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Foreign workers to bear brunt of proposed changes to SA immigration policy

Foreign workers to bear brunt of proposed changes to SA immigration policy
17 Oct 2017 – Tourism Update
Proposed changes to SA immigration policy with see companies having to fork out more.
With an overhaul of South Africa’s immigration system imminent and uncertainty over the impact of some of the proposed changes, concerns are being expressed and companies are advised to keep a close watch. Liesl Venter finds out more.
The White Paper on Immigration released by the Department of Home Affairs in July this year will introduce significant changes to the immigration landscape and, while much is still up in the air, companies can expect to fork out more.
“It is virtually going to become impossible for a foreigner working in South Africa to become a permanent resident (PR) and, following that, a full citizen,” says Johan Lubbe, Managing Member of Immigration Boutique. “If one looks at where they are going with this, it becomes clear the government is only going to take the cream of the crop and they simply do not want permanent resident holders.”
The best advice to anyone considering citizenship in South Africa is therefore to apply sooner rather than later because come 2019 it will be near impossible.
According to Gavin Colaco, Practice Leader at Fragomen Africa, the movement from PR to citizenship should not be an issue for employees, nor be relevant in the employer/employee relationship. “A PR holder enjoys the same rights as a citizen, except participation in elections into government structures (local, provincial and national). A PR holder does not require a work visa and can change employment at any time without limitation, just like a citizen. There should be no impact on the company when a PR holder has difficulty to qualify for citizenship, unless the company rules specify that some roles are only for citizens, and if that is the case, then the company itself could be adopting unfair labour practices that are constitutionally illegal,” Colaco says.
But, should employees be restricted in getting PR status, it will be a different story altogether – as the only option open to foreigners will be work permits.
According to Colaco, South Africa still remains a strategic country for companies to use as a base and to make inroads to the African continent for business growth and investment. “The challenges with immigration do present hurdles to the smooth deployment of individuals into South Africa and the trend continues. This does definitely impact the ability to import the appropriate and much-needed skills into the country to catalyse growth and development,” he says.
“For instance, there is a specific type of visa called the Critical Skills Visa which is designed to respond to companies’ needs for skills by attracting talent in those skill shortage areas. However, the challenge lies in the fact that the skills list needs to be updated and published by the Minister responsible, after consultation across all government departments and industries that require skills that are either not available or in short supply. The last time this was done was back in 2014 resulting in the skills list being potentially outdated. Therefore, companies struggle to bring in bright talent involved in cutting-edge technological advancements, owing to the fact that this visa category operates on an outdated skills list,” Colaco explains.
He says the biggest challenges with the White Paper are the inconsistent decision-making (adjudication) both in South Africa and foreign missions, the long turnaround times that are also inconsistent from mission to mission and country to country, the varying interpretation of the immigration legislation, and the ongoing requests for additional documents and information not in the legislation.
According to Hanniff Hoosen, DA Shadow Minister of Home Affairs, while the approach to introduce more control over one’s borders is commendable, a restrictive approach can be damaging. “The barriers to entry being created are questionable. We are introducing a restrictive system for those who comply with the law while at the same time making it extremely easy for immigrants who don’t comply to literally just walk across our border. It does not make sense,” he says.
According to Hoosen, while the changes in the immigration policy will impact on business, the bigger fear lies in the message being sent to the rest of the world – that it is difficult to do business in South Africa.
Gershon Mosiane, Chairman of the Forum of Immigration Practitioners of South Africa (FIPSA), says even applying for work visas is becoming increasingly difficult and fewer and fewer are being issued every year. “It is costing companies huge amounts of money to apply for these visas and there is no guarantee their employees are going to get them,” he says.
“We are currently working on a case where a metal manufacturing company is about to shut its doors as the skilled experts it has brought in are not getting their visas,” Mosiane adds.
He says the critical skills list is also questionable. “They have sheep shearers on that list, but engineers working at a manufacturing plant employing hundreds of South Africans are not able to get a work visa. This makes no sense,” Mosiane says.
According to Lubbe, it is not only becoming increasingly difficult to apply for these visas but also more expensive. “Companies are best advised to keep a close eye on these policy developments. It is still extremely uncertain and difficult to say what the exact impacts will be, but indications are that the negatives at present far outweigh the positives.”

Zimbabwean diaspora in SA loses interest in Zim affairs

Zimbabwean diaspora in SA loses interest in Zim affairs
2017-10- City Press
Zimbabweans who have fled economic hardship and political problems to fend for their families in South Africa have lost interest in the affairs of their country.
They did not care who was sacked this week by President Robert Mugabe or who was appointed to his newly reshuffled Cabinet, saying their country’s woes required economic policies that would ease the hardships faced by their families back home.
Zimbabwean Chenjerai-Patson Muzvidziwa said: “I am sick and tired of the Zimbabwean question. What matters now for my wife and me is how to ensure that our children go to school and get them food, clothes and proper healthcare.
“Otherwise, the issue of who is reshuffled, expelled or appointed in Zimbabwe is no longer any of my business.”
On Monday night Mugabe, 93, rearranged his Cabinet on the back of intense factional battles waged by camps jostling for his succession and of a worsening economic situation coming ahead of elections scheduled for next year.
Among other changes, Mugabe’s first deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa, was removed as minister of justice, legal and parliamentary affairs.
He also introduced new ministries such as the cyber security, threat detection and mitigation ministry, as well as another responsible for national scholarships.
Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party is torn between factions siding with Mnangagwa and the increasingly influential First Lady, Grace, to succeed the president.
Muzvidziwa said he used to follow developments back home with keen interest in 2008, when South Africa’s then president Thabo Mbeki attempted to mediate in the Zimbabwean crisis.
At the time, Mbeki’s efforts led to the September 2008 government of national unity between Mugabe and his arch-rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party.
Although it was short-lived, the settlement temporarily boosted Zimbabwe’s economic stability with new investments.
The quality of life for its citizens also improved – out-of-stock hospitals got the drugs they needed; safe water could be found in most communities; and supermarkets were full of commodities.
Compared with the current acute shortages of basic commodities and cash, it was a golden era.
“Since Mbeki left government, I also lost hope,” Muzvidziwa said.
“I am just praying that South Africa’s department of home affairs gives me and my family permanent residence in this country so that I completely disown Zimbabwe.”
During the interview, Muzvidziwa was sending groceries to his home town of Masvingo through the “malayishas”, an informal courier service.
Zimbabwean Farai Ncube, originally from Binga, a district in Matabeleland North, said he was selling items in Braamfontein to generate money for his parents back home.
“I send the money using malayishas. I cannot send it through formal means as I do not have documentation,” he said.
A significant portion of the population in Ncube’s home province relies on goods and remittances sent by family members outside of the country, mainly from South Africa.
Onisimo Zviripai, who works for one of the bus companies plying the Harare-Johannesburg route, was also unconcerned about the Cabinet reshuffle and other political problems.
“At least I don’t commit a crime or steal from other people but eat from my sweat,” he said.
More concerned about bread-and-butter
Advocate Gabriel Shumba, the executive director of civic organisation the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum, said: “Very clearly, the reshuffle is a political and secessionist manoeuvre that has neither the current economic interests of Zimbabwe nor its long-term future [at heart].
“A cause for serious concern is the new ministry of cyber security. In the execution of whatever mandate will be accorded, it is likely to clash with some provisions of our Constitution.”
Shumba said Zimbabweans were more concerned about bread-and-butter, as well as developmental, issues that were sacrificed at the altar of political expedience and personal aggrandisement, adding:
“The country needs to reinvent and re-articulate its vision.”
Ngqabutho Mabhena, the Johannesburg-based general secretary of the Zimbabwe Communist Party, lamented the appointment of the ministers of scholarships and of of cyber security, arguing that they should have been absorbed into existing ministries.
“Unfortunately, without a clear economic and political programme, this Cabinet reshuffle is meaningless as it will not address our economic, social and political challenges,” Mabhena said.
He said the need for a new leadership that would unite the polarised and distressed nation was the biggest challenge facing Zimbabwe, along with the looting of resources by the “parasitic bourgeoisie”.
Luke Dzipange Zunga, secretary general of the Zimbabwean Civil Society Organisations, said while Mugabe had the liberty to change his Cabinet, the reshuffle confirmed that Zimbabwe was not run by Parliament or central government.
Instead, it was run via intelligence operatives.
Zunga said following the reshuffle and the elective congress, Mnangagwa risked being arrested to sideline him from presidential contention.
He further predicted that the 2018 elections would see poverty-stricken villagers frog-marched to the polls to vote for the ruling Zanu-PF party.
Zunga went on to forecast that after those elections – which Mugabe would win if such machinations worked – he would install Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi as his successor and Grace as the deputy, while another deputy would come from the former Zapu party, in accordance with the 1987 Unity Accord it signed with Zanu-PF. – CAJ News
www.sami.co.za

Migration issues highly politicised – home affairs minister

Migration issues highly politicised – home affairs minister
5.10.2017 – The Citizen
South Africa is grappling with balancing entry for skilled migrants and refugees with creating jobs for its 27.7% unemployed citizens.
Migration issues were “highly politicised” because they involved power relations and contestation for space and scarce resources, that’s according to the minister of home affairs, Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize.
“Migration issues are highly politicised, they are about power relations amongst those who are migrating and the receiving countries. It’s about contestation of space and scarce resources,” she said.
Mkhize was speaking at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Westville campus in Durban on Thursday during a dialogue on the management of international migration.
South Africa is grappling with balancing entry for skilled migrants and refugees with creating jobs for its 27.7% unemployed citizens – the highest in over a decade.
Mkhize said that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees announced this week that, “an unprecedented 65.6 million people around the world have been forced from home. Amongst these, there are nearly 22.5 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.”
The home affairs minister said South Africa was questioning the capacity it had to absorb more people and how it would relate to migrants’ countries of origin.
“The thinking is that as people migrate from their countries, the host countries should have on-going engagements with the countries of origin so that, you hope, as their circumstances improve, there will be possibilities of secure repatriation.”
As a member state of the United Nations, South Africa needed to guide migratory processes and look after refugees, she said.
“The whole idea is that we have to protect the safety, dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms of all immigrants, regardless of their migratory status, at all times.”
Mkhize admitted that it was seen as contradictory that the country had embraced the African Union’s Agenda 2063 but was also putting in place interventions that controlled migration, such as border management.
Agenda 2063 calls for an integrated and politically united Africa and the free movement of people, capital, goods and services.
“We must know what is of national interest. It is important for us to secure our borders. If we don’t, we will end up with a situation where citizens have the impression that the government is failing to control migration,” she said.
According to the country’s White Paper for International Migration: “The current average of 62,000 asylum applications per annum makes South Africa the highest recipient of individual asylum seekers in Africa”.
The majority are from Zimbabwe, followed by Ethiopia, DRC and Nigeria.
The paper also says that the majority of illegal migrants come from neighbouring countries.
“Of the total number of 369,726 migrants that were deported between January 2012 and December 2016, nationals from Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Lesotho made up 88%.”
The most likely reason a person applied for either a temporary or permanent residency visa was linked to spouses joining their partner, according to the paper.
The Paper states that during the 2014/15 financial year, of the 1955 applications for permanent residence based on marriage grounds “… 74% of these applications (1,362) were recommended for rejection on the basis that the marriages were found to be fraudulent”.

NATURALISATION – Citizenship is hard to come by for skilled immigrants who create jobs

05 October 2017 – Times Live

Immigration attorney to challenge in court the unlawful and arbitrary 10-year permanent residency regulation
Almost seven years ago, I arrived in SA as a 24-year-old unemployed university graduate from Israel and the US. I had met my then South African partner while on holiday in Cape Town, and due to the US Defence of Marriage Act, which forbade US citizens from sponsoring same-sex partners for green cards, our only option was for him to sponsor me to move to SA as his life partner on a temporary residence visa.
In 2013, I was granted permanent residence based on “extraordinary skills”, which I demonstrated through work, references and publications. I used these skills to launch En-novate, a company I co-founded that takes South African entrepreneurs and business professionals to different parts of the world to look at innovation and how to make local companies more globally competitive and stimulate job creation.
To date, we have taken hundreds of South Africans to world-leading ecosystems such as Amsterdam, Seattle, Silicon Valley and Tel Aviv to explore the future of industries of strategic national importance, such as agriculture, manufacturing and financial services. We have even worked with the public sector including the Department of Science and Technology and Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
In 2016, I decided to make the ultimate commitment to the country in which I have lived most of my adult life and applied for South African citizenship. In my application, I demonstrated my personal financial commitments to SA (including property ownership), the number of South Africans I employ, as well as the many economic contributions my company has made to SA (not to mention the corporate taxes we pay) by taking small, medium and microenterprises and business professionals abroad to promote doing business with SA.
Section 5(1) of the South African Citizenship Amendment Act of 2010 states that the minister may grant a certificate of naturalisation as a South African citizen to any foreigner who satisfies the minister that he/she “has been admitted to the republic for permanent residence” and “is ordinarily resident in the republic and that he or she has been so resident for a continuous period of not less than five years immediately preceding the date of his or her application”. In short, one must be a permanent resident and have lived continuously in SA (no more than 90 days out of the country per year) for at least five years.
The relevant regulations to section 5(1) say the “period contemplated in section 5(1)(c) is 10 years”. However, when one reads section 5(1)(c), no further period is contemplated. In addition, regulations are subordinate to legislation and cannot be more restrictive than the enabling legislation.
Nonetheless, the department has been systematically rejecting the citizenship applications of countless foreign nationals on the basis that we have not been permanent residents for 10 years. This arbitrarily constructed 10-year regulation is not being implemented as the drafter of the legislation intended, otherwise the act would have specified permanent residency of 10 years as a prerequisite for naturalisation.
I have said goodbye to several friends in 2017 who were forced to leave due to the Department of Home Affairs not taking their unique economic and social contributions into consideration
I have just returned from the Netherlands, where government officials have established a special office to assist highly skilled individuals to obtain residency. My home country grants green cards in the EB-5 visa scheme to individuals who invest at least $1m in businesses that employ at least 10 US workers. These individuals are eligible to apply for citizenship after holding a green card for at least five years.
A 2016 study by the National Foundation for American Policy found that more than 50% of US tech start-ups valued at over $1bn were founded by immigrants. In 2011, the Partnership for a New American Economy found that more than 40% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or children of immigrants.
In contrast, immigrants in SA such as myself, who are not a burden on the state and actually create jobs in a country with an unemployment rate of 27.7%, are having our citizenship applications rejected based on unlawful regulations. Section 5(9)(a) of the act states that, “The minister may under exceptional circumstances grant a certificate of naturalisation as South African citizen who does not comply with the requirements … relating to residence or ordinary residence in the republic.”
Former home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba invoked this section when granting the Gupta family early naturalisation due to their “business investments and social partnerships”, with the department citing the company’s loyalty and commitment to job creation as good reason to grant the family citizenship. It appears that these special circumstances are selectively applied to the extremely politically connected, leaving the rest of us with rejected applications and wondering whether our skills are even desired by the South African government.
This has left immigrants in my predicament with no option but to litigate. Immigration attorney Stefanie de Saude is taking the issue of the arbitrary 10-year permanent residency requirement to court on behalf of a client. It will be heard in Cape Town on November 23. I hope this issue is resolved swiftly by the courts before these arbitrary regulations lead to the departure of much-needed job creators. I have said goodbye to several friends in 2017 who were forced to leave due to the Department of Home Affairs not taking their unique economic and social contributions into consideration.
In an era of globalisation, where countries are competing for the best talent regardless of their country of origin, SA is sending a strong message to entrepreneurs that our economic and social contributions do not merit South African citizenship (despite legally qualifying), and we are thus not wanted here.
On April 25, Home Affairs Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize told Business Day that she committed to making it easier for skilled migrants and investors to get through the system and that her department would “sharpen its efforts aimed at attracting skilled migrants to help rescue the economy, which is stuck in a low-growth trap and is contending with high unemployment”.
I implore the minister to make good on her word and grant citizenship to legally compliant applicants, who are deeply committed to building this country and growing its economy. In addition, early naturalisation for permanent residents who are making a significant economic contribution to the country by invoking section 5(9)(a) should be applied broadly and based on merit.

Migrant bungling by home affairs officials hampers job creation

Migrant bungling by home affairs officials hampers job creation

The Department of Home Affairs is duty-bound under administrative law to process overdue applications within a reasonable time

After two successive quarters of decline, the South African economy spluttered back to life in the second quarter with 2.5% GDP growth quarter on quarter.
However, the country’s inability to stimulate job creation is putting it on a collision course with a sustained recessionary period, which spells disaster.
The unemployment rate is at a 14-year high. A staggering 9.3-million people who wanted work were unable to find it in the first quarter. The National Development Plan’s ambition to reduce unemployment to 14% by 2020 is battling against a public sector partly paralysed through corruption, and a private sector nervously assessing the increasingly tense socioeconomic situation. Job creation is at a standstill.
Yet the Department of Home Affairs is hampering highly skilled international migrants’ ability to create new businesses that can drive job creation and economic growth. Migrants from outside the UK and EU make up 25% of London’s workforce and contribute £83bn, more than a third of the South African economy a year to the city’s economy. A study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found that “skilled immigrants contribute to boosting research and innovation, as well as technological progress”.
In a case representing more than 473 applicants for visa, permit and citizenship applications heard on August23, the department performed extraordinary legal and bureaucratic acrobatics to obfuscate, delay, impede and frustrate our efforts to bring relief to the applicants’ efforts to continue to live, work and study lawfully in SA.
These are people who have lived and worked in the country for years, have husbands and wives, children and careers, people who contribute economically and socially to the prosperity of the country. Due to the department’s arrogance and dismissive attitude, they are now unable to open bank accounts, travel or rent property. They face the constant risk of deportation or criminal records.
The Department of Home Affairs is duty-bound under administrative law to process overdue applications within a reasonable time. However, applications are being unduly delayed, some for more than four years. The human and economic cost of this failure in constitutional duty is immense. In a similar case in 2012 concerning the delay in processing permanent residence applications of 105 applicants, Acting Judge Judith Cloete found that the department had “dealt with the applications… in a manner which can only be described as ‘administrative bungling’” and that “the lives of 105 foreigners… hang in the balance until the respondents get their house in order”.
By failing to conduct its affairs in accordance with the constitutional values of accountability, responsiveness and openness, the department is causing a great deal of prejudice to countless individuals across SA. The only recourse left to these people is to approach the courts, which is an expensive and lengthy process many can ill afford.
Policy ‘based on an approach that is largely static … rather than to managing international migration strategically’
In its white paper on international migration, the department states that the current policy on international migration “does not enable SA to adequately embrace global opportunities” and that it is “based on an approach that is largely static and limited to compliance rather than to managing international migration strategically to achieve national goals”.
The Department of Home Affairs is failing to live up to its own ambitions for international migrants to become key drivers of SA’s success and global competitiveness. Its failure to award permanent residence and critical-skills visas is costing SA dearly.
Department officials in SA and at foreign missions refuse to recognise powers of attorney and the right of foreigners to effective legal representation.
This latest development goes beyond bureaucratic and procedural issues plaguing the department. By infringing on these applicants’ common law right to appoint attorneys as their legal representatives, the department has enabled the worst of its officials to abuse their powers and prey on people who lack understanding of SA’s legal system.
The department should reconsider its approach to applications made in SA and abroad, and start managing the influx of highly skilled workers more efficiently and strategically for the benefit of SA.
www.sami.co.za

Hilarious travel complaints

Hilarious travel complaints
We all know these travellers. They’re the type that really want to get away from it all, but honestly don’t deserve the privilege. Thankfully, their ridiculous complaints, compiled by Klaudia’s Corner, make for a great pick-me-up on a Monday.
1. ‘They should not allow topless sunbathing on the beach. It was very distracting for my husband who just wanted to relax.’
2.‘On my holiday to Goa in India, I was disgusted to find that almost every restaurant served curry. I don’t like spicy food.’
3.‘We went on holiday to Spain and had a problem with the taxi drivers as they were all Spanish.’
4.‘We booked an excursion to a water park but no one told us we had to bring our own swimsuits and towels. We assumed it would be included in the price.’
5.‘The beach was too sandy. We had to clean everything when we returned to our room.’
6.‘We found the sand was not like the sand in the brochure. Your brochure shows the sand as white but it was more yellow.’
7.‘It’s lazy of the local shopkeepers to close in the afternoons. I often needed to buy things during ‘siesta’ time – this should be banned.’
8.‘No one told us there would be fish in the water. The children were scared.’
9. ‘I think it should be explained in the brochure that the local convenience store does not sell proper biscuits like custard creams or ginger nuts.’
www.sami.co.za

SA experiences lacklustre season for Indian arrivals

SA experiences lacklustre season for Indian arrivals
6 Oct 2017 – Tourism Update
South African visa efficiency major factor contributing to decline in Indian arrivals.
This year, SA saw a lacklustre season for Indian arrivals – surprising everyone after last year’s growth. Industry specialists share the factors that have resulted in this dip in the market.
Johan Groenewald, MD of Royal African Discoveries, says there are a number of reasons why Indian arrivals are down. “The first thing we have to take into consideration is that 2016 was an exceptional year, the growth was remarkable, and so we shouldn’t expect to see the same numbers as last year.
“On the other hand, the increase we have seen in European arrivals, during what is usually considered the low season, could be impacting on the Indian market. European travellers are booking flights on Middle Eastern carriers and taking the seats that are usually open to Indian travellers. The European market is also more inclined to book in advance, while the Indian market tends to book last minute. This could mean that when the Indian market got around to booking travel to SA they either found that they couldn’t get flights, or the seats that were available were too expensive.”
He adds that the European market has shown increased interest in SA because they have recently become fearful of travelling to competing destinations, such as Turkey. Conversely, as a result of a decrease in European bookings, Turkey was able to market more aggressively to Indian travellers, offering lower rates on both flights and packages.
“We are competing with a variety of destinations when it comes to the Indian market. Those destinations have become more aggressive in their marketing and so we aren’t the ‘flavour of the month’ with Indian travellers any more. Turkey is one such example, as is Bali which has just added a direct flight route to India,” says Groenewald.
He suggests that South Africa should improve its marketing aimed at Indian travellers, starting with visa regulations.
“Other competing destinations offer online visas, visas on arrival, or guarantee that visas will be issued within 48 hours. South Africa is becoming uncompetitive because of our visa regulations. We claim to issue visas within five days but we know that often there is a delay or a client doesn’t get their visa in time. India is a ‘last-minute market’ we need to make it easier for them to travel.”
Vikram Samant, MD of Quantum Travels, agrees. “The travel trade has lost complete faith in the South African consulate. Most of the reputable agents have kept South Africa on the back burner, never really encouraging their clients to opt for South Africa because, at the end of the day, when the consulate doesn’t deliver, it’s the travel agent who deals with the client’s reproach.
“There have been several instances where the Indian traveller, and the travel agent, have lost a small fortune because of the visa delays. The reputation of the South African consulate is so bad that our clients refuse to provide us with a booking deposit until the visas are processed, which means we take all of the risk and the stress – and it’s not worth it at all. One can never depend on the South African visas being processed on time, which I feel is one of the major factors contributing to South Africa’s decline in Indian arrivals.”
He adds: “If SA wants to improve Indian arrivals, the most important thing is to ensure that the consulate regains the confidence of the Indian travel agents. We can sway a traveller’s decision. We will be more than happy if we were simply advised that the visas will be granted in 30 days, for instance. If we then got the visa on the 30th day, that would be fair enough. The real problem is that the consulate never keeps to any of the commitments it makes.”