that the regulations are disgraceful and that they remove fundamental rights from an already vulnerable constituency.
“[They] most likely would have been victims of persecution in their own countries and their ability to organise around the very issues that created their refugee status is denied to them … Unless refugee organisations can freely organise about issues affecting them directly, they will not be able to change those situations back home, which will create a bigger refugee crisis,” she says.
Political dissidents
Director of the Cape Town-based refugee support group Unifam, Patrick Matenga, who was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), says that the amendments contain both good and bad parts. But he agrees with the department of home affairs that some people abuse the system.
“International law provides for refugees to not be involved in politics … Some people are here to abuse the system of asylum seekers. They are here for political reasons and penetrate into the political system,” he says.
South Africa is home to a number of political dissidents who have organised in South Africa and been instrumental in shedding light on the plight of those in their countries of origin. Many former allies of Rwandan President Paul Kagame fled to South Africa, leading to the country being used as a site for violence and assassination. The situation became so tenuous that both nations removed diplomatic staff from the other.
Motsoaledi has previously positioned the amendment to political participation as a contribution to the continental peace and security architecture. In a radio interview, he said the department was complying with Article 23 of the African Union’s 30-year-old African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Motsoaledi’s spokesperson, Siya Qoza, defended the amendment as necessary to prevent people from using South Africa as a ground for political warfare. “What we don’t want is … people to run away from their home countries, saying they are being persecuted for political participation, and coming here and using South Africa as a base to launch an attack against a country which is legitimate,” he says.
Qoza says African countries are all recognised by international and national bodies as being legitimate governments, citing free elections and independent judiciaries across the continent.
A question of legitimacy
Michael Neocosmos, the author of From ‘Foreign Natives’ to ‘Native Foreigners’, says legitimacy is beside the point as everybody has a human right to engage in the expression of political dissent so long as it’s peaceful. The formulation in the AU Charter mentions the terms “subversion and terrorism”, not “political” as the amendment states.
“No one is denying the legitimacy of the state. But the point is some states are oppressive and deny people their human rights, therefore that’s not the issue. Do they deny certain people their rights? If you are in Myanmar and seek asylum in Bangladesh, it doesn’t mean Myanmar isn’t legitimate, it just means you are oppressed in some way by being denied human rights,” he says.
Having received succour from other African states during the anti-apartheid struggle, it’s easy to spot the dissimilarity in support and sanctuary provided by South Africa to immigrants. But Qoza says the two cannot be compared.
“Here is the difference. ANC comrades went there as freedom fighters, they did not go there as refugees. Apartheid was declared a crime against humanity … ANC people were in camps, they were not integrated into society and provided for under specific conditions,” he says.
Securitisation and internationalism
“You don’t see foreigners as bringing skills, bringing employment, bringing in different ways of doing things … Instead, you criminalise them. More restrictions will not stop people from coming,” he says.
Neocosmos sees this as an abandonment of the internationalist perspective by the ruling party, contending that this moves South Africa into isolation on the continent.
“The ANC had an internationalist perspective. It stood up officially in its rhetoric and in its statements for oppressed peoples. They had an internationalist perspective, but now they seem to deny people their basic rights to organise and engage in political activity, which is the complete opposite. It’s denying internationalism, it’s throwing internationalism under the bus and it shows that there is a core of chauvinism and xenophobia at the heart of the ANC,” he says.
Neocosmos says the amendments will cause more administration and make life even more difficult for refugees and asylum seekers, which is the intention.
“The legislation has always been there, it’s just harassing people. That’s another way of instituting legislation to throw people out … The legislation has always been one to build a fortress around South Africa,” he says.
Tough criteria
Qoza says there are criteria an asylum seeker must satisfy to be granted refugee status: They must prove that they are persecuted on particular grounds, including religion, culture and tribe, with the option to appeal if denied.
“Even if your country has a law against something, you must still … evidence that you as an individual have been targeted. That applies to all [criterion] including political violence, LGBTQIA+ … For example, not all regions in the DRC are at war. Those [in areas of] war must still show that [their] life is directly at risk … That is how the international law operates and we are using it along those lines,” he says.
Qoza says this does not apply to those in the country such as academics or sportspeople, “it only applies to people who came here saying that their lives are in danger and they need protection”.
Sibanda says this approach is a misinterpretation of the Refugees Act, because it assumes you must be directly affected by a disturbance in your country or that you are seeking asylum because you are fighting with your government.
People are running because their governments are not able to protect them from Islamist groups in Nigeria and opposition group Renamo in northern Mozambique, for instance, he says.
“There has always been Renamo in that particular area. Those people who run, run away because of the brutalisation that takes place because of the disagreements between the government and Renamo,” he says.
In a country like Uganda or Kenya, where you can be arrested based on your sexual orientation, or your family arrested for knowing about your preference and not turning you in, it would surely be a tangible fear that you can be persecuted at any time and should be afforded protection.
“They are trying to deal with broader issues. But the way they are trying to go about it, they are preventing people that could have genuine problems, and that is where the biggest concern is,” says Sibanda.
Qoza says that, hypothetically, if a refugee or asylum seeker needed to access documents through their embassy, that asylum seeker would have to alert the home affairs department. They could also make representations to the government if they had sought refuge in South Africa but wanted to participate in the political processes of their country of origin.
Work restrictions
The department of small business development will introduce new laws aimed at restricting the sectors in which refugees and asylum seekers can work following the landmark Watchenuka case, which set parameters on refugee affairs relating to employment while waiting for their status to be declared.
Motsoaledi has said that this caused problems on the labour front, including employers citing the judgment when hiring undocumented immigrants. He has previously claimed in Parliament that 95% of asylum seekers were in fact looking to come to South Africa to seek employment rather than refugee status.
Matenga takes issue with the restrictions on work, saying this will cripple those coming into South Africa.
“Their work is their work. We have no refugee camps in South Africa. So, the only way for them to survive is for them to find work, because they are not afforded assistance,” he says.
Unisa law professor Babatunde Fagbayibo says many countries make use of a local content policy, including Nigeria and Zimbabwe, but that this was not the way to deal with immigration as it made the issue worse without addressing challenges. He attributed the amendments to the securitisation of South Africa, which he says sees itself inside of Africa, but not of Africa.
“There is a sense of othering. South Africa is becoming more nationalistic and this is the foreign policy that is in line with it … It is a schizophrenic foreign policy in which democracy is only respected inside the country. Anything over the Limpopo River, and South Africa looks the other way,” he says.
Interested parties had 13 business days from June 29 2018, when the suggested changes were first published, to comment. Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa media officer Abigail Dawson says the lobby group advocated consistently against the amendments from the time they were drafted, dubbing them a big step away from the progressive 2008 Refugees Act.
“These amendments will enforce much more restrictive avenues … and additional procedural processes for protection, which are unrelated to the protection of refugees and asylum seekers … while denying fundamental rights to work and study,” she says.
Qoza says the department is open to people coming into the country, provided they do so using the appropriate channels and declare their true intentions.
“We need to make sure that people who get in are people who qualify for the status that they are applying for, or else they must apply for a permit which accords with what [they] want to do when in South Africa,” he says.
www.samigration.com

South African Tourism Set To Roll Out E-Visa Facility For Indian Tourists

South Africa Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, who is here to facilitate an e-visa facility for Indian tourists that will be rolled on a pilot basis from next week.

South Africa has taken several measures to provide ease of access to Indian tourists.

New Delhi:
South Africa Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane today said that her country has a positive outlook for the Indian market.
Kubayi-Ngubane, who is here to facilitate an e-visa facility for Indian tourists that will be rolled on a pilot basis from next week, said that her country is in talks with India for granting a multiple-entry visa to South Africa.
“South Africa has taken several measures to provide ease of access to Indian tourists including bringing changes in visa regime. The online visa application system pilot testing will happen from the next week. If the pilot project goes well, a full rollout will take place from April 1, 2020,” she said.
“We have a positive outlook for the Indian market and are also in talks with India for granting a multiple-entry visa to South Africa,” she added.
A high-level delegation including the Minister as well as Chief Operating Officer of South African Tourism Sthembiso Dlamini engaged with the key officials from India”s Ministry of Tourism and reiterated their commitment to enhancing the destination-marketing support to New Delhi, its eight largest international source market.
As South African Tourism aims at doubling international tourist arrivals from 10.5 million to 21 million by 2030, India is expected to play a significant role in achieving this long term goal.
With the aim of reinforcing and strengthening tourism ties between India and South Africa, Kubayi-Ngubane further indicated that the piloting of e-visas for the market was under serious consideration.
From January to October 2019, South Africa welcomed 81,316 Indian visitors. This year, the country aims to increase the momentum with a 1.3 per cent rise in Indian travelers.
Tourism is one of the key contributors to the growth of South African economy. The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) report estimates that by 2028, almost 2.1 million jobs in South Africa will depend on travel and tourism
www.samigration.com

Immigration official arrested in sting over R100 000 ‘bribe’

An immigration official appeared in the Kempton Park Regional Court on Monday and remains in custody after being charged with corruption, extortion and defeating the ends of justice.
Police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo confirmed Sam Jan Langa, 52, of the Department of Home Affairs’ national office was arrested on Thursday.
“Langa allegedly demanded over R100 000 from a foreign businessman. In exchange, he would allegedly ensure that the businessman and other foreigners would not be deported back to their country of origin,” Naidoo said in a statement.
Langa was arrested during a sting operation at OR Tambo International Airport’s departure terminal on Thursday after allegedly accepting the “bribe money” after the case was referred to the police’s National Cold Case Investigation Team.
The case was postponed for further investigation and Langa was remanded until his next court appearance on Wednesday.

Lawyers for Human Rights to challenge the amendment of Refugee Act

Some of the changes in the Refugee Act include preventing asylum-seekers from participating in political activity, clamping down on businesses and regulations on where they can work or go to school.
Lawyers for Human Rights say they will challenge the amendments made to the Refugee Act that came into effect on January 1.
Some of the changes in the Act include preventing asylum-seekers from participating in political activity, clamping down on businesses and regulations on where they can work or go to school.
The organisation says it is disappointed by the amendments to the Act.
Sharon Ekambaram from the Lawyers for Human Rights says they will mobilise to challenge the Home Affairs Department.
“The problem with that is that the asylum system in SA is in crisis and these amendments are not looking at addressing that problem. What we see is that many of these amendments that are coming into regulation are actually intended to place more restrictions and to deny human beings, people who are fleeing conflict on the continent, who are facing serious trauma; that their human rights and human dignity is further coming under attack in SA.”
www.samigration.com

New tighter laws for South Africa’s border control

Cape Town – The home affairs committee has backed new regulations on refugees saying they would tighten the immigration system.
This comes after Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi recently gazetted the regulations.
The regulations would be among other statutes that would ban refugees from political activity.
The Refugee Amendment Act regulations came into effect at the start of the year.
Chairperson of the committee Bongani Bongo said this was a step in the right direction and the regulations would tighten the immigration system.
“We believe that the regulations form part of the broader efforts that are aimed at strengthening the immigration system and ensure that the system is not manipulated for nafarious reasons.
“We call on the department to properly train its employees on the new regulations and ensure that they are adequately and fully implemented,” said Bongo.
The gazetting of the regulations comes after the National Council of Provinces (NCoP) approved the Border Management Authority Bill.
The new bill would create a single agency to man the borders of the country.
Politicians had for many years complained about the country’s porous borders and wanted a single agency that would tighten control at borders.
When the Border Management Authority Bill was tabled a few years ago National Treasury had complained it would cut the powers of the South African Revenue Service to collect taxes at the border.
The police also complained that the new law would take away some of their functions.
But they were assured by the department of home affairs that the new agency would not strip any entity or department of its powers.
The EFF and DA also criticised this law in the NCoP.
The EFF said the bill would create a parallel structure to collect taxes.
The DA said the country would not have the money to implement it over 15 years.
It would cost between R3.8 billion and R10.2bn to implement.
On the gazetting of the regulations for the Refugee Act, Bongo said this would strengthen the entry requirements into the country.
He said the regulations must ensure the sovereignty and security of the country and give refugees protection.
“We believe strongly as the committee that these regulations will certainly deter the tide of corruption and fraud in the system and maintain on a sustainable basis the balance between the three responsibilities,” he said.
Others criticised the regulations saying they would limit the movement and entry of refugees and asylum seekers into the country.
But Bongo said those slamming the regulations did not provide alternatives or viable options.

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