Archive from September, 2020

Here are the official level 1 lockdown rules for South Africa – including opening borders and limits on gatherings

Business Tech – 23 September 2020

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has published a series of directives which outline the country’s move to a level 1 lockdown and the new rules that are in place.

In the first directive, Dlamini-Zuma confirms that the country will move to a level 1 lockdown from 00h01 on Monday morning (21 September).

In the second directive, the Cogta minister provides more clarification on the changes announced by President Cyril Ramamphosa in his national address on Wednesday evening.

The biggest changes are outlined in more detail below.

Re-opening of borders 

From 1 October 2020, all travellers from the African continent and from countries outside the African continent with a low rate of Covid-19 infection and transmission, will resume.

This will be subject to:

  • The traveller providing a valid certificate of a negative test which was obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of travel; and
  • In the event of the traveller’s failure to submit a certificate as proof of a negative test, the traveller will be required to quarantine at his or her own costs.

To temporarily control entry into South Africa from countries outside the African continent, the relevant cabinet members shall, after consultation with the cabinet member responsible for health, determine in directions:

  • Criteria for controlling entry into the Republic, from such countries with a high Covid-19 infection and transmission rate;
  • The list of such countries with a high Covid-19 infection and transmission rate, which list may, from time to time, be amended.
  • International travel from countries listed as having a high Covid-19 infection and transmission rate, will remain prohibited except for business travel which may be allowed with the approval of the Cabinet member responsible for home affairs.

All commercial seaports will be opened but international air travel is restricted to the following airports:

  • OR Tambo International Airport;
  • King Shaka International Airport; and
  • Cape Town International Airport.

The list of high risk and safe countries is still to be finalised. It will be published by the respective department, before travel opens up on 1 October, Dlamini-Zuma said.

The minister said the list will be changing as new data becomes available, and won’t be a one-off. Long-term visas will be activated from 1 October.

Gatherings 

Every person, when attending a gathering, and in order to limit exposure to Covid-19, must:

  • Wear a face mask;
  • Adhere to all health protocols;
  • Maintain a distance of least one and a half metres from each other; and
  • Adhere to any other health protocols and social distancing measures as provided for in directions issued by the relevant cabinet member after consultation with the cabinet member responsible for health.

In addition, an owner or operator of any indoor or outdoor facility where gatherings are held must display the certificate of occupancy which sets out the maximum number of persons the facility may hold.

The directive also outlines the following rules for specific gatherings, provided that no more than 50% of the capacity of the venue is used, with persons observing a distance of least one and a half metres from each other.

Other notable rules include:

  • Gatherings at faith-based institutions are limited to 250 persons or less in case of an indoor gathering and 500 persons or less in case of an outdoor gathering;
  • Gatherings at social events are limited to 250 persons or less in case of an indoor gathering and 500 persons or less in case of an outdoor gathering;
  • Gatherings at political events and traditional council meetings are limited to 250 persons or less in case of an indoor gathering and 500 persons or less in case of an outdoor gathering;
  • Gatherings at conferences and meetings are limited to 250 persons or less in case of an indoor gathering and 500 persons or less in case of an outdoor gathering. Provided that persons participating through electronic platforms are not included in these limitations;
  • Gatherings at a workplace for work purposes are allowed;
  • Gatherings for recreational purposes at cinemas, theatres, concerts and live performances are limited to 250 persons or less in case of an indoor gathering and 500 persons or less in case of an outdoor gathering;
  • Gatherings at casinos are limited to not more than 50% of the capacity of the venue, with persons observing a distance of least one and a half metres from each other.

Alcohol sales

The sale of liquor is permitted:

  • By licensed premises for off-site consumption is permitted from 09h00 to 17h00, from Mondays to Fridays, excluding weekends and public holidays;
  • By licensed premises for on-site consumption is permitted, subject to strict adherence to the curfew.

Funerals 

Attendance at  funerals is limited to 100 persons or less:

  • Provided that not more than 50% of the capacity of the venue is used, with persons observing a distance of least one and a half metres from each other.
  • Night vigils are not allowed.
  • During a funeral, a person must wear a face mask and adhere to all health protocols and social distancing measures.

Curfew

Every person is confined to his or her place of residence from 00h01 until 04h00 daily, except where a person  has been granted a permission for work purposes or is attending to a security or medical emergency.

Masks 

  • A person must, when in a public place, wear a face mask, except when undertaking vigorous exercise; and
  • May not be allowed to be in a public place, use any form of public transport, or enter a public building, place or premises, if that person is not wearing a face mask.

Closed to the public and exclusions 

The following areas remain closed and/or are specifically excluded under the country’s level 1 lockdown:

  • Night vigils;
  • Night clubs;
  • The 35 land borders that remain closed;
  • Initiation practices;
  • Passenger ships for international leisure purposes;
  • Attendance of any sporting event by spectators;
  • International sports events;
  • Exclusions relating to certain public transport services;
  • Exclusions relating to certain education services.

www.samigration.com

Golden Visa issues suffer from Covid-19

OUSSANOGLOU – 25 September 2020

The issuing of five-year residence permits to property investors from outside the European Union has all but ground to a halt. Based on Migration Policy Ministry data, in the year to early September only 368 so-called Golden Visas were issued, taking the sum of investors to have received these permits since the beginning of the program to 7,903.

At end-2019 their number had come to 7,535, from 4,107 permits at end-2018. Therefore 2019 was a record year for the program with the issue of 3,428 Golden Visas, after the inflow of at least 857 million euros for the acquisition of properties setting each investor back at least €250,000.

The sum of at least €857 million accounts for almost half of the total amount all foreign investors spent on Greek properties last year. In fact that sum was much higher, as according to estate agents specializing in this market the figure soared above €1 billion because most investors tend to choose assets that are worth over €300,000 each.

Bank of Greece figures have shown that the sum of foreign capital that flowed into the country for the acquisition of real estate assets last year reached €1.45 billion.

It therefore becomes clear that 2020 will be a lost year for the Golden Visa program too, as the interested buyers have been unable to travel to Greece for months due to the pandemic and the central decision by Brussels to ban the entry of citizens from non-EU countries, with only a handful of exceptions. This has led to the cancellation of a series of transactions that were in the final stage of completion.

It recently emerged that at least 120 Chinese investors who have already bought property in Greece cannot return to this country to submit the necessary documents for the issue of their residence permit. It is noted that out of the 7,903 Golden Visas issued, 5,869, or 74%, concerned Chinese nationals. The same problem concerns investors from the US, South Africa, India, the United Arab Emirates and Iran.

The second wave of the pandemic has banished any hopes for a rebound in transactions over the course of the fourth quarter, with Attica, where over 70% of such investments take place, being on the verge of very tight restrictions.

www.samigration.com

UPDATE 2-South Africa to allow travel from all of Africa from Oct. 1

* Travel to and from within continent allowed

* Travel restricted from high infection countries

* Govt yet to say which countries on restricted list

* Business travel to be allowed under certain conditions (Adds details from govt gazette)

JOHANNESBURG,  South Africa will allow travel from Oct. 1 to and from all countries in Africa as well as other countries where levels of COVID-19 infections are not too high, a government minister said on Friday.

For countries outside Africa, the government will determine whether entry is allowed depending on that country’s COVID-19 infection and transmission rate, cooperative governance minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said.

The government will prepare a list of countries from where travel will be restricted, Dlamini-Zuma said, but did not specify when the list will be published.

“International travel in the continent is allowed to all countries and from all countries,” she said. Travellers should have a negative COVID-19 test obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of travel or would have to quarantine.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa had said on Wednesday the country would open its international borders selectively, as the infection rate has progressively slowed to below 2,000 new cases per day.

At its peak, Africa’s most industrialised nation, currently among the world’s top ten in terms of total cumulative cases, was recording an average of over 13,000 cases a day in July.

Business travel from high infection countries could be allowed with the approval of the home affairs minister, according to regulations published in the government gazette on Friday.

Only airports in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban will be allowed to operate for international flights, the regulations said.

Dlamini-Zuma said the 18 land borders that were partially operational will now be fully opened but that the 35 borders crossings currently closed will remain closed.

“Visa applications in our embassies are now allowed,” she said.

South Africa imposed one of the world’s strictest lockdowns in March to curb a surge in coronavirus infections. The country’s outbreak has claimed over 15,000 lives in the last six months.

The lockdown, which has now been eased, took a huge toll on the economy, especially the mining and tourism sectors, shrinking its size in the second quarter to what it was in 2007 and exacerbating already high levels of unemployment.

www.samigration.com

‘Absolutely devastated': Thousands of residents on visas locked out of Australia

Thousands of skilled migrants with valid visas to come to Australia are stranded overseas, needing government permission to travel back and reunite with their families and jobs.

Under measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic since March 20, foreign nationals have required a travel exemption to enter Australia even if they already have a visa, though the Department of Home Affairs has refused to disclose the legal basis for this requirement. This includes both short-term visitors and long-term residents on visas.

A spokesperson for the Australian Border Force said the agency had received 109,743 requests for a travel exemption to enter Australia as of August 31. Of those, ABF granted permission for 16,860 people to enter Australia, including 5142 cases associated with critical skills or industry sectors and 3419 on compassionate grounds.

Soren and Ingri Madsen with their children, Philip and William, in their Sydney home. Their eldest son, Victor, has a visa to join them but has been refused a travel exemption to enter the country.

A request can cover more than one person and there can be multiple requests from the same person; resubmitted applications counted as new requests until the system changed in mid-July.

There are thought to be more than 40,000 skilled migrants on 457 and 482 visas currently outside the country, based on figures from Home Affairs and the Bureau of Statistics. That includes people who have left Australia permanently but still hold a valid visa as well as those keen to return.

Chef Chris Farrell, who has lived in Sydney for six years and has an Australian partner, returned to the UK to visit his dying mother Janet.

Senators and MPs are fielding hundreds of requests for help from temporary migrants who need permission to return to Australia. The Sun-Herald has spoken to more than half a dozen people in this situation, including couples living apart and parents separated from children.

Chris Farrell, 33, is a chef for acclaimed Sydney restaurant Three Blue Ducks on a sponsored 457 visa. He has lived here for six years, recently qualified for permanent residency, has an Australian girlfriend and a lease in Rosebery in the inner south.

In July, Mr Farrell travelled to Britain to see his mother who is dying of cancer. He has applied five times for approval to return, with support from his employer, but has been refused every time. “I’m absolutely devastated,” Mr Farrell said. “Cancer has ruined my family and now I feel like I have been punished because I wanted to say goodbye to my mum.”

Soren Madsen from Denmark is on a 482 visa running international logistics company Scan Global, which helped import face masks during the pandemic. He lives in Manly with his wife and 10-year-old twin boys, while his eldest son Victor, 22, has a visa and was meant to rejoin his family after finishing university in Amsterdam.

But Victor was refused a travel exemption and instead had to return to Denmark, a country where he has not lived since he was 13, has no job and only two relatives. “He’s a strong young man but it’s not like he’s smiling,” Mr Madsen said of his son. “He is confident and he’s just waiting, but it takes a little bit of a toll.”

Labor immigration spokeswoman Kristina Keneally said employers waiting for critical staff to be let back into the country were frustrated that Prime Minister Scott Morrison had “one rule for his mates, and another for everyone else”.

“British billionaire Lord Sugar has been given an exemption by the Morrison government to travel into the country to film a reality television show, but small and medium sized businesses I talk to keep being told ‘no, you can’t have your staff back’,” she said.

Once foreign nationals obtain a travel exemption, they would join the queue of Australians unable to get flights because international arrivals are capped at 4000 a week and 30 per plane. Australian citizens and permanent residents require permission to leave the country under the Biosecurity Act but not to return. All international arrivals must pay for a 14-day quarantine stay in a hotel.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday a deal with the states to lift the arrivals cap to 6000 a week within the next few weeks would mean most people, if not everyone, stranded overseas could return by Christmas. A spokesman said he was referring to the 24,000 citizens and permanent residents who have registered their desire to return to Australia with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Aradhya Ojha is trapped in India with her mother and brother, separated from her father. The whole family have valid visas and have lived in Sydney since February 2018.

Bineet Ojha, a risk analyst on a 457 visa for one of the big four banks, works in Sydney while his wife Vandana Mohanty, their son Arihant, 7, and baby daughter Aradhya are stranded in India without permission to return. He only saw his newborn for a few days in January before he had to go back to work, while the rest of the family was meant to follow in April.

“My husband has not been able to see our 8-month-old daughter for more than seven months now,” Ms Mohanty said. “He is a complete stranger to her and missing all her milestones. Our son is also hugely missing his father, who is his best buddy.”

Greens immigration spokesman Nick McKim said the government needed to do more to help citizens but this was “not mutually exclusive” with helping temporary migrants. His office had 400 cases on its books of visa holders trapped overseas, including 28 families where parents are separated from their children and 140 where couples are separated and this would “only be a fraction of the total”.

“Most of these people have built lives in Australia – they work here, they run businesses here, their kids go to school here, they pay taxes here, they’ve made their homes here,” Senator McKim said. “It’s been six months, and the government can’t simply keep avoiding this issue.”

Senator McKim said ABF’s decision making was “opaque”. The criteria that ABF uses to decide a travel exemption request was only published for the first time last week.

The ABF said between March 20 and August 31 it refused permission for 6100 foreign nationals to enter Australia. It declined to provide detailed information about the remaining 86,783 requests, saying it included requests that did not contain sufficient information, those that were withdrawn and those from people already exempt.

Abul Rizvi, the former deputy secretary of immigration, said there was no good legal basis for requiring someone with a valid visa to also obtain a travel exemption. There is a public health clause in the Migration Act but Mr Rizvi said “legally it would be a stretch” because you would have to prove the person actually has COVID-19.

UPDATE: Vandana Mohanty and her children received an exemption to travel back to Sydney, late on Saturday night after publication.

www.samigration.com

CPT International Airport given green light to resume travel

24 September 2020 – ENCA

International visitors will be allowed back in the country from 1 October.

CAPE TOWN – Cape Town International Airport has been given the green light to reopen for international travel on 1 October.

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula made the announcement during his oversight visit there on Thursday.

Mbalula did not, however, shed any light on travel regulations, saying the process is taking longer than expected.

An announcement is slated for next week.

The aviation industry is losing millions daily due to a lack of international flights and Airports Company South Africa says it’s ready to welcome international visitors.

Before the lockdown, Cape Town International used to welcome around 35,000 to 45,000 passengers daily but it is currently operating at around 25-percent capacity.

www.samigration.com

 

The new tax and emigration change South Africans should know about

The draft Taxation Laws Amendment Bill (TLAB), which is open for public comment, will introduce changes for South Africans looking to take their retirement funds abroad.

In an analysis of the proposed change, law firm ENSAfrica said that the changes primarily deal with formal emigration with the draft bill suggesting a much stricter process from 1 March 2021 onward.

“Members of preservation funds and retirement annuity funds may withdraw from such funds if they formally emigrate from South Africa for exchange control purposes and their emigration is approved by the South African Reserve Bank,” said ENSAfrica.

However, it was announced in the 2020 Budget Review that the concept of emigration for exchange control purposes will be phased out.

“As a result, the requirement of formal emigration will be removed and a new requirement for the withdrawal of lump-sum benefits from these retirement funds is proposed, effective from 1 March 2021 – namely, that the person is not a resident (i.e. for tax purposes) for an uninterrupted period of three years or longer.

“It appears that this requirement is intended to apply to three consecutive tax years, although the amendment refers simply to years.”

Changes 

Jean du Toit, head of Tax Technical at Tax Consulting SA, said that under the current rules taxpayers can withdraw their retirement funds prior to their retirement date, upon emigration for exchange control purposes.

This emigration process must be recognised by the South African Reserve Bank in a process known as ‘financial emigration’, he said.

Du Toit said that under the new bill, reference to the emigration process is substituted with a new test that requires a person to prove they have been non-resident for tax purposes for an unbroken period of at least three years.

“This new test will apply from 1 March 2021. How this must be proved other than ‘financial emigration’ remains unclear at this stage.

“Practically, after the effective date, your retirement benefits will be locked in South Africa for at least three years. The proposed amendment signals a big policy shift from a fiscal perspective, but this is one piece to a bigger puzzle that should have those who seek to emigrate on high alert.”

Based on daily interaction with employers, executives and expatriates, Du Toit said that the following groups of people should give this change careful consideration:

  • Does it remain prudent for South African executives to keep taking a tax break and maximising their South African approved retirement savings?
  • Where you have large retirement savings, the opportunity will soon be over to make best possible investment decisions – soon some will go towards cheaper access to finance.
  • South Africans looking to leave in the next couple of years will benefit from at least expediting their process on retirement savings, being they are locked in for 3 years.
  • South Africans who have already left, but who have not yet done financial emigration, should consider doing this within the next 6 months before the window closes.
  • Those who have already financially emigrated, but left investments behind, should reconsider their position.
  • South Africans with children or other foreign beneficiaries, should relook at their investments and to align with this new landscape

www.samigration.com

Home Affairs suspends senior official probing allegedly dodgy citizenships

22 September 2020 – Times Live

 

The Public Servants Association of SA has lashed out at the department of home affairs for suspending a senior bureaucrat involved in investigating foreign nationals who allegedly obtained SA citizenship fraudulently.

The PSA has accused the department of victimising and harassing advocate Amanda Ledwaba after acting director-general Jackie McKay placed her on suspension.

In a letter of suspension last week Tuesday, McKay claimed that Ledwaba abused her powers when she investigated the citizenship status of certain foreign nationals.

But the PSA’s Reuben Maleka has hit back at the department, accusing it of leashing Ledwaba to stop her from investigating how powerful foreign nationals linked to politicians obtained SA citizenship.

McKay said Ledwaba, the department’s director of law enforcement, will be investigated and possibly face a disciplinary hearing. He said she will be investigated for allegations, by whistle-blowers, that she abused her power “to investigate and/or cause to be investigated various individuals with regard to their status in SA”.

He also accused her of issuing instructions “to officials of the department to investigate or cause to be investigated various individuals with regards to their status in SA. Ledwaba had also communicated with third parties outside the department when she was not authorised to do so and unlawfully benefited third parties in contravention of legislation.”

Ledwaba referred all queries to Maleka.

Maleka said McKay suspended Ledwaba because she was investigating the citizenship status of powerful and politically-connected illegal foreign nationals who live and conduct business in the country.

Maleka, who has appointed an attorney to deal with Ledwaba’s case, said: “Amanda is dealing with very high and sensitive matters of illegal foreign nationals who are well-connected and doing business in the country. The attached suspension letter says nothing but is a clear indication of victimisation and (they) intend to dismiss her at all costs because she is upholding the Immigration Act in totality,” Maleka said.

Ledwaba’s suspension follows the arrest earlier this month of Kebone Masange, head of the human settlements department in Mpumalanga.

Masange was arrested by immigration officials for being an illegal immigrant. He was charged with fraud and for being in possession of three identity documents which officials claim Masange, who was born in Zimbabwe, obtained fraudulently.

Ledwaba has also been involved in the arrest of other high-profile foreign nationals including Sam Chabalala, Bongani Mhlanga and Zenzo Mahlangu.

Chabalala, a businessman from Emalahleni, shot to prominence in July last year during the annual Durban July horse race and fashion show. Pictures of him and a fleet of ultra-luxury cars taken on the N3 highway to Durban were circulated on social media. Two months later, Chabalala was arrested for allegedly being in possession of a fraudulently obtained identity document.

In 2017 Ledwaba was involved in the deportation of Zimbabwean nationals, friends and business partners Mahlangu and Mhlanga.

At the time Mahlangu was general secretary of the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu).

Mhlanga was the founder of the Mvunonala group, which crashed amid allegations of looting of over R500m from the Amplats Group Provident Fund.

The department’s spokesperson, Siya Qoza, said Ledwaba was not suspended for doing her job.

“Adv Ledwaba was not placed on precautionary suspension ‘for investigating high profile businessmen who have obtained SA citizenship illegally’. The reasons for the decision are contained in the letter placing her on precautionary suspension. It is disingenuous to suggest that Adv Ledwaba would be placed on precautionary suspension for doing her job. On the contrary, the department supports all officials who are committed to rooting out corruption and executing their functions diligently.”

He did not disclose the allegations made against Ledwaba by the whistle-blower.

“The department is not at liberty to provide this detail at this stage because the matter is still under investigation,” Qoza said, adding that the decision to suspend Ledwaba was taken after careful consideration of all the facts and within the bounds of the law.

“All the necessary fair labour procedures were followed,” he said.

www.samigration.com

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